Learning IT or Learning Organizations? LO24566

From: Jan Lelie (janlelie@wxs.nl)
Date: 05/07/00

Replying to LO24543 --

#Good Morning Sunshine...#,

Greetings At and thank you for your additions,

> 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.

This is thIT* for thAt*:

IT has At uttering feelings of ambiguITy* (or ambiguyti*: the double
feeling that it is a blessing as well as a curse) (a * star behind a word
should be to signal the Spelling Checker that this mistake is deliberate,
but mine refuses to learn that). And i agree with you, At, but would have

"I tried to reframe* myself as far as possible from the dialogue on IT and

because i suspect that the combination of framing and one-self starts the
processes of creating ambiguity (or paradoxes, or equivocality or ..) and
that IT and KM have a kind of self referential nature that tends to
distort the process of referring to one-self. - you may skip this: to me
most people intuitively seem to feel that this happens, but they remain
unaware of the processes, perhaps also because the processes of self
reference are highly "automated" or "conditioned" or "unconscious" and
must remain so, because the needs for the body to survive are (or were)
more urgent than the mind. - end of skip

I have been influenced by, what is his name, Weissenbaum? "Who is afraid
of Machines?" were he states or implies that computers somehow affect our
self-image: before IT we thought of ourselves as intelligent animals,
after the introduction of IT, we think of ourselves as dumb machines
(highlighted in the very successful series of books <Any concept> for
Dummies, Rick, can you make a link Amazon.com's entry to "Learning
Organizations for Dummies"?;-)). The same may be true for KM: before KM
we saw co-workers as intelligent human beings, after KM we expect
employees to be heads to be emptied.

Off course nobody would knowingly accept this transition, this slide, this
movement, this interpretation, so we do and act as if this is not the
case: sure we're still intelligent animals and have intelligent human
beings as our colleagues. And as everybody seems to act and to behave in
the same manner, nothing can be wrong. Or better: if we're making a
mistake, everybody is doing so, so i cannot be to blame. And there is no
internal inconsistency: sometimes i'm asked to show were the internal
inconsistency is in this behaviour: and there is none. It is perfectly
logically, self-sealing and self-referential.

Only two clouds on the horizon: we seem to be going knowhere* (#we're on a
road to nowhere #) and we're not creating much happiness. {The road, the
path, the pelgrimage, the tour, the going} is the destination - progress
being the only attainable goal - and happiness {can, must, will and may}
become more than a zero-sum game. I'll stop this line of thoughtt, back to
your message.

> 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.

Dunno. I use two ground rules with computers:
1. A computer is a "geheel onthouder" (this is a Dutch pun: a "geheel
onthouder" is a person that doesn't drink alcohol and also means something
like: keeps or stores everything as a whole)
2. GiGo: Garbage in Garbage out: the quality of retrieved information depends
only on the quality of the input (and that is also the questions used to
retrieve the information)

Technically a computers stores every bit and byte very efficient, and very
good. This is the data level of the information. On the other hand, the
information aspect requires a context for the data and somehow our fellow
engineers have thought up a system that is low on context.

Side line of thought: i sometimes say that we, human being, use
information is a context only. Our yes (or no) is usually a high context
yes, depending on im- and explicit knowledge of the situations and the
person. A high context yes might be a "yes, i've heard you, i love you
too, but taking inot considerations these circumstance you better refrain
from actions" a.k.a. "no". When we imagine our body temperature (37 C) as
a kind of level of the context we use, a computer operates near absolute
zero (-273 C). Also, a context is a kind of frame, so maybe a system that
is low on context cannot become self-framed or self referential, like we
seem to be - end of side line.

Years and years ago, i think i was still at Leiden University, i proposed
a machine that stores every bit (somewhat more than a bit or a byte, like
a sentence) of information in a processor and not, as is now that case,
lets it rest on a hard disk or CD-ROM. Current machines have a "one
processor architecture" and process data. Me thoughts that it should be
the other way around: store the processes and let the data retrieve
processes, based on other processes by other data. A computer should have
a vast number of small processors that mill and mull data, like the
windmills of our minds, {combining, digesting, mutating, assembling,
changing, moving, creating and deleting} data. Programming a computer
should be like instructing IT what to combine, what to relate, when to
store and when to retrieve (so, for instance like when i typed Greenbaum
the processors should do: "look Master typed *Greenbaum again,
*Groeneboom, *witte boom, *oranje boom, *oranges are not the only fruit,
*playing piano, *Elissa, *how is your mother, *Who is Afraid of Machines,
quick, quick, he wants to write "Weissenbaum, who is afraid of Machines?",
propose that - and find a number of quotes")

> 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.

These are also consequences of choosing an inadequate -computer -
architecture, it results from processes like "Success to the Successful",
a short term gain moves the whole system on a long and windy road towards
a tragedy of the commons. Yes, this thought i like: the IT (and KM and TQM
and SET and other fads and fallacies) have become a common tragedy, were
the gain of one party (or the solution of a problem) is a loss to the rest
of the system (or a problem).

I have a long list of IT-innovations which i called madness, wrong,
problematic or dumb, that eventually made their originators a lot of money
and gave us feelings with a name that starts and ends with he (and not
being he-he). Abradacabra.

> 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.

I typed this off line: we have invented batteries and will invent the PC
that runs on solar light. It is just one of those inadequate innovations
of the IT-Industrial complexx. Didn't you note that a PC or computer has
an On/Off switch, while our minds hasn't: that was the first mistake. On
the otherhand, the internet never sleeps.

> 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.

now we're getting somewhere.

> 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.

Like "drive out fear?" Or should that read: "courage for the road!".

> 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.


> ...snip...

> 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.

Neither in mine.

> 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.

We do not have to remember this, we cannot forget: it is as natural a
process as water not only seeking the lowest level but also through the
path of the least action.

> 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.

Now here you have written a few strange, self referential, loops that i
hesitate to digest. To me you do not seem somebody who will refrain from
doing something because the judgement of others. Also i suppose that it is
not a necessity to become crazy first and understand afterwards. Crazyness
is also refering to a state, a frame of mind and is only relative to
another state of mind (an attribution of one state to another. Here in The
Netherlands we had a statement on crazyness like: "ever met a normal
person? And did you enjoy it?"). When one has been blessed and the "other
state of mind" might have presented itself, then the actual state of mind
of this world could be labled "crazy".

So either you're trying to cover-up something - unlikely- or you have a
kind of third-order learning in mind that first trancends existing
paradigms and then generates a new culture. Because the experience of
creating a new culture is a part of this transition (perhpas only however
when you start in the old frame of reference), you tend to recreate your
own learning situation and guide us through it.

A joke:

In Dutch: "Wie dit leest is gek" "Maar lezen is zo gek nog niet"

"who ever reads this is crazy"
"but reading isn't crazy at all"

> 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.

Well, it depends on your perspective: when you make a sound choice right
away you haven't learned nothing. Only when you make the wrong choice and
- after some time - sit and wonder, you will learn from the wrong choice
and thus you'll find and the right choice and that the wrong choice was
the right choice to choose, because of the learning it brought.

Thank you again for supplying some frames of your mind,

Take care,

Jan Lelie

Drs J.C. Lelie CPIM (Jan)
LOGISENS  - Sparring Partner in Logistical Development
Mind@Work - est. 1998 - Group Decision Process Support
Tel.: (+ 31) (0)70 3243475 or car: (+ 31)(0)65 4685114
http://www.mindatwork.nl and/or
taoSystems: + 31 (0)30 6377973 - Mindatwork@taoNet.nl

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