Creating a Passion for Learning LO17467

Simon Buckingham (
Thu, 19 Mar 1998 08:43:30 -0800

Replying to LO17453 --

Christian Giroux wrote about his children learning by themselves
unassisted by anyone else to question whether it is true to say that
learners cannot learn on their own. I have come round the thinking over
the last year or so that there is a middle way between unfettered and
over-structured that is the optimal learning environment.

It is true to say that you can eliminate ALL structures and barriers that
prevent the unhindered exploration of new things. This certainly can
stimulate new learning- but burning your hand or falling down a flight of
stairs or crashing an aeroplane or introducing a quality defect into a
production line because no-one told you to hold onto the rail or shared
with you the best practice garnered on that task is a very steep learning

On the other hand, the opposite extreme of completely rigid boundaries in
which every move the child or adult makes is watched carefully by the
manager or parent is also a sub-optimal learning environment that actively
discourages thinking for self, exploring new ways of doing and being,
punishes curiosity and so on.

Hence, when it comes to rearing children and leading people, I prefer an
approach that eliminates the static, inflexible, outmoded policies and
procedures and rules but retains the useful, positive, flexible, dynamic
structures that do help to get the job done in the best way and contribute
to the business in hand.

Two more points: there is a difference between the degree of regulation
needed when thinking compared with when doing. Obviously controls over
thinking are less dangerous to the thinker at least at the time they are
thinking than action-based learning is. Hence, it is much less effective
and necessary to regulate knowledge work than manufacturing type work,
which is why I advocate teleworking and so on as flexible policies that
let people think in the optimal environment for them, which is often not
an office. I find that thinking up new ideas often comes best as a period
of new discoveries and experiences followed by a period of solitarty
reflection on lessons learned.

I am struck again this week by the death of Dr Spook, the famed childcare
guru, who was the first person to argue against a strict disiplinary
upbringing with regimented feeding times, sleeping times, toliet training
and so on. At the time, his philosophy of trusting your instincts and
going with the flow and letting the child develop as an individual was
controversial and revolutionary. Dr Spook did not advocate unfettered
permissiveness either- although he was accused and blamed for it. It is
about time we applied the same ideas to the way people operate in
organizational contexts- it strikes me as amazing and abhorant that we
have more freedom as children than we do as employees.

(PS. I just walked into my living room where Yasmin, five years old, is
pretending that a duvet cover is a car and filling it up using an empty
petrol can. If I saw an adult do that, I would think genius!)

regards, sincerely Simon Buckingham

unorganization: business not busyness,

Christian Giroux wrote:

> In my house, I got a fireplace with a steel screen to prevent the
> burning wood to fall off on the floor. When there is a fire in there, the
> screen becomes hot enough, if you leave your hand on it for more than a
> second you get badly burnt.
> I also have kids, now 6 and 3 years old. Both of them, about when
> they started to crawl around and discover the world, made the same awful
> experience of touching the hot screen, burning their hand (don't worry,
> people, a few days later there was no physical mark left). Neither kid
> touched the screen again while there was a fire burning.
> Based on Rick's definition above, they seemed to know that the hot
> screen would hurt them, since they took the effective action of not
> touching it again...


Simon Buckingham <>

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