STIA- Learning Conversations LO3001

Sat, 30 Sep 1995 01:10:34 +0000

Here are my notes/thoughts from the 1995 Systems Thinking in Action
Conference, "Building Organizational Learning Infrastructures," Sep.
18-20, 1995, Boston.

D07 - Learning Conversations as Infrastructure for the Knowledge Era
Juanita Brown, Whole Systems Associates & David Isaacs, Clearing

As we walked in, the following was up on the overhead:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street... There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in... I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault... It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street... There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it... I fall in again...
I can't believe I am in the same place... but it isn't my fault...
It takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street... There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I see it there... I fall in again... Its a habit.
My eyes are open... It is my fault... I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

We started the session by reflecting on some great conversations we
have been part of in the past and the group offered up what they thought
of as the essential qualities. Some of the responses: inquiry, honesty,
vulnerability, trust, topic was important, no judgement, relaxed, learned
something, openness, listened, time was suspended, silence, outdoors, nice
environment, connected, etc.
A learning conversation was defined as collaborative inquiry focused
on questions worth asking.
Some of the points:
Learn to love the questions.
Questioning reveals profound uncertainty embedded deep in all
reality beyond the facades of confidence and sureness.
The question is the destination.
What is the collective voice?
The method used in the session was the metaphor for introducing large
scale change in an organization. We spent some time reflecting on a
question worth asking, shared our thoughts in our small groups of four or
five people, then everybody but one person from each table got up and went
to a different table and shared what we had done at the previous table and
listened to the collective.
I believe the question we started off with was something like, What
one question, if we asked everyone in your organization, would lead to
large-scale system change? As I recall, having been thinking about what
was on the overhead when we entered the room and how we tend to not see
our part, my question for everyone to ask was: How am I preventing
large-scale system change from emerging? Some of what came up from
listening to the group was that we were in a problem solving mode instead
of a creative mode.

Jim Saveland
USDA Forest Service