Re: Organisational thinking LO3876

Tobin Quereau (
Sun, 26 Nov 1995 22:20:25 -0600 (CST)

Replying to LO3830 --

I had some similar reactions to Argyris' definition of learning when I
first read it, Michael. I tend to associate learning with a much larger
world of experience which is reflected in the booming, buzzing confusion
of a pre-school classroom or a crowded vacant lot on Saturday. But I also
wonder if Argyris might have had another meaning for "error" than the one
I most habitually use--the one which links it with mistakes. As I reread
Argyris again (and again and... I find his work to be quite difficult to
absorb) I am beginning to think his term could be thought of more in line
with discrepancy from "intended outcome" or "valued result" and, in that
way, allow for more of the expansive, exploratory, and playful process of
learning that I value.

Of course, that could just be my desire to accomodate my experience and
understanding to that of one I admire... (In which case I am faced with a
conundrum--what do I do when two people I admire seem to disagree? Ahh,
yes, send a reply to the list!)

I am curious to see if others have some reaction to this theme.


On Fri, 24 Nov 1995, Michael McMaster wrote:

> Replying to LO3782 --
> I appreciate being supplied by the direct quote from Jan. The
> initial phrase of that quote is one that I think bears serious
> challenge by this list.
> "If we define learning as the detection and correction of error..."
> is such a narrow, I'd say linear as well, definition of learning that
> a focus on that area is likely to inhibit or kill the kind of
> learning that is possible for human beings and their organisations.
> (I am not rejecting this kind of learning. I'm suggesting that it is
> a very narrow part of the spectrum.)
> Einstein has said that learning doesn't come from experience. Many
> from Semiotics and related schools of thought would also say that
> learning comes from what precedes experience. Information theory
> suggests that theory provides information from experience and not the
> other way around.
> If learning is to be a generative and creative process, it cannot be
> a mere identifying and correcting of mistakes.
> I consider learning at its larger level to be a matter of exploring
> spaces of possibility rather than "learning from mistakes". In the
> field of exploration of possibility, we can't know beforehand what a
> "mistake" is. And what appears to be high quality work at the level
> of identifying mistakes might turn out to be a "mistake" when a
> larger field of possibility is explored.
> My experience with "learning from mistakes" as a fundamental approach
> to learning is that it leads to relatively mechanistic approaches
> which tend to lead to "right/wrong" conversations and the life and
> interest goes out of the learning process.
> Michael McMaster