My Theory of Organizational Learning LO30808

From: Richard Karash (
Date: 11/25/03

Replying to LO30800 --

>Greetings dear Rick,
>Finally, after so many years, we got something very interesting from
>your keyboard ("pen" in the old days ;-) We will do our best to
>comment on it. Hopefully these comments will be of some help to you.

As for my writing on the LO list, most of the time I have chosen the
role of host rather than active participant. But, in this case, I
really wanted to share the piece and have some dialogue about it. I
really appreciate your thoughts below...

> >The Theory Underlying Organizational Learning
>> ----------
>> 1. People tend to wallow in shallowness. This tends to be
>>a stable situation unless and until provoked. Alone, few will
>>rise to serious reflection on meaningful issues; for many life
>>is just to be lived.
>>There is joy in just going with the flow.
>> 2. Most people will rise to seriousness if provoked skillfully.
>It seems to me that in this reply i will not go any further than your
>point 1. I quoted point 2 to indicate that i am aware your point 1
>extends up to point 6.
>I have been teaching for 32 years now for pupils at schools up to
>students at university. I have to agree with you that MANY "People
>tend to wallow in shallowness". But i have to qualify the exceptions.
>Most exceptions are people who had been exposed to at least one mentor
>(at home, at school, at university or sometimes at an organisation not
>even related to education) who guided them to dig deep down where the
>intellectual diamonds are.
>This is where your point 2 comes in. People will rise to seriousness
>when they are "skillfully provoked" by a mentor.

I developed these points by looking at what we do (I and my
colleagues)... We do workshops which attempt to build skills
(capacities?) in certain areas. And we invest enormous energy in
taking our participants into more depth personally and in
conversations than they are used to. What theory of people and of our
interaction would explain our actions? Thus my points #1 and #2, it
seems that this is what we believe, given the way we conduct our work.

>... However, parents,
>teachers and lecturers are not implicitly mentors because of their
>adulthood or any professional training. The reason is that world wide
>most educational systems are geared towards mediocrity -- getting a
>bell-shaped curve of test results with its top somewhere in the
>vincinity of 50% mastery. In other words, the mediocrity of
>educational systems makes people wallow in shallowness.

There is so much I left out. My points are my theory of organizational
learning, and not a full theory about people.

In my life, my parents and certain teachers had a very large impact on
me. I put a very high priority on being available for serious
discussion with my wife and daughter. If I were to write down my
theory of parenting, there would be quite a bit about this.

I do find that after the parents, and after the teachers, and after
everything else... That most, or many, people have a lot of
un-realized potential in the depth dimension.

>The relationship between a mentor and his/her mentees is beautifully
>captured by the movie "A dead poet's society". ... snip...

Yes, I liked that movie very much.

>A mentor tells his/her mentees when they are in doubt of how specific
>persons in the past managed to accomplish what was not expected nor
>even thought to be possible. Nothing motivates so much as any past
>hero of learning. Also do not forget encouragement when a learner
>shows any unusual progress. However, nothing demotivates so much as
>rewarding mediocre learning or scolding upon any failure.

At, I think that is in the realm of coaching, and of collegiality. Or
simple friendship. These are very important.

>Even worse than the mediocrity of the educational systems is the fact
>that this mediocrity is taken or made the norm.

At, you are making me realize that as I survey the world, I see
remarkable variations in quality. In the same world, right next to
each other, are awful mediocrity and great leaps of excellence. In my
vision of a better world, I wish the whole distribution could be

>... Whether a learner or a
>teacher, whenever someone tries to surpass this norm by endeavoring
>for true excellence, all those adhering to the norm will come down on
>this a person as an avalache of rocks. Education ought to be the king
>of systems, but this king is without clothes. Beware of telling it to
>the innocent.

Yes, this is one very sad archetype of behavior. I have been very
lucky that it has not hit me very often; I know some people experience
it strongly. We also do it to ourselves. The fear alone is enough to
slow us down. I think this is an addition to my theory... One of the
things we do in the field is try to get people ready to excel in spite
of the danger you express.

>Rick, i do not agree with the word "joy" in your "There is joy in just
>going with the flow." I wish i knew English well enough to suggest a
>better word. Perhaps "comfort" will do, i.e., the abscence of pain or
>annoyance. Joy is rather felt when someone got deeper than the usual

I'll think about this.

My best regards,

    -=- Rick


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