Practice Internal Watchfulness (Hint #11)

What is the practical consequence of Q14 (Naming societal Megatrend #1: “from yang to yin”?)? “Yang to Yin” can be summarized in two words: “looking inward.” Do you agree?

In D17 (Single-loop learning versus double-loop learning) we saw the superiority of double-loop learning over single-loop learning. Revising the causes of an action is more efficient than revising only the action. Re-examining, and if needed, revising the rules governing an action works better than simply ensuring that the same rules are followed all the time. Intelligent action is better than mindless obedience.

There are two types of causes of an action: external and internal. Examples of external causes are: delay in arrival of raw materials, a team member was absent, high cost of fuel, the airconditioning equipment broke down, etc. Examples of internal causes are: lack of motivation on your part, you have a fever coming, you had a fight with your spouse earlier this morning, you are irritated with your boss, you don’t fully agree with the standard operating procedure, etc. The last type requires looking inward.






Double-loop learning requires performing both the first and second learning loops. The second learning loop that requires looking inward is often more difficult to do than the one that only requires looking outward. It is so much easier to blame others than to admit you were wrong. It is easier to blame the traffic this morning than to admit to your boss that you were late because you did not leave your home early enough.

Besides, looking inward is not our habit. Being aware of our thought processes, our assumptions, our doubts, our intentions — at the moment we have them — is not our habit. Our training in school was to look for empirical or external cause-and-effects. We had no training in looking at experiential or internal cause-and-effects.

Q14 is showing that there sems to be a shift in global consciousness: from yang to yin, or from looking outwards to looking inwards. It seems to be happening most everywhere: in the economy, in business, in religion, in international relations, in psychology, in development, in organizational dynamics, and even in the nature of learning.

Step consciously into this global trend by practicing greater self-awareness. Let me repeat what I said in Q13:

    In the February 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Bill George and his associates wrote about how to be an inspiring and empowering leader. They asked 75 members of the Advisory Councl of the Stanford Graduate School of Business what is the most important capability that leaders must develop. Their answer was nearly unanimous: self-awareness.

Start practicing internal watchfulness. This is the doorway to greater learning. This is the passport to Power of the Third Kind. Learning starts with feedback; feedback starts with monitoring; and internal watchfulness IS monitoring. You will learn more about yourself. From my own personal experience, before practicing “conscious living” I thought I knew myself. After three decades in this practice, I can see now that I hardly knew 10% of myself three decades ago.

Lao-tse again:

    “He who knows much about others may be learned, but he who understands himself is more intelligent. He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.”


A footnote: some authors use the term “triple-loop learning” but the meanings of this term differ among authors and to avoid confusion I do not recommend using this term. It is enough to realize that revising causes of action is a better form of learning than revising only the action; and that BOTH inward and outward causes of action must be examined.

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