Conversation LO17501

Alan Mossman (
Mon, 23 Mar 1998 06:25:10 -0500

Replying to LO17496 (was Employee Ranking Systems)

Good Conversation is at the heart of a learning organisation.

BBC Radio series "An intimate history of conversation" (transcripts
available on the web) has much material relevant to this list.

Quoting Richard Goodale in LO17496:
>> cooperation/competition within and betweeen the Watson/Crick and
>> Wilkins/Franklin teams which led to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Don Wiggins went on to ask:
>Does that example really support your beliefs? In particular:
>- Was it the system of cooperation/competition that led to the discovery?
>- Could the discovery have been made without that system (if, say, only one
> team had been working on it)? If it could have, did the system in some
> way enhance or diminish the discovery? What other, possibly unintended,
> effects did the system have on the research community?

This reminded me of a programme I heard on the BBC last Monday in which
Teodore Zeldin said inter alia:

"At the frontiers of knowledge, adventurous researchers have to be almost
professional eavesdroppers, picking up ideas from the most unobvious
sources. The discovery of DNA was the outcome of conversations between
Crick and Watson, which went on ceaselessly for several years. They had
only one rule, that they could say whatever came into their heads. Crick
always preferred conversation to reading learned journals; he found it
essential to meet the scientists who had done interesting experiments,
because there would often be something unsaid in the colourless style
which scientific papers adopt. He asked naive questions, insisting he had
to simplify things for himself in order to understand them. That is how
his conversations yielded new insights."

An Intimate History of Conversation part 4
BBC R4 Monday 16 March 1998 @ 0840)

I don't know the detail of the relationship between the two teams. I
wonder about the value of speculating on the unknowable, rhetorical
questions that Don asks.

I do commend Theodore Zeldin's six part series to colleagues on this list
as it seems to me to be central to the whole notion of an LO.
Transscripts are available for download from the BBC site above. Today's
programme was all about the effects of technology on communication.

Try reading the above quote as if it were about the people who do new
product/service development, intranet development or customer research in
your organisation. . . .



Alan Mossman mail The Change Business Ltd 19 Whitehall STROUD GL5 1HA UK 01453 765611 N.B. new fax: 01453 763083

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