A Search for LOs and Metanoia LO25939

From: Artur F. Silva (artsilva@mail.eunet.pt)
Date: 01/19/01

Dear LO-learners:

I suppose that I can designate by the above title what I have announced
some time ago as the subject I have been researching this last 4 years,
but more intensively in the last 6 months, the results of which I have the
intention to present you in successive mails, the first one being about
"Polanyi - the Tacit Dimension" (LO25698 of 27 Nov 2000) that is still
under discussion in the list.

The reasons I have decided to give you now an overall summary of all that
search - contrarily to what I first intended - is because: (1) I have less
free time that I expected and so I will need some months to "draw an
overall rich picture", as At would call it; (2) the discussion on Polanyi
took longer then I anticipated and if every point will take so long, I
will need some 2 years before I come to an end in making my "summaries"
and reflections and before I can take some (provisional) conclusions.

So what follows is a plan for at least 6 months...

Part I - against Positivism and the "Technical Rationality"

I will try to prove, in the first place, that the logic that governs our
World, our organisations, and our professions, and that is mainly created
by our Universities, based of a Technical Rationality produced in the XIX
century and on a "mechanical, positivistic epistemology of science", is
wrong and is the main cause our civilisation is failing, and, on the other
way, we are finding so great difficulties in creating "learning
organisations". I will not try to criticise only the Universities, or
things that "don't work very well" there - I will try to propose that
their epistemology of science, based in Descartes (divide a problem in
parts, solve the parts and then "add" the solutions) is un-systemical and
fundamentally wrong. Or in a quotation from Polanyi that At de Lange sent
us I will try to prove that "The ideal of strictly objective knowledge,
paradigmatically formulated by Laplace, continues to sustain a universal
tendency to enhance the observational accuracy and systematic precision of
science, at the expense of its bearing on its subject matter". There is
not so much the fact that there are things that don't work well in
universities - is all the epistemology of science that is at the root of
our universities that is completely wrong. Current Universities are not
only unable to solve our problems - they are part of the problem, they are
the fabric of some of our main problems.

That is the reason I began with Polanyi, stressing the importance of the
tacit dimension and tacit knowing and I will continue with Donald Schon's
"The Reflective Practitioner" that takes those arguments a little further.

II - Two conceptions of LOs and the "Metanoia" concept

I will try to present the conception of LO of it's initiator, Arie de
Geus, as it has been presented first in is seminal HBR 1988 article
"Planning as Learning" and later in his book "The Living Company". de Geus
(and the Shell group study for longevity in companies) based their
analysis in many companies that have survived for centuries and hence
concluded that those organisations have been "able to learn" during all
this period - and then analysed the characteristics that these EXISTANT

And I will compare that with Senge's 5 disciplines as an attempt to do a
different thing - to change a "normal" organisation into a LO. I will also
refer to the "metanoia", that in a certain moment he suggested that was
needed to transform a "comum organisation" into a "learning organisation"

I will also refer the Italian sociologist Alberoni for his studies of
metanoia, at an individual level ("Innamoramento e Amore") and at the
beginning of all "social movements" ("Genesis"). I will try to show how
this can also be applied to "organisations" (that Alberoni has not

(Part of this has the some intention of a thread Winfried and myself
proposed some time ago, without success).

Part III - Organisational Learning Disabilities

Assuming that some (or many?) organisations that embrace the LO concepts
are failing in their attempts to become one, I will try to examine closer
some organisational learning disabilities that may be responsible for
that, as they have been analysed by Argyris and Schon in "Theory in
Practice" and "Organisational Learning", namely their concepts of
"espoused-theory Vs theory-in-use" and "Model 1 Vs Model 2" of
organisational behaviour - being Model 1 the prevalent model in our
society and the one that inhibits double loop learning and consequently
any profound learning implying a profound paradigm shift. I will show that
"unlearning" Model 1 is very difficult, but is a point we must address.

I will try to show that the seminars Argyris and Schon organised to try to
solve the problems were unable to solve them as they were very slow and
haven't addressed the problem of "metanoia".

[I will also profit to compare that with Kolberg's "levels of moral
judgement" and why the efforts to train adults in higher levels almost
always fail.]

Part IV - A way to create a metanoia and enhance learning?

I will try to reflect on same "Large Group Intervention Methods", and see
if they have anything to teach us about out to create or accelerate
"organisational metanoias". I will refer mainly to Harrison Owen, from his
seminal "The Business of Business is Learning", of 1988 (like de Geus HBR
article....), "Open Space Technology Guide" and "Riding the Tiger".

I will conclude, provisionally, that maybe Open Space is one way (not the
only way maybe) to provoke "metanoia" in organisations and at large in
society, and will propose some experiments to try to confirm or infirm
that, which will NOT be based in traditional scientific methods of
research but on "reflection on action", the practitioner being also the
researcher (an evolution of old "action research" but liberated from all
the aspects that "action research" had to travesty in to be accepted at
Universities founded on the epistemology I have previously criticised).

Now you know my plan. I will not promise that I will have it completed in
a short period but think that being able to see were I intend to go will
help some of you in understanding the overall direction I will try to
pursue. And, of course, as always, all contributes and criticism will be

Best wishes to all of you


PS: A bit marginal to my mails to the list - but not to my search and
professional life - I will also propose that combining those meeting
methodologies with structured Information System Methods, some new
"Interactive Methods for Information Systems Planning and Development",
much more effective and of much shorter implementation, can be developed
(are under development now) that will facilitate organisational change
enabled by new Information Systems. I will also propose one similar way to
"research" these methods. I am planning to create a (temporary) list to
discuss the evolution of those methods with others interested in the
evolution of the IS field in the way I referred. If anyone is interested
in this particular field, please send me a private e-mail. And feel free
to forward this part to anyone eventually interested or to any list on IS


"Artur F. Silva" <artsilva@mail.eunet.pt>

[Host's Note: For those who might way to read some of these excellent references directly... In assoc w/Amazon.com...

The Living Company by Arie De Geus http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/087584782X/learningorg

The Fifth Discipline : The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385260954/learningorg

Theory in Practice : Increasing Professional Effectiveness (Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series) by Chris Argyris, Donald A. Schon (Contributor) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1555424465/learningorg

Organizational Learning II : Theory, Method, and Practice (Addison-Wesley Series on Organizational Development) by Chris Argyris, Donald A. Schon, Michael Payne (Editor) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0201629836/learningorg

Open Space Technology : A User's Guide by Harrison Owen http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1576750248/learningorg

Riding the Tiger Doing Business in a Transforming World : Doing Business in a Transforming World by Harrison Owen http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0961820527/learningorg (Out of print per Amazon)


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