The sound of one hand clapping LO28025

From: Daan Joubert (
Date: 03/21/02

   Our most kind and generous host, Rick - much appreciated, thanks -
   somewhere wrote the following:

   What is a "Learning Organization"?

   A "Learning Organization" is one in which people at all levels,
   individually and collectively, are
   continually increasing their capacity to produce results they really
   care about.

   According to Donne, no man is an island. And neither is any
   organisation. Both the individual and the organisational system -
   which includes sub-systems of larger organisations - exist in and
   through interaction with all the people in the environment; people who
   willingly and freely interact with the system, or the individual,
   because they find benefit in doing so. And, for a system, this
   purposeful interaction includes the members of the system, as they,
   too, come from its environment to find benefit through their

   The question is to what degree any organisation or system can exist
   purely for the benefit of its own members. To answer this, we can
   postulate a spectrum of "purpose" that an organisation brings to its
   relationship with its environment. This ranges from near one extreme
   where the relationship is out and out exploitative, to near the other
   end where the relationship is fully beneficial to both the
   organisation and its environment. (At the extreme ends one would find
   organisations that are either so damaging to its environment that they
   are not tolerated very long, or so altruistic that they run out of
   resources and do not exist very long.)

   A relatively closed system, or organisation, such as this LO list,
   exists, as such, almost totally for the benefit of its members. Its
   relation to a wider environment is much more dissipated and tenuous,
   almost totally through what members obtain from the organisation and
   then communicate outwards into the wider world. Such an organisation
   would exist within the vicinity of the neutral point on the spectrum;
   partially by default, because the interface to the wider environment
   is so vague. And because the coupling to the environment, members
   excluded, is so weak, one could liken it to the sound of one hand

   But the more open the organisation is and the more direct the
   interactions of its members with many other parts of the environment,
   the greater becomes the imperative to select a position on the above
   spectrum. To state clearly what the nature of its relationship with
   the environment is to be.

   For example, if the pursuit of profit is the sole and overriding
   motive that drives the organisation and thus its relationship with its
   environment, then by the nature of the beast that relationship will be
   exploitative and even predatory - with suppliers, customers and even
   its own members, the employees. This despite any lip service to "our
   employees are our greatest asset", "we care for the environment",
   "without our many suppliers we can never succeed" and last but
   definitely not least, "you, our customers, make us the success that we

   It will be a relationship where the people of the environment are
   progressively perceived and treated more as means to the
   organisation's ends than as ends in themselves. One could liken this
   to both hands of the organisation too busy grasping and tearing away
   to think of clapping.

   Towards the other hand of the spectrum one would find organisations
   trying to exist in harmony with the environment. At the optimal point
   would be those who pursue the normative directive, that of increasing
   their worth to their total environments. Some readers may have
   perceived this directive as perhaps too altruistic, or at least too
   passive and purely reactive to sound attractive. But this is not so.

   Trying to increase worth to the environment by finding the best
   compromise between conflicting needs and requirements of people in the
   environment is not a one way street. The people of the system can
   communicate and set example and otherwise influence the way people in
   the environment think of and perceive their relationship with the
   organisation. And in this manner introduce change and lead change in a
   direction that would benefit both the environment and the organisation
   over the longer term. The organisation - with a more clear vision of
   what relationship should be like for all to benefit - can become a
   teacher and facilitator; not merely react slavishly to a changing

   Consider an organisation that decides to implement the normative
   directive - to increase the worth of itself and all its subsystems.
   First, within the organisation and at all levels, decision makers
   examine the relationships of 'their' systems with others in its
   neighbourhood - both with respect to other subsystems within the
   larger organisation and also with people outside the organisation - to
   determine the real and varied needs and requirements of all these
   people. Then searches for the best compromise given all manner of
   constraints that are imposed. It pursues increased worth and synergy
   within itself and with its overall environment. Caring, but never
   altruism. (And surely would do much better at this if it behaves as a
   Learning Organisation! There is no conflicting relationship between
   Normative Management and LO - in fact, just the opposite, a good deal
   of synergy.)

   In its relationship with entities and groups outside itself, the
   organisation communicates this philosophy and by message and example
   persuades others to behave in a similar manner - to set a similar
   overall goal, one that leads to co-operation rather than
   exploitation. The moment there is a second organisation committing
   itself to the pursuit of worth, thereby co-operating with the first
   one towards this now shared ideal, we can liken this to two hands

   As often happens at public gatherings, the sound of two hands clapping
   soon have others joining in. Perhaps, when two, and then three, six
   ten, organisations behave in this manner they may show through their
   performance that there are lasting advantages for all in forsaking
   goals and objectives that are inherently exploitative for another
   purpose that is synergetical. Who knows, if that should happen we may
   even over time get a standing ovation as a whole community clap hands
   to show their full appreciation of and joy in Life!

   In the words of our host quoted at the top of the post, this would be
   a result to really care about!

   With kind regards and best wishes to all


   Daan Joubert, in Roodepoort
   Waxing a little lyrical
   Perhaps carried away (inspired?) by the spirit of our
   Human Rights holiday today here in South Africa!


Daan Joubert <>

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