LOs and Metanoia - Arie de Geus and the "Learning Company" LO27135

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 08/10/01

Replying to LO27125 --

Dear Organlearners,

Artur Silva <artsilva@mail.eunet.pt> writes:

>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.

Greetings dear Artur,

No, it is not your lack of biological understanding, but rather me using
an example from biology and not other examples too. Let me clarify the
concepts species and genus. Here at the university there are a lot of
"academical specimens". Some of them form the "species" chemist, others
the "species" geologists, others botanists etc. Now all these "academical
species" belong to the "genus" called scientist. The university have also
other "genera" such as the economist, the humanist, etc. Each of these
genera has its species and each of these species consists of specimens.

The only difference to biology is that Linnaus has developed a dichotomous
nomenclature (double name system) for biological specimens whereas we do
not have it for "academical specimens". In the biological names the first
one indicate the name of the genus whereas the last one indicates the name
of the species. Both have to be used when refering to the species as its
name so as to bring wholeness into the picture.

>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).

You should have become a biologist! One of the joys of a taxonomist is to
discover a species which immediately defines also a new genus rather than
belonging to an existing genus. Obviously the joy becomes even greater
when the discovery defines not only a new species and new genus, but even
a new family. De Geus' discovery is of such a nature.

>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?

Yes, your are correct. There are many missions which operated as "teaching
organisations". But it is not those which I had in mind. I had specific
"Learning Missions" in mind. The missionaries not only taught the
indigenous people, but also learned from them their spoken languages,
customs and cultures. Most of these missionaries did not go back to their
countries of origin, but worked to their very death among these people and
even became buried among them.

When I come upon a Mission in my wanderings, one of the things which I do,
is to visit its grave yard. Such a visit gives a vivid account whether the
mission functioned as a Learning Mission or not.

The colonialisation of Southern Africa destroyed the languages, customs
and cultures of many peoples. Were it not for the careful anthropological
documentations of the missionaries of these "Learning Missions", we would
have never known of these destructions.

Obviously, it is a most serious question why, despite the "Learning
Mission", the language, custom and culture of a particular people became
destroyed and with it the "Learning Mission" too. In other words, what we
have to ponder on is the question: Can an organisation collapse even when
functioning as a LO?

The answer is yes. The society can become so disturbed that not even
functioning like a LO can ensure its existance. Its like polluting an
environment so much that living organisms in it eventually will die, not
being able to cope any more with the degree of pollution.

It happened, for example, to "Learning Missions" in the Belgian Congo.
Today, almost fifty years later, that country is still struggling to
overcome the incredible spiritual pollution which took place so long ago.
I have a book which documented carefully the collapse of civilisation in
the Belgian Congo as well as the reasons for it. The main reason was the
incredible greed for money -- I would almost say, lust for material

That is why I appreciated your boldness to state clearly that De Geus
stressed a company of which the bottom line is to make as great a profit
as possible is a company which will probably not last for long. Please
keep up your boldness.

What worries me immensely is the unquenchable greed for money which began
to spring up in the late eighties all over the world like mushrooms. We
know that some people will do anything for money. But what has been
happening since the eighties is most abnormal. As such it is a symptom of
a serious spiritual disturbance with global dimensions.

I personally think that so many people have become paranoic over money
because of so little metanoia in their organisations. This lack of
metanoia is the result of a lack in at least wholeness which prevents the
"third order coupling" which you write of in the following:

>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.

My own people had a genius of the likes of a Goethe, one Eugene Marais. He
was a medical doctor, a poet and a student of nature among other things.
He excelled in studying animal societies like those among baboons and
ants. He gave a name for this communal learning in ants. He called it the
"soul of the ant".

Should we transfer in this sense his name to human organisations, the
Learning Organisation may also be called the "soul of the human".
Wonderful, is it not?

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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