Hobbies and LOs LO21970

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Thu, 24 Jun 1999 13:31:41 +0200

Replying to LO21937 --

Dear Organlearners,

Leo Minnigh <L.D.Minnigh@library.tudelft.nl> writes:

>Thank you John, your clarifying contribution was helpfull for me.
>After rereading also your and At's earlier messages it became
>clear: one must first collect before the filtering.

Greetings Leo,

The beginning of your contribution (quoted above) struck me as most

I was thinking about the relationship between scinetific thinking and
creativity when I began to study your contribution. I wondered why it is
so difficult for scientists to perceive that as soon as their creativity
takes a dip, their scientific thinking follows suite. For a quick moment I
thought about all the things (and not only scientific thinking which)
follow suite when their creativity takes a dip. One of them was
excercising a hobby. It was then when my eyes caught your phrase ".... one
must first collect before ....".

First some thoughts in general about "collect".

There was a time when most mathematicians believed that "set"
(collection) provides a more comprehensible foundation for mathematics
than "logic". The result was that set theory pervaded all of mathematics,
even its teaching in primary schools.

Chemists makes use of most of the quantities which physicists also
measure. But there is one quantity which chemists use very often while
physicists almost never use it. It is the quantity which has as unit the
"mole" -- 1[mol] = 6 x 10^23[units]. The mole is a unit belonging to the
dimension "collection" (amount of substance). Other units belong to this
dimension are [pair], [dozen], [gross] and [ream].

When a scientist begins with research on a particular topic, the first
thing to do is to collect all the relevant literature on the topic and
study it. Later on the scientist will publish his/her own findings in a
journal -- a collection of such findings on a collection of realted

When a person wish to buy something in particular, that person looks up
all the dealers who have been collected in the "yellow pages" telephone
directory. When a person wish to make contact on the world-wide-web on a
particular topic, that person first makes a collection of home pages by
using a search enjine.

I can go on for many screens how important collecting is in our lives. But
is this important for learning about LOs? Yes, since every organisation is
a collection of people. A LO is thus a special kind of collection of
people. It is the act of learning which makes that organisation so
special. But, since all people learn in some or other way, it seems that
every organisation is also an LO. This would have been the case if all
learning was the same. However, it is a special kind of learning which
makes the LO different from all other organisations.

So what is that special kind of learning which makes any organisation a
LO? Is this not the hot question which we on this list try to answer from
all possible angles? This list has now grown to over 20 000 contributions.
That is magnificent for any kind of web-list! Yet we keep on trying to
answer the question. Why? Because the answer is complex -- it needs many
thousands of contribution just to scratch the surface.

It is like chemistry. Millions of papers have been published on chemistry
and the publishing rate is still increasing. Visit an university library
and have a browse through the periodical which is called "Chemical
Abstracts". After a couple of minutes trying to comprehend abstracts of
publications for merely one week your mind will be whirling. It is seems
as if the subject chemistry is inexhaustable. It is not different for LOs.
Many hot topics in Managerial Science and Operational Research have became
of little interest. But what will be the case for the LO? As far as I can
see into the future, the interest in it will grow just like in a subject
such as chemistry. Why? Because like chemistry it concerns a creative
phenomenon essential to our lives.

So what does this have to do with hobbies? Have you ever been to a fully
fledged hobby show? The diversity is mind staggering. The amount of time,
money and effort spent are beyond reckoning. Approach any exhibitor and
begin a dialogue on his/her hobby. The creativity (content/dynamics and
form/mechanics) of that person usually radiates like a shining star. The
person is, for example, filled with enthusiasm (content -- free energy)
and open to discussion (form -- openness).

The one thing which stands out like a pole above water on such shows, is
the activity of collecting in all these hobbies. In fact, many hobbyists
refer to themselves as collectors (gems, animals like birds, reptiles and
fishes, plants like orchids, roses and succulents, cultural objects like
stamps, books, ceramics, coins, paintings, ornaments, furniture, ......)

This "collector craze" gives us a very important clue on why so many
people are fond of hobbies. Let us think about the five elementary
sustainers of creativity (dialogue, problem solving, exemplar studying,
game playing and art expressing). Which one abounds in hobbies? Exemplar
studies! The "collector craze" is not a craze after all, it is bringing
together (wholeness) of all (spareness) the exemplars (otherness) having
a particular property (sureness) and maintaining (liveness) or even
propagating or making (fruitfulness) them while being attracted (openness)
to new possibilities.

The sustainer "problem solving" has become so over accentuated in the
world or organisations (economy, education, politics, etc.) that it often
makes me uneasy and restless. In general, this homogenisation is not good
for the creativity of the people involved. In particular, it is too lean
on the act of collecting. How many problem solvers have you met that
collec all the problems related to a particular problem in addition to
solving that problem? Yes they do some collecting when trying to plan a
solution for the problem, but is not the "deep collecting" associated
with most hobbies.

I wish I could open your eyes that the "collector craze" do not concern
only "beings", but also "becomings". Should we visit a hobby show, that
which will strike the eyes are the "beings". But should we begin talking
with these "collectors", ought to perceive how many of them also collect
"becomings" like encounters, deals (swopping) and competition.

One things which has struck me as most extraordinary, is the
irreversibility with which the hobbyist pursues his/her hobbies. Let me
formulate it in this way. Prigogine has shown that the irreversibility of
entropy production is manifested in the way which physical (inanimate and
biological) systems develop from less to more complexity and not the vice
versa. However, this arrow towards greater complexity have already been
noticed long before Prigogine by emminent thinkers like Goethe, Darwin and
Bergson. It has been formalised by Dollo who stated that evolution does
not proceed back along its own path or repeat its routes.

Unfortunately, Dollo's law is little known among biologists and virtually
unknown in the other realms of life. But something like Dollo's law is
certainly evident in the life of the hobbyist. When the hobbyist cease
pursueing a particular hobby, often for many decades, it is because of
practical pressures. However, when the hobbyist return to that hobby, it
is to pursue it further and not to backtrack past experiences.

The same in the world of business. Here something like Dollo's law is also
operating. Kinds of businesses which had been in favour in the past, have
not yet come into favour again. Some prefer to call it fashion, but I
rather think of it as deep fashion, the fashion behind fashions. Once you
have grasped this "law" or irreversibility, it is possible to see it
operating in every major facet of human culture.

When I have to help a student who seemed to have taken an irreversible dip
in performance, I usually begin by searching for well documented learning
disabilities. Often these are absent with (what I call) "creating
disabilities" in their place. I am not surpised anymore by the frequency
of such "creating disabilities". In order to diagnose these "creating
disabilities", I ask the student extensively on the hobbies which he/she
pursues. The non-performing student is usually (but not always) one of two

(1) The student has seldom, if ever, actively pursued a hobby. In this
case an icy feeling often grips my heart. There is usually a general
failure in the student's creativity, a lack of creative health" in almost
every facet of creativity. Such students usually persisted in their
academical career by route learning which, even for its sheer magnitude,
could not be sustained anymore. Fortunately, I do not have to break the
news for them to call it a day in their academical career. The great
majority of them already knows it tacitly.

What I then try to do, is to help them to articulate this tacit knowledge.
I take extreme care not to implant any deplorable suggestion in them that
they have to call it a day. After they understand that an academical
career takes more than route learning, I strongly advise them to pursue as
many hobbies as possible while shaping a new career. I also make the point
that they should remember that stopping with an academical career is not
ending of it for ever. Thus many came back to academy after having
regained their "creative health", thanking me for pointing it out to them.

(2). The student actively pursues at least one hobby. Sometimes the lack
of performance merely resulted because the student could not prioritise
between academy and the hobbies. In this case the solution is to point out
to them that they have to choose and live by their choices. Sometimes the
student pursued an academical specialisation which seemed to connected to
their hobbies. In this case I advise the student to find out what he/she
loves dearly. Usually it is something essential to the hobby, but not
essential to the specialisation. Then I point out that it is not too late
to change to a degree in which this "love" will be encountered frequently.
I have had many a student who excelled after making such a change. What
struck me most, is the zest which radiates form them in pursuing their new
academical career and (as expected) their hobbies.

But the ailment which makes me most sad, is the one where nothing is wrong
with the student's "creative health", i.e no "creating disabilities". It
all these cases the student had a wrong perception of academy -- one in
which they tried to suppress a major facet of their creativity, believing
that it plays a negative rather than a positive role in their academical
career. I often use their knowledge on their hobbies to show them that
this facet is also important in their acdemical subjects, drawing on
historical examples in these subjects to make the point.

So much about "learning disabilities" and "creating disabilities" of
Learning Individuals (LIs). Peter Senge makes a strong and illuminating
point that likewise Learning Organisations (LOs) also may exhibit
"organisational learning disabilities". What I now want to stress, is
that we must also be aware of organisational creating disabilities". To
identify such disabilities, we will have to observe the collective
experience of the organisation in the five elementary sustainers of
creativity. In the past twenty years "problem solving" have received due
attention in management science. But what about the other four, especially
"exemplar studying"?

I have recently pointed out that the scientific community is a remarkable
LO in its own right. The key process to this LO is the scientific method.
Far too many people (including pupils and students) nowadays believe that
the scientific method and problem solving are the same thing. It is not
the case. Three other elementary sustainers of creativity play just as
important role as problem solving, namely dialogue exemplar studying and
art expressing. Likewise we must not get the false notion that a LO will
flourish with problem solving as its main diet. What about "exemplar
studying" as another dish with the diversity of hobbies giving flavour and
taste to it?

I have observed how frequently a society for a particular kind of hobby
functions as a LO -- and also how the death of the society can be
predicted when it stops functioning as a LO. Many hobby societies
struggle with this problem -- how to avoid death which seems to be
inevitable. It is a pity that so much facilitation in the art of LOs goes
to the world of business where money abounds. The art of LO is not for the
sake of making money. The art of LOs is intended for metanoia-ubuntu-karma
to emerge -- that high level of human consciousness which money cannot buy
because it comes from within. I wish that practioners of the art of LOs
will give more of their valuable time to struggling societies for hobbies.

One of the detectors which I use to get an impression of the "degree of
civilisation" of any community, is to observe how much time, expense and
effort that community spends on hobbies in general. It was, at first,
simply a curious observation of mine many many years ago. Then I began to
speculate on it. The one thing which I could not falsify, is that the
pursuing of a hobby is directly linked to the "health in creativity" of a
person. Are you struggling with an organisation which fail to emerge as a
LO? Try to make a diagnoses on the "health in creativity" of that
organisation. Use the pursuing of hobbies by its individual members as
your case studies. You will be surprised on the insights to be gained.

I wonder whether Rick will allow it? Often, when new fellow learners
introduce themselves to this list, they mention some of their hobbies --
and there it stops. Perhaps I am an exception, but often I wish for them
to tell us more about their hobbies. This helps me to understand the full
person behind the signature at the end of a contribution. Sometimes, when
a person soon follows up the "intro" with a contribution, I get the
feeling how that contribution and the hobbies mentioned in the "intro"
correspond to the person behind the signature.

To make it worthwhile, let us focus on how your hobby(s) gives you insight
into the functioning of a LO.

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>