LO and Western Thought LO7515

Terri Deems (tdeems@unlgrad1.unl.edu)
Mon, 20 May 1996 10:07:30 -0500 (CDT)

The following appeared over the weekend on the TRDEV list. Thought
I'd pass it along (with Ross' ok) to you folks, since it seemed
related to several of our recent threads and posed some additional
areas for discussion. The issues raised are certainly not endemic to
Australia. It's a bit lengthy, but I thought I'd keep it
mostly intact.

Terri Deems

> A recent incident at a masters level tutorial on issues involved
> in developing "learning organisations" in Australia suggests that
> current management learning skills and attitudes to learning may
> prove a significant barrier to this countries capacity to develop
> a sustainable 'learning organisation' culture. The participants in the
> tutorial were full time workers studying
> for their Masters of Adult Vocational Education part time. The
> group included some who are said to have experience in the area
> of team development within so called 'learning organisations.'
> The incident centres around a question posed by one student and
> the groups response to the question:
> "Could any of the characteristics of our
> western world view and current attitudes to
> learning impede our ability to develop
> learning organisations."
> To my surprise the almost unanimous response of the group was
> that the question was irrelevant. Further that it was based on
> gross generalisations that could neither be applied to
> individuals nor organisations in the western context. That an
> appropriate mix of incentives and management leadership would
> resolve any underlying floors in the present approach to
> developing a learning organisation. Unconvinced the student
> attempted to briefly state the reasoning behind the question.
> The student defined the western world view as, still essentially
> mechanistic and further characterised it, with terms including:
> liberal, rational and individualistic. For the purpose of
> providing a contrast the student also described a possible
> alternate world view characterised by: obligation, traditionalism
> and communitarianism, hypothesising that the infusion of some of
> the values and attitudes in these perspectives might enhance our
> ability to develop better learning organisations.
> On current attitudes to learning, the student suggested that a
> learning organisation was restricted in its learning capacity by
> the learning skills and attitudes to learning of both its workers
> and its management. For example, in some workplaces people equate
> activity with productivity. In such workplaces the thoughtful
> worker who closes their eyes to reflect, as a skilled learner
> might, is more likely to be thought of as lazy rather than
> reflective. The student concluded by saying, that with current
> workplace productivity practices that exclude time for discussion
> (negotiation of meaning) and reflection, it may be difficult
> develop truly powerful 'learning organisations.'
> . . . What might have developed into an
> interesting scholarly debate instead rapidly degenerated into
> giggling, sniggering and other explicit acts of group
> disapproval.
> In my view the groups unscholarly behaviour validated the
> students question both in terms of relevance and timeliness. It
> is of concern that this behaviour was exhibited by people
> studying at a Masters level in Adult Vocational Education.
> Because they are the people who if not already, will soon be
> charged with the responsibility of developing 'learning
> organisations' in Australia. If such closed mindedness to
> addressing alternative points of view is characteristic of one
> sample of aspiring leaders, the same negative learning behaviour
> may also be characteristic of others in Australia. For me this
> incident raises questions on Australia's capacity to develop
> effective learning organisations. >snip<
> I am interested in investigating this matter further and seek
> both your reaction to this incident and if possible your
> assistance with any of the following items:
> Firstly, I wish to collect stories of incidents where
> lack of learning skills or a negative attitude toward
> learning on the part of management is impeding the
> development of a learning organisation, learning team
> and or knowledge workers.
> Secondly, do you see evidence that the race for
> qualifications among managers and aspiring managers
> (especially in Australia) is leading to a lower
> standard of scholarship at universities at a time when
> scholarly leadership is needed to give companies that
> competitive edge?
> Thirdly, in recent times there has been a shift on the
> part of university lecturers from an emphasis on being
> teachers to an emphasis on being researchers. Do you see
> this leading to a lower standard of scholarship among
> graduates?
> Finally, do you think that the student's question, as
> outlined above, is valid and relevant to the 'learning
> organisation' debate; might their be weaknesses in how
> we think and go about learning in the West; or is it
> as suggested by the group, just a question of finding
> the right incentives and training programs for workers
> and managers?
> Ross Reid


tdeems@unlgrad1.unl.edu (Terri Deems)

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>