Conversational Pardigms LO5912
Thu, 29 Feb 1996 09:03:23 -0800

Replying to LO5883 -- And touching On Other Threads esp Dennets' Dangerous
Idea and Adaptation/ Complexity

Francis offered,
>words like re-engineering are basically invented
and invited
>inventing a language that will cause an LO to arise

Francis, I accept the invitation and agree the power of the assertion that
transformation begins with new language [ new conversation would be my

Yet the context for that conversation to emerge must be created. I have
seen - and you and others must have - organisational breakthrough based on
creation of new language succeed like wildfire in one company [or
division] and sink into cynical memory [oh that] in another. The
difference is context.

Context is frequently accidental, or unintentional. I see much of this in
your claim that the word re-engineering [and even perhaps the distinction
it represents was invented]. Invention conveys to me a sense of purpose
that may be too strong. I would assert that BPR [as a distinction] emerged
unintentionally and was selected in the world of linguistic/
methodological evolution. [Readers to whom the Dennett is a dangerous idea
may choose to suspend judgement a minute].

Consider the lexigraphical history of BPR. Around 1990 or a bit before the
surplus of largely value draining white collar activity in western [or at
least anglo-saxon] corporations had become too large to sustain. The
opportunity to do it differently and the threat of not so doing was too
large to ignore. [I'm not condoning here, just trying to describe how it
appears to me].

That business imperative [with other stuff] created a context [environment
or opportunity] for the emergence of the 'process movement'. Recall the
variations of the theme that then emerged.[ e.g Process management,
review, simplification, innovation, redesign and re-engineering]. The
distinctions embodied were more in the minds and agendas of their
originators than in the validity of difference made in the world.
'Re-engineering' triumphed, perhaps by contingency, as much as design or
inherent 'fitness'. It locked in adherents via positive feedback in a
classic QWERTY dynamic.

I see this as a neat vignette of an emergent meme [mental gene in short]
infecting a population and replicating whether or not in benefits its
hosts. I also see it as a dynamic that has been around for at least 570
million years and maybe 3.5 billion.

The LO meme burst on the world at much the same time but with a difference
in that many authors/ distinctions sought to capture the label LO for
their version or interpretation of a recipe or explanation in the world.
The LO thus inherited [by chance again?] the great benefit of memetic
diversity [ a rich pageant of mental models, ideas, images, conversations,
language, relationships, and being]. The invitation which I am coming to
see I stand for is keeping that diversity rather than seeking to stabilise
on a particular 'best-way'.

Hence I offer that the power and potential of the Learning Organisation
movement may, paradoxically, be that we are not stuck with what it is but
allow it to be a context in which diversity of conversation and diversity
of future can be created.

If Price [and Ray Shaw]
The Harrow Partnership
Pewley Fort Guildford UK

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