Conspiritorial LO teams LO7344

A. Paz (
Thu, 09 May 1996 19:46:26 -0500

Replying to LO7293 -- wrote:
> Replying to LO7240 --
> In a message dated 96-05-07 18:50:11 EDT, you write:
> As a fellow admirer or Argyris, and in agreement with the idea that
> many of his ideas have crept into Senge's world, it's important to
> me that both of these fine individuals be categorized as describers
> and analysts.

First, I'm glad to know that you're a fellow admirer of Argyris. =20
However, you'll have to elaborate on why it's important to you that he=20
be categorized as a describer and analyst. I agree that Argyris is=20
what I would called a master of Model II type learning, which involves=20
generating valid information on many levels (especially about our the=20
attributions behind our observations), but my understanding of his=20
approach would also put him strongly in the "situation-changer" camp=20
as well. In fact, how else would you describe his life-long effort to=20
promote Model II learning if not "situation-changer?"

> Once I had a long discussion with the late Bill Linvill (head of
> eng-econ systems at Stanford in the 70s) about why social scientists
> almost never seem to take a design orientation. Bill chided me for
> wanting to make everybody look alike, but in his view the social
> scientist was like the painter of a mural in many ways. The goal
> was to show a broad canvas filled with activity--not necessarily to
> explain it, or even discuss changing it. Moreover, he also had a
> distinctive style that didn't readily lend itself to connecting his
> work with that of any other social scientist.

I'm not sure I understand the drift of your post here. However, I=20
think that Argyris has done a fairly good job of making a strong case=20
for the universality of Model I learning. I would also add a=20
statement from Harry Stack Sullivan, one of the premier early American=20
psychiatrist, "We are all more alike than not."

> The bottom line is this: do not assume that whatever the social
> scientist describes is the way things have to be. At best it may be
> the way things are. But the first route to making things better is
> to understand what they are. Once you gain that insight, it's time
> to think about the design mode of life; and you will have a very
> hard time getting any "true" social scientist into that mode,
> because the brotherhood doesn't recognize the term.

My sense is that Argyris would extend the first part of you statement=20
to: do not assume what _anyone_ describes is the way things are or=20
have to be. The value of much of his theorizing (which he always=20
tried to make explicit in his actions while encouraging other to point=20
out descrepancies) was his commitment to slowing down the lighting=20
fast and autonmous ways in which our interpretive attributions about=20
what we observe creep into our private (not publicly shared)=20
assumptions. (Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence. =20
I hope it makes sense to somebody!)
> Likewise, whoever draws on and simplifies the social scientist's
> outpouring, has the same handicap. The new person gets no design
> knowledge, no design suggestions, no help with design processes, and
> little two-way conversation.

Again, John, I would ask you to unpack this statement since I don't=20
fully understand what you're getting at. Nevertheless, I find myself=20
drawing extensively (even almost exclusively) on Argyris because his=20
ideas allow me to complicate (vs. simplify) in a meaningful way that=20
resonate with my experience.

Thanks for the opportunity to express myself regarding the value of=20
Argyris (especially since whenever I've tried to discuss his theories=20
with friends and associates they give me a very puzzled or bored=20

[Host's Note: I think you'll find an interested group here if you'd like
to discuss Argyris' on the LO list. ...Rick]


Augustine A. Paz

"Philosophy is orthopedics for fractured beliefs." Jos=E9 Ortega y Gasset

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