Teaching Smart vs. not LO13547

Edwin Brenegar III (brenegar@bulldog.unca.edu)
Thu, 08 May 1997 07:18:01 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO13502 --


Your story is familiar to many of us. I see it daily. How do you even
translate the idea of mental models to people. It is an intense
educational challenge to lead people into higher levels of understanding.
And it is doubly, triplely difficult to lead your superior into that.
Others will share their experience too I'm sure, but this is my
layperson's perspective on integrating a systems view into a system.

What is attractive to me is that it is a way of formally demonstrating the
nature of relationships in an organization. My suspicion is that your
boss looks at systems theory as a mechanical function of the
organizational structure, and it is at one level. Maybe he and everyone
else needs to see the systemic structure of the human relationships at the
school, using that as the metaphor for the rest.

People get locked into mental models which "freeze their screen." They
hear the words, see the diagrams, but it does not compute. And when you
are trying to help them change their paradigm, well, you have a real
challenge on your hands. My suggestion is to bring the theory down to its
lowest common denominator, whatever that may be in your situation, and
inculcate that into some normal function of the school. You'll know
better what that means.

In a recent seminar I led, one of the participants kept complaining that
none of her ideas were ever acting on at her company because all they
wanted to talk about was the bottom-line. For her she had to redefine the
bottom-line for the culture of her office, because it wasn't one idea, but
multitude, based on who it was. I think the same is true for your school.
You have to figure a way to redefine some of the cultural assumptions to
make systems theory more comfortable to explore and use. And secondly,
you have to identify what it is personally anyone and everyone has to gain
by learning something new and difficult. My experience in higher
education, and with work on an education task force is that educators are
eager to learn within their field, but venturing outside of it, which
systems theory is for many, takes some adjustment of how they normally

I wish you well.

Ed Brenegar
Leadership Resources
210 Wood Dale Drive
Hendersonville, N.C. 28791
704/693-0720 voice/fax


Edwin Brenegar III <brenegar@bulldog.unca.edu>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>