LOs and Metanoia - Arie de Geus and the "Learning Company" LO27125

From: Artur F. Silva (artsilva@mail.eunet.pt)
Date: 08/08/01

Replying to LO27107

At 13:44 06-08-2001, AM de Lange wrote:

>Giving the name "Learning Organisation" to a particular kind of
>organisation in MSs is like giving the name "Abc.. def.. (Xyz.. )" to a
>particular kind of living organisms. Here "Abc.. " is the name of the
>genus, "def.. " the name of the species to which that genus belong and
>"(Xyz.. )" the surname of the person who gave that name to the species.
>One of the issues in biological systematics is to establish which name for
>a species has priority. Biologists have a golden rule. The earliest name
>(with certain provisions) takes precedence.
>They will all belong to a genus consisting of
>learning species. So what is this genus itself? It is for me Senge's
>"Learning Organisation".

Sorry, dear At, I was not able to follow your argument. Maybe because of
my lack of biological understanding. Please correct me, if it is needed.

You would agree, I presume, that the species "Learning Company" was
created by de Geus (if not before, at least) in 1988. So the genus
"Learning something" were something is not an individual but a collective
of individuals was created at the same moment, isn't it true? Immediately
in that article de Gues referred to the learning of other collectives (for
instance the flocks of titmice). So the concept of learning done by
organizations AND communities was already established, isn't it? Apart
from that we have Senge's opinion, as I referred in the previous post. I
suppose I am not understanding something in your argument. Can you
clarify, please?

>But the far majority of these missionaries discovered within a few years
>that the viability of their mission depended on something different. They
>had to help the local people with learning literacy, trades and healthy
>habits. In other words, they had to become "Learning Missions".

I know the fantastic work done by those missions, namely in Mozambique,
but I am not sure if they could qualify as "learning organizations". I
would think that they were much more "teaching organizations" devoted to
the education of African communities and not so much to the learning of
their own members. Is that correct?

>There is a rule hidden here. To be able to adapt and survive they have to
>learn. But what sort of learning is then necessary? To answer this
>question De Geus shifted his focus from Learning Companies to Living

Yes that is really a very interesting point. As you know the question "Do
organizations learn?" is now in discussion in the thread on COPs. I will
answer to that thread when I have time. But, in my opinion, there are two
main reasons why some people think that "organizations don't learn, only
people do".

One is related with the concept of "knowledge" that is dominant in our
culture. Something done by individuals. The other is the fact that
organizations are not seen as living beings. De Geus says "organizations
are living beings... as only living beings can learn".

But precisely this can be related to the "third order couplings" referred
by Maturana and Varela in "The Tree of Knowledge" where they consider that
"third order couplings" (that create organizations and communities from
individuals) are similar to "second order couplings" (that create
multi-cellular individuals from "living cells"). This gives an argument in
favor of "organizations as living beings" and hence able to learn. They
also give a lot of examples of learning by communities of animals.

>However, it is one thing to have knowledge of life which maintains itself
>without human intervention and another thing to actually keep living
>organisms in captivity alive. The former knowledge is known as biology.
>The latter does not have a formal name so that I will call it "biopraxis".
>It is the practical knowledge without which no farmer will make a success.
>Its the knowing coming from experiencing the doing.


>Another way to develop sensitivity to this "biology"+"biopraxis" is what
>I suggested many moons ago. "Adopt some genus and care for it".


>My pride is an magnificent Adenium oleifolium which I dug out of the
>Kalahari desert 24 years ago. It is called by the common name "desert

Very interesting comments, At. In "The Living Company", de Geus refers at
length to his hobby as a gardener (of roses, by the way). And Senge in an
interview I will refer in my next post (not the one I already sent but was
not yet distributed, but the following one) clearly states that what
organizations need are...gardeners.

I am glad that a lot of people in the LO community is thinking through the
same "rails". This means for me that a "paradigm shift" in relation with
LOs is already in the way ;-)

Best regards



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

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