Learning disabilities and social systems LO26294

From: Malcolm Burson (mburson@mint.net)
Date: 03/06/01

Replying to LO25718 --

Back in November, Peggy Stuart wrote, in part,
>"Rather than presuming that all organizations suffer from learning
>disabilities, practitioners should focus on a wellness model, that learning
>process and potential exist in most organizations as social >systems."
>(DiBella, A., Gearing up to become a learning organization, >Journal for
>Quality & Participation, Jun97, Vol.20 Issue 3)
> This seems to ring true ... Although I am sure that there are people
>within my organization that do not understand how to effectively learn, I
>am also sure that there are people that do know how to learn, and are in
>fact learning.... Maybe I should be concentrating on is not only finding
>ways to help those that need to learn how to learn, but also find these
>social systems to find out what and how they are learning?

Peggy, your message has been lurking in my in-box and haunting me. You
generated no responses the first time, so let me give it a try... This
seems to me just precisely the challenge that we practitioners face every
day: to identify how to foster learning, among those, on the one hand,
whom the organization is _precluding_ from learning (disabling, if you
will); but also encouraging and revealing those who have managed to keep
the torch burning, and may be creating all sorts of wonders unperceived
by, or only marginally dispersed throughout, the wider organization.

I am finding myself increasingly attracted by the approach often
referenced on this list, that of "Appreciative Inquiry.," which seems to
me very much to match DiBella's notion of "wellness." You'll find a lead
article on this subject in the most recent number of The Systems Thinker
(February, 2001). It seems to me that this model can work both sides of
your equation, as follows: if we inquire for the positive accomplishments
that almost certainly lurk beneath the surface of those work areas that we
might tend to label as "problems" where learning doesn't seem to be
happening, we not only bring these positives into the light, but may
encourage the hearts of those who produced them to do their own inquiry
that builds further learning. And if we appreciate the efforts of those
social systems that are highly productive and apparently already learning,
we distribute that word through the organization as well. And it's up to
the catalytic agents like you and me to make sure it happens.

What do others think?

Malcolm C. Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection


Malcolm Burson mburson@mint.net

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