Daniel Aronson intro

Daniel Aronson (dacce@world.std.com)
Sun, 6 Nov 1994 03:39:28 +0001 (EST)

Hello, my name is Daniel Aronson and I thought I'd take this time to introduce
myself. I graduated from UC Berkeley in May with a degree in political
science and rhetoric; I now live in the Boston area and am looking to
work with a consulting firm which uses the ideas of systems thinkng and
organizational learning. I came across learning organizations at
Berkeley when I was researching a class that I taught there on
new ways of thinking, and I was immediately fascinated by them because the ideas
Peter Senge put forth in The Fifth Discipline connected with three major
interests of mine: politics, worldviews/mental models, and the study of
The idea of emergent phenomena, in which a whole has properties not
present in its individual parts (I believe that the "invisible hand" of the
market is one such phenomenon, for example), which seems important to
understanding politics, fit very well with the systems idea of wholes which are
not reducible to parts without losing the properties of the whole - and
systems theory and complexity/chaos/cybernetics all agree that it is the
interactions between the system constituents that give rise to these
properties. Learning organizations held out the promise that
interpersonal interactions could take place in a way that would make the
group (or polity) more effective and also more united - a dream come true
for many political scientists, because the great problem in politics (I
believe) is forming and maintaining a unity out of individuals with
different perspectives (i.e. mental models) and interests.
The necessary inclusion of work with mental models in the theory of
learning organizations intersected with another of my interests: ways
we perceive the world, especially through metaphors and cognitive
schemas (e.g. we view arguments through the lens of war, with
"attacking," "defending," winners and losers, but it is possible to see
argument other ways, such as mutual assistance in a search for truth -
we might call this "dialectic" but not argument - or even as a dance in
which the arguers are partners, not opponents). Through learning
organizations it may be possible for people's mental models to change
toward unity without the process being threatening.
Learning organizations also taps into my interest in understanding
life. Learning is one of the fundamental characteristics of life (along with
self-organization), I think, and looking through the lens of the life
sciences (biology and ecology) holds great promise for real progress in
understanding - great strides occur, for example, when the guiding
metaphor of economics becomes the life sciences instead of Newtonian
mechanics (the subject of my thesis). Not only does systems thinking
match model to reality by including feedback loops and other tools that
allow thinking about the processes of
life, but learning organizations develop their own characteristics and
evolve as they learn - in that sense, it seems to me, a learning
organization truly "takes on a life of its own."
I look forward to exchanging ideas and learning from all of you.

Daniel Aronson

P.S.: for anyone who is interested, the book Metaphors We Live By is
eye-opening. It is the source of the 'argument as war' example.
If anyone else is going to the Systems Thinking in Action
conference in S.F., drop me a line and we can talk about it.