My Theory of Organizational Learning LO30810

Date: 11/25/03

Replying to LO30797 --

*My reflections* (my sense-making) on Richard's axioms:


>1. People tend to wallow in shallowness...

People also inherit/build their own repertoire of deep structures
that influence their behaviour. In that sense, it is possible to view
each individual as an 'expert'. However, the sources of such
'expertise' are not always examined/contested by the the same
'experts' or others.

>2. Most people will rise to seriousness if provoked skillfully.

Occasionally, an interest can be triggered in examining/contesting
the sources of such 'expertise'.

>3. In our experience, we find some things that are successful
>stimulation for #2, that is, things that succeed in provoking people
>to seriousness. Some of these serve as useful ongoing exercises for
>those so provoked:

> - Visioning: think about your life exactly the way you want it to
be, talk about what you really care about
> - Conversations: listen to others talk about what they really care
> - Centering: reaching a meditative state of heightened
concentration and awareness
> - Great Life Events: life-changing events can provoke reflection,
but these are generally not under our control

I would refer to a narrower set, e.g., some particular type of
conversations (say, synectic conversation), some particular type of
interaction (say, an interactive video game based on simulation),

>4. Personal Mastery: Some ways of thinking are more powerful than
>other ways. What we carry in our mind tends to become realized. The
>"unbendable arm" Aikido exercise illustrates this. This can be
>developed and strengthened by practice. (See #6 below.)

Different forms of interactions produce different outcomes. Sometimes,
this mapping can be expressed in a 'recoverable' form. These
recoverable interaction patterns (exercises) can be revised; however,
they may strengthen or weaken in the process.

>5. It is more engaging and energizing to figure out something
>yourself than to hear someone else describe their analysis of the
>system and it's dysfunctions. This is true even if that "someone
>else" is an expert whose analysis may be more insightful than your

There is a possible form of self-interaction (self-engagement) that can
also achieve desired outcomes, such as examining/contesting one's source of

>6. Capacities (skills, abilities) for learning and for depth are
>missing for many people. These skills can be developed like the way
>muscles can be strengthened. Practice, instruction in specific
>methods, and coaching all help develop these capacities. Reading
>about the theory of doing so has little effect.

In order to examine/contest one's source of 'expertise', a number of
enabling conditions must be met.

>6a. The org learning field seems based fundamentally on an
>assumption that the important skills are developable. Kiefer, Senge
>and other practitioners state an extreme position, "If you care
>enough about something, you will be able to learn whatever is
>required to realize it." A slightly more moderate position would be,
>"If you care enough about something, amazing developments in capacity
>are possible." This is well demonstrated in our experience!

Condition a: Orientation

>6a1. The "developable" point of view is opposed to the "some are
>born with it" point of view. Operating in day to day life, this is
>illustrated by the tension between "development" and "selection"
>approaches to filling capability gaps in an organization.

Condition b: Environment

>6b. There is great joy and energy in learning skills. "The drive to
>learn may be more powerful than the drive to reproduce." (Senge,
>speeches in the mid 90's)

Condition c: Incentives

>7. Most org learning work is based on the premise that "It's a depth
>problem (i.e. are we serious enough about it) as well as a learning
>problem (the need to learn certain behaviors and skills)." The
>organizational learning approach is distinguished by addressing
>"depth" as well as "skill."

To improve 'expertise', one needs a 'domain' and a set of 'tools'

>8. Living systems are structurally determined systems (Maturana).
>That is, a wide range of stimuli can cause a living system to make a
>response, but the nature of the response is determined by the
>internal structure of the living system and not by the stimulus

Repeat axiom 1.

>8a. A corollary I draw: I can not reliably cause another human being
>to do anything significant. I can stimulate to produce a response,
>but I cannot reliably determine the response.

Repeat axiom 1 and 5.

>8b. Behavior in human systems is emergent, and inherently difficult
>to control.

Repeat axiom 1 and 5.

General thoughts: By rephrasing Richard's statements in my own
idiosyncratic way, I can make (my own) sense of what he is trying to say.
In doing so, I find a certain complexity involved in the argument. It
seems, people can change (question their own conditions) by their own
initiatives. It also seems, another person in the role of a
trainer/facilitator might also help in the process. I suppose, this
construction calls for more clarity. Maturana specifies a similar
construction in terms of 'coupling'.


Dr. DP Dash
Bhubaneswar, India


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