Trends in Organizational Learning concept LO29351

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/18/02

Replying to LO29338 --

Dear Organlearners,

Vana Prewitt <> writes:

>At wrote:
>> Vana, the crucial issue here is that once the wisdom gets
>> documented, it is not LIVING wisdom anymore, but
>> merely DEAD information. What is needed is living
>> interaction between the wise and the unwise such that
>> learning is promoted.
>I certainly agree with this statement. My only thought in the
>matter is that in doing NOTHING to document or capture
>the wisdom of the past, organizations are certainly doomed
>to repeat their failures and miss opportunities. I would never
>equate information with knowledge or wisdom, but believe
>that continuous sharing of valuable organizational wisdom
>through storytelling and similar means keeps certain knowledge
>in a living format.

Greetings dear Vana,

Thank you very much for keeping this most important thread alive. My
intention was first to focus upon this most important distinction between
information and knowledge, and after that, to bring in the wisdom of
Benjamin Franklin.

But with the incredible sinchronicity so often typical of the dialogue,
Dan Chay in "Ben Franklin's Junto Dialogue LO29324" draw our attention to
it. What remains for me to do, is to elaborate on it. Already as a boy one
of BF's passions was to study books. Books in those settler days were very
scarce and he had to make much effort with much ingenuity to get hold of

But already as a teenager he realised that the study of books is not
enough. He gathered friends together who also loved to read books. He
convinced them that they should gather regularly and talk about the books
which they have studied. As he became older and moved from one place to
another, he kept on bringing book lovers together to talk on the books
which they have read. Arranging these dialogues (talking) on information
(books) run like a golden thread through his autobiography.

I can now understand why he insisted in the drawing up of the first
constitution that the delegates should talk on each article of it until
they have complete concensus. Only then would the contitution be finished.
It was not the constitution as document which was crucial, but the
knowledge of each delegate who would be able to produce such a document
with concensus.

Vana, you wrote that managers should document corporate wisdom. I think
that Franklin would have added that managers and their subordinates must
held a dialogue on that document, keep on shaping it until full concensus
has been reached. The document would remain to be dead forever, but after
that dialogue it is the living knowledge in each participant which
matters. This is how corporate wisdom is kept alive.

>It is transferred into the organizational knowledge base through
>living legends. Obviously, all worthwhile knowledge cannot be
>transferred in this format, but we are certainly missing more
>opportunities than should be missed in absorbing the wisdom
>of those who have already learned the hard lessons in our

You are right -- our organisations are missing many opportunities. The
open dialogue is also one of them.

>There is no perfect solution as long as we live in a mortal world.
>Knowledge and wisdom resides in people. People move on.
>They die. Certain things die with them...but not ALL knowledge
>must die. Some can be retained and passed on through others.
>The question I am posing is whether any organization is seeking
>to do this systematically, deliberately, and strategically.

The Learning Organisation does it, although perhaps only tacitly in terms
of your "systematically, deliberately, and strategically".

For example, the Bible study group to which i belong and which meets every
Thursday evening, is a "tacit LO". (I mean by it that only i know the
Sengian articulation of how the group is operating.) They are certainly
keeping knowledge on God and his love for this world alive, not only in
the Bible study group itself, but now also in five "care groups" involving
some fourty other people, each "care group" functioning as a "tacit LO".

Last night a new member of the Bible study group prayed the following
afterwards: "Thank you God for having given me the opportunity to learn in
this group of your wisdom." Having a dialogue in the sense of Franklin on
a book, even the Bible, makes great sense to me.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> 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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