Learning IT or Learning Organizations? LO24543

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 05/03/00

Replying to LO24519 --

Dear Organlearners,

Jan Lelie <janlelie@wxs.nl> writes in conclusion:

>Listen. The key word, to me, is information, or rather, informing.
>The process of informing, in my opinion, is part of the way we
>- the people - create meaning, part of the means to develop
>learning, to improve organising. The idea that it appears to be a
>"fad" is due to the frame of reference the idea of IT was presented
>in: as a way to no-we-do-try-to-control-you-and-try-to-do-so. It is
>a byproduct of highly ambiguous behaviour, like the top of the ice
>berg we've been trying to cover-up. So yes, IT is possibly a fad
>and yes it does have a major impact on organisational learning.
>Pun intended.

Greetings Jan,

Thank you for anwering Igal Voronel so clearly. I agree with much what you
have said.

As for myself, I feel "highly ambiguous" myself towards IT. I tried to
refrain myself as far as possible from the dialogue on IT (Information
Technology) and KM (Knowledge Management) because it proceeds through a
minefield of perceptions as we will soon see.

When most people nowadays use the acronym IT, they think of "electronic
based technology to store, retrieve and manipulate information". I, like
you, have had an advanced training in physics and know how easily
something can go wrong with any electronic technology. When this happens,
much of the the system becomes an obstinate donkey if not a dead duck.
Should in the case of IT a recent copy of the information not had been
stored elsewhere, the future becomes deep trouble. Should technology
manufacturers bring out a new generation of hardware or operating
software, one is compelled to upgrade so as not to lose all.

Its different with books. If someone tore out a page in a book, the rest
of the book still offers much to devour. If someone steals a book from a
library, the rest of the books are still there to serve as food for the
hungry mind. If the electrical mains supply fails, one can still read the
book by candle light. If one gets mad at what is told in a book, one can
throw it against the wall, pick it up later when calmed down and read it
again. If one has to read a book after many decades, it merely has to
picked up again and opened.

Hauling "non-electronic IT data" like San (Bushmen) paintings on rocks,
cuneiform script on clay tablets, Ionic script on papyrus and even modern
printed books on paper from one continent to another is a slow and tedious
job. But transmitting "electronic IT data" has opened up a new world
because much of almost any variety can be send very fast to almost any
country in the world.

The slowest becoming within any any complex system (consisting of a
network of interrelated becomings) determines the rate at which that
system can transform any kind(s) of input to any kind(s) of output. This
lesson has to be learnt very soon by any chemist wishing to synthesise or
analyse compounds by means of chemical reactions. Deming was one of the
few Systems Thinkers who knew this lesson by heart.

Let us call this transformation from any kind of input to any kind of
output characteristic to a particular complex system its "typical
becoming". It is possible to focus on the "rate" of the typical becoming
of a complex system. By that we mean how much the typical becoming of the
complex system changes in a unit of time. Consequently a system with a
high rate of typical becoming will change much in its transformation
during a unit of time.

It is possible to think of "learning" as the "typical becoming" which
distinguishes Homo sapiens from all other complex systems including all
biological species. Some learners would wonder why I do not view
"creating" as the "typical becoming" of humankind. Well, according to my
theory of "deep creativity", humans are merely at the top of the ladder of
creating systems. Since humankind is not the only system of thich the
"typical becoming" is "creating", we cannot characterise humankind by
"creating". But since humankind is on the top of the ladder of "creating"
systems, the first emerging higher order (or even an higher order as yet
another defining quality) can be used to characterise the "typical
becoming" of humans. This first emerging higher order of humankind is
nothing else than "learning". Since the highest level of learning is
wisdom, humankind has wisely been called Homo sapiens.

Since the dawn of humankind which spans many millenia the rate of learning
has been limited by the rate at which information could be moved from one
learner (some acting as teachers) to another. This rate of moving
information is not a becoming within a human, but it is directly connected
to a becoming within the human, namely the dependence on "digesting data
processed by other humans", i.e. "digesting information". Thus the rate at
which information could be moved caused the rate of "digesting
information" to be the limited becoming in human learning.

Now, suddenly in this new millenium, this limiting factor has been
overcome by "electronic IT"!!!! (It is still a factor, but not limiting
any more.) I cannot stress enough how important the immense ramifications
of this dramatic CHANGE in the ENVIRONMENT of humankind is. Now, using the
insight of Winfried Dressler in response to my question (How to reverse an
irreversible change), we can expect a dramatic IRREVERSIBLE change in
humankind itself with respect to its "typical becoming", namely
"learning". Human learning in this new millenium will become vastly
different to human learning of all previous millenia. There is absolutely
no doubt in my mind about it.

One thing which we never should forget, is that every complex system will
always have a slowest internal becoming which will determine the rate of
its "typical becoming". Since the "digesting information" is not the
slowest rate any more in human learning because the cross induction by
"moving information" has been uplifted, we will have to seek the new
limiting becoming within the human. What will it be? I have some definite
idea, but since some will judge it to be crazy as some of my other ideas,
I would much rather prefer fellow learners to have a go at it, become
crazy too and get the experience to become criticised for it ;-) However,
those who depise the seven essentialities and thus spareness
("quantity-limit") will find it a tough task, if not an impossible task.

Dear Jan, you wrote: ".... yes it does have a major impact on
organisational learning. Pun intended." I can see clearly your pun, but I
can also see the stark reality behind it. I wonder if Igal Voronel can
also see it and thus make a sound choice among all the other fads offered.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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