The splitting (de-wholing) of human activities LO29458

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 11/05/02

Replying to LO29442 --

Dear Organlearners,

Chris Klopper <> writes under the old topic: Action
Learning and Learning Organization LO29442

>It reminds me of what I am seeing in terms of management
>ie. the reduction of (the practice of) management into a
>facet XYZ of it and calling it XYZ-management. It may also
>have gathered momentum in the sixties. The word or term
>management now includes an exceedingly large number of
>meanings. It stands for everything and means nothing
>(no <one> thing).

Greetings dear Chris,

I have changed the topic into a more general form because i think
we have a serious problem to consider here. I have drawn attention
to the splitting of learning and now you have also mentioned the
de-wholing ( ;-) of managing.

This splitting of something into more units than what it should be is
known a long time in the exotic plant or animal trade. It happens
whenever there there are buyers for them. A sought after species
will be splitted in many "different species" based on the minutest
differences, differences which would otherwise have played no role
in distinguishing different species. What then happens is that people
buy name-tags rather the plants or animals which they ought to have
cared for. They look initially at the "different species" having different
name-tags and wonder for hours what the difference is about. Later
on they just accept that they will not learn the differences. They
seldom see the plant or animal behind the name-tag needing their
attention. Obviously, the more different name-tags for sale, the more
the turnover for the splitters.

It is intrigueing that the splitting of major subjects like mathematics,
chemistry, psychology and education into many minor subjects, based
on a facet XYZ of it, began in all earnest in the fifties to sixties of the
twentieth century. It is intrigueing because the formal exposition of
creativity also began in these two decades after a striking speach of
the psychologist Guilford (in 1952, i think) at an annual meeting of
American psychologists.

There is no doubt in my mind that wholeness is essential to creativity.
Someone may now argue that such a splitting of a major subject into
many minor subjects is a demonstration of creativity. I think it is not.
It rather tells that the different facets XYZ of a subject cannot be
linked together anymore. Because of this splitting, the creative
mastering of the whole subject begins to suffer. As you have noticed
with respect to managerial science:

>Two things seem increasingly clear: (1) managers are not
>coping anymore, they (being under-wholed) are becoming
>overwhelmed, (snip)

I wonder how much WWII had to do with it all? Jan Smuts (Holism
and Evolution) already warned in 1933 that the nations of Europe and
the Far east were heading towards a second world war. Three things
were driving them to this madness:- fear, imposed inferiorities and a
lack of wholeness so that the League of Nations (another brainchild
of Smuts) failed to function as it should have. Then WWII came with
only one "winner", new technologies to destroy as never before. After
WWII, the fear, imposed inferiorities and lack of wholeness became
intensified much more as a result of WWII.

But as new technologies were also created for peaceful purposes and
the market in them began to bloom, a new "hope" began to surface:-
"By becoming rich through such technologies, thou shall not fear, feel
inferior or need wholeness". However, as these technologies will
become increasingly unaffordable (which is already happening in many
parts of the world) because of "die-off" (increasing demand and
dwindling supply of fossil fuel), the fear, inferiority and lack of
wholeness will again step into the foreground.

>and (2) the idea that one person or even a board is managing
>(determining its becoming) a company is a redundant and
>dangerous myth.

Well, it is such a dangerous myth that it led to WWII whereas many
people thought that another world war would never happen. The
idea that the League of Nations (the first ever "board" among nations
to manage for peace) would prevent another world war was
torpedoed because the leaders of several countries simply had other

My mind is wrestling with the question:- Is it fear, inferiority and a
lack of wholeness which caused WWII, or is it the de-wholing which
caused fear and inferiority so that they precipitated in WWII? How
much does this de-wholing or splitting in management cause fear and
inferiority in managers which they then must hide with a false facade
like the leaders of nations did after WWI? Chris, I would like to read
your viewpoint on the answer because if the very nature of your work
-- strategic planning. Obviously, other fellow learners can also share
their viewpoints since we have a open dialogue here to learn more.

I myself think that the thing edge of the wedge of de-wholing started
much earlier. For example, two centuries ago Goethe was already
deeply aware of it. Goethe particularly disliked Descarte's philosophy.
As we know, it is a philosophy of taking anything apart to see how it
work (actually, worked ;-) Descarte's de-wholing made unification
necessary, but sadly, something which seldoms happen. Goethe saw
the unity as the whole which should never be de-wholed in the first
place. For Goethe the emphasis was on
"BELONGING together"=unity
rather than on
"belonging TOGETHER"=unification
I wonder how many managers have this Goethian outlook in their

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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