LOs and Metanoia - Two Conceptions of LO's LO27242

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 09/21/01

Replying to LO27229 --

Dear Organlearners,

Richard Seel <richard@richard-seel.demon.co.uk> writes:

>This is a real dilemma for me. When I started
>consulting I was convinced that I should remain
>'outside' the system in order to be able to help it.
>As I work in organisations now I try to be both part
>of the system and also to keep my own individuality

Greetings dear Richard,

As the dialogue on a topic develops, the picture becomes clearer. This is

Fellow learners will remember that Richard said that for him the metaphor
of a gardener is not fitting for a manager of an organisation. I replied
that we get gardeners and gardeners. I should have replied that the
metaphor of a gardener, like any metaphor to depict any concept, works
provided the learner has constructive experiences on this metaphor. I am
sorry that I did not get to the heart of the issue immediately.

Here is an example. Think of the metaphor "as white as snow". Trying to
use this metaphor for any person living in Southern Africa north of the
Tropic of Capricorn is futile. Such a person never experienced snow and
most probably never even saw a picture of snow.

Using a dedicated terminology to delineate a concept will also not do. The
sciences follow this route. Only those who learn the historical
development of a term will know what it means exactly. For example, should
I use the concept entropy without telling how it evolved in the first
place, few would understand its full meaning.

Whether we use a metaphor or dedicated terminology to explain a concept to
a person, we always have to bear in the mind that between that person and
the understanding of the concept is the LRC (Law of Requisite Complexity).
We have to begin with what the person already knows by way of authentic
learning and then move in manageable steps to greater complexity.

Whether a person is a facilitator to a business, a teacher to a class of
learners in a subject or a parisher to a congregation of worshippers, this
person always has to reckon with the creativity of the members of that
organisations as individuals ("dassein") and as a community ("mitsein").
One of the most devastating Mental Models to creativity is LEM (Law of
Excluded Middle). LEM causes devastation when it is invoked too soon.
The sooner it is invoked, the more fundamentalistic its devastating

For example, LEM in logic would mean that a statement is either true or
false, but not both. Yet we know that we have to create a proof or gather
all the evidence before we can validate any statement. In Systems Thinking
(ST), for example, LEM would mean that a system is either open or closed,
but not both. However, when we swim under water, we have to close our
respiratory system which is normally open.

In Systems Thinking (ST) we do most creatively a curious thing with LEM
right from the beginning of our thinking. We define the system SY so as
to know either what belongs to the SY or what is outside the SY. Since we
have invoked LEM so soon, we must take extreme caution not to let our ST
degenerate into Fundamentalistic Thinking (FT). A sure sign of such FT is
when we think much about the system SY itself, but very little about the
outside world which the SY is interacting with.

For example, the ST of most citizens of a nation can degenerate into FT.
It happens easily when that nation is rich and powerful. In this case the
nation will focus so much on its own interests that it forgets about the
interests of the rest of the world. It begins to dictate the rest of the
world what to do so as to further its own interests. Such FT then often
elicits FT in other parts of the world.

To prevent our ST from degenerating into FT, we have to bear always in
mind that the system SY belongs to the universe UN. The UN contains many
systems of which only one is the SY. All the rest of the systems are then
taken together as one complex system which we will call the surroundings
SU. When we then try to learn of the SY so as to advance in our ST, we
will have to observe SY from within the SY as well as from its outside in
the SU.

What we do in effect is to understand the SY from ("at least") two
viewpoints in universe UN, one viewpoint in the SY and ("at least") one
viewpoint in the SU. This "at least" is what "world conceptions" and the
studies of them, namely "philosophies" are about. As soon as we do this,
we are over our heads into the 7Es (seven essentialities of creativity).
The 7Es are liveness, sureness, wholeness, fruitfulness, spareness,
otherness and openness. Only the universe UN can tell us all about the
7Es, but neither only the system SY nor only the surroundings SU.

Disciplinary thinking is often the thin edge of the wedge causing a
person's Systems Thinking (ST) to degenerate into Fundamentalistic
Thinking (FT). Disciplinary thinking also often results into what may be
called the "tyranny of the experts". Although each expert may self not
employ FT, the loose interdisciplinary aggregate of experts becomes a
system with FT. To avoid the "tyranny of the experts" each expert will
have to think in terms of at least two disciplines. This will require
transdisciplinary thinking from each person acting as "expert".

The more creative any system SY becomes, the more we should focus on the
creative interaction between the SY and its surroundings SU. Whoever (like
a facilitator, teacher or parisher) wants to guide that creative system
SY, has to bear in mind the dance between the digestive and the
bifurcative asymptotes of creativity. The interaction between the SY and
SU are vastly different for these two asymptotes of creativity within the

The surroundings SU is most important to the system SY in its digestive
phase. In this case the system has to be open as far as possible with
respect to all its qualities M (immature intensive properties) which have
to grow by means of their complementary extensive properties m.
Metaphorically said, the system has to be open to all kinds of food which
it needs. But in its bifurcative phase it is as if the system SY enacts
the universe UN itself. In this case the system has to be closed as far as
possible with respect to all qualities which itself does not have.
Metaphorically said, the system has to be closed to all kinds of chiefs
which have no jurisdiction in it.

The guider as a system in the surroundings SU should honour this dance
between the digestive and bifurcative asymptotes. The guider should not
try to isolate him/herself from the system in a digestive phase, but try
to provide the system with all the nutrients which it needs. However, once
the system enters its bifurcative phase, the guider should try to minimise
his/her influence on the system. In other words, when the system is in the
digestive phase, the guider is connected with the system into one and the
same universe. But when the system is in the bifurcative phase, it has to
be respected as a universe on its own.

We observe this in, for example, our children even from babyhood. While
they still depend on us in the surroundings SU for food, they will cry
when we do not feed them in their digestive phase. But as soon as they
want to emerge into taking responsibility for their own feeding, they will
cry when we interfere with their bifurcative phase. To become one with the
system in its digestive phase makes sense to me. But to become one with
the system in its bifurcative phase is not sensible to me. The system
leads a public life in its digestions, but a private life in its

Look again closely at any person learning authentically. Then conduct an
experiment by trying to call or to connect with that person on several
occasions. When that person's learning is at the digestive phase of
creativity, he/she will respond easily and in a friendly manner to any
call. But when that person's learning is at the bifurcative phase of
creativity, he/she will usually to respond to any call and should he/she
respond at all, it will often be with aggitation.

>- I encourage inquiry, and connections between
>others while also offering my own thoughts,
>opinions and feelings.
>It is a difficult balance and my only certainty is
>that I don't get it right. But this way feels more
>authentic that either the 'expert' or the 'process'
>models of consultancy.

Richard, as a teacher I had much the same experiences as you. But as my
understanding of creativity increased, my teaching failures became less.
I am pretty certain that to facilitate or teach authentically, we will
have to respect the authentic creativity of those whom we want to
facilitate or teach.

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

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <Richard@Karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.