Re: Proper Rate of Learning LO1346

Mon, 22 May 1995 07:37:12 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO1320 --

On Fri, 19 May 1995, Jim Michmerhuizen wrote:

> On Fri, 19 May 1995, JOHN N. WARFIELD wrote:
> [ ...snip ]
> > Unfortunately, tekkies are constantly trying to "optimize" the rate of
> > information flow using technology, which can work heavily against this
> > law, and engender many things, including "resistance to change", and more
> > violent reactions.
> Yeah. In those circumstances, I'd be one of the resisters. Tekkies, by
> definition, are the people who optimize data flow and storage capacity,
> under the delusion that "data" is "information". So in the end we are
> left with terabyte disc drives and vacant minds.
> > Meanwhile, the people working at Bell Northern Research have conceived
> > the term "soak time" as a critical variable in organizational learning.
> How do they use the phrase? Tell us more. (These are the kind of
> expressions that seem almost to have a meaning on first hearing. I'll
> probably use it tomorrow at work, without knowing what the people at Bell
> Northern Research mean by it.)

Jim, I'm always glad to learn that someone agrees with me!

Soak time is sort of an encapsulation of the ideas offered previously by
Barry Clemson and others, and expressed in the Law that I cited.

The late Graham Wallas once talked about Helmholtz's description of how
new ideas came to him. Helmholtz had identified three stages, and Wallas
added a fourth. The stages were:

(1) Preparation...a period in which an idea was explored in many directions
(2) Incubation...a period in which no conscious thought was given to the idea
(3) Illumination...the short period in which the mind resurrected the
idea along with numerous related ideas and patterns

Wallas added (4) Verification to the list.

If one believes strongly that the subconscious mind works hard in the
Incubation phase, and is greatly aided by the amount of temporarily
unfruitful work done in Preparation, it may be that the individual's
power of thought can be greatly amplified.

While the above info was dealt with in a context of creativity, there's
no reason that I know of not to consider it as a general framework.
In that context, "Soak Time" is the period of Incubation in which human
powers struggle with what came about in Preparation, in order to gain

The implications of this are multiple, and they all look bad for tekkies
who optimize the rate of flow of data with the meaning "fastest is
bestest". When Claude Shannon defined the unit of information, he
recognized that the amount was not measurable in terms of data rate, but
rather in terms of entropy, and that the latter had a lot to do with the
recipient of the data--if what reached the recipient was surprising, i.e.,
wasn't congruent with the probabilistics of the mental model of the
receiver, a lot of information was transferred. However, if the receiver
got clogged and couldn't process, the whole context model went to hell.

Soak time, then, is that useful period of Incubation following a
respectable Preparation. Put it in terms of the laundry. If you put the
dirty clothes in to soak, the worst dirt will somehow leave the clothing,
and then you can do a fast wash. If, however, you don't soak the clothes,
no amount of fash wash may be able to get out the dirt, and leave
something clean. It is one of the few glories of English that once in a
while something important can be chunked into two words.