Posts Tagged ‘CCLFI’

Communication Intents behind Indigo Practices

August 17, 2009

The Indigo Quadrant is where —

This series of blogs is a contribution to the shaping of new “Indigo Practices” — the survival skills we inhabitants of Planet Earth need to learn if we are to “pull through” despite the global environmental, political and religious-civilizational crises we ourselves have unwittingly created.

The communication intents behind Indigo Learning Practices are simple but challenging: to be able to understand ourselves and each other so that we can learn and build together as a group, despite our cultural, political, religious and other differences.

Towards this end, we need new and different but more workable tools for —

Here is my first-pass mind map of skills and tools for Indigo Learning Practices. It is an evolving mind map: I change and improve it from feedback from colleagues like you and as my concurrent personal experiences guide me as the blog series gets written one post at a time.

Building together

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L16- Concepts Can Block Learning

July 7, 2009

“From the moment you teach a child the word ‘tree’ he can no longer fully experience a tree” said Anthony De Mello from India.

Concepts are fine tools for organizing and communicating our experiences of the world. Concepts and mental models also enable us to recognize what otherwise we hardly notice. Mental models are just that: models of reality. But if concepts become rigid beliefs or we equate them with reality itself, then concepts can imprison our thinking. If we invest our ego in our concepts, they become our “pet concepts” or “pet theories” and close our mind to other or new theories. We stop testing concepts against our experience and the experiences of other people. And we cease to learn. I wrote a blog on “We found the enemy: our own concepts!”

Religious and political concepts can possess and control minds. As a matter of survival, religious and political institutions preserve concepts (e.g. doctrines and beliefs) and impose sanctions on its members against thinking freely and challenging those concepts. As a result, it takes years, decades or even centuries to unlearn concepts that no longer work. Theological concepts can control our thinking and block achievement of the very purpose and essence of religion. De Mello also said,

    “The final barrier to your vision of God is your God-concept. You miss God because you think you know.”

In a doctoral defense by a graduate student at the Asian Social Institute, I sat in the faculty panel which included a monsignor (a rank between priest and bishop). At some point in the defense proceedings I pointed to the difference between “God as a concept” and “God as personal experience”. The monsignor’s subsequent remarks revealed to me his surprise at recognizing the difference seemingly for the first time.

A learning conversation is possible when people talk about their experiences, but unlikely among people attached to their respective concepts. Moshe Idel and Bernard McGinn edited such a learning conversation on “Mystical Union in Judaism, Christianity and Islam: An Ecumenical Dialogue”. Mystical union is a personal experience of God; which is different from theological concepts of God. Do you think a learning conversation is equally possible between a Jewish theologian, a Christian theologian and a Muslim theologian?

Working with mental models is one of the five disciplines of a learning organization, according to guru Peter Senge. Below is a slide from one of my presentations on organizational learning, which lists some skills in working with our own mental models.

mental models

Staying too long in a professional area of practice or in an academic discipline or in a type of work poses the danger of being stuck with the concepts in that area or type of work. One way of continuously refreshing one’s repertoire of concepts is to shift or learn a completely new area of professional practice.

It worked for me…several times.

After a bachelor’s degree in physics, I took an M.S. and Ph.D. in physical biology. The new concepts in the life sciences were completely new and different from those of the physical sciences and mathematics. After I earned my doctoral degree I practiced through consulting in environmental management, which added the human and social dimensions. Afterwards, I accepted a position in policy studies in a university think tank, which introduced me to governance and equipped me to later accept an appointment in the Philippine government as Assistant Director General for Policy of a government body that directly provides analysis and policy advice to the Philippine President. For seven years I was immersed in the real world of politics and governance. What a change! In shifting from the academe to government, the learning opportunities opened before me were literally vast! When I went back to the academe, my interests went to development and non-government organizations. I co-founded CCLFI, a non-profit foundation for organizational learning and change, knowledge management (KM) and knowledge-based development. That was 13 years ago [as of August 2011], when I practically started KM in the Philippines and at the University of the Philippines. What a learning journey!

I learned to:

  • Shift my area of professional practice several times, thus preventing me from being stuck on the concepts of one area;
  • Compare, cross-fertilize and synergize concepts of one discipline with those of another;
  • See that different principles from two or more disciplines are actually the same principle, e.g. the Weber-Fechner law in psychology is essentially the same principle as the law of diminishing marginal utility in economics, and the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics is parallel to Hawthorne effect in sociology;
  • Integrate knowledge across disciplines, e.g. see the different forms of capital across economics, ecology, psychology, organizational development, law, political science, etc. and call them “metacapital”; and
  • Discern trans-disciplinal patterns, e.g. trans-societal Megatrends #1 (see blog Q14) and Megatrend #2 (see blog Q26), or “connect the dots” across seemingly unrelated facts, e.g. the growing importance of intangibles (see blog F2).


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L13- Learning How to Learn

June 14, 2009

From two earlier blog posts (F9- Economics of Unconscious Learning and Q13- Learning = KM + “Power of the Third Kind”) we noted two things:

  1. Most (about 70%-95%) of our individual knowledge now we did not learn from formal schooling. We learned more from work and from life than from formal means.
  2. Our learning from work/life has been largely an unplanned, informal and unconscious process.

Isn’t that shocking?!

The UNESCO Task Force on Education for the Twenty-first Century, headed by former two-time EU president Jacques Delors, concluded in 1996 that there are four critical types of learning for the 21st century:

  • Learning how to learn, or learning to know
  • Learning to do
  • Learning to live together, or learning to relate
  • Learning to be

(see “Learning: the Treasure Within; Report of the UNESCO Task Force on Education for the Twenty-first Century”)

JACQUES DELORS (picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

JACQUES DELORS (picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Our school systems are primarily aimed at “learning to do” or providing professional or technical knowledge. This D Series of blogs on Indigo Learning Practices is aimed at contributing skills towards the other three largely ignored but equally critical learning, particularly learning to live together — a foundational skill in building relationship capital.

To develop a new formal and systematic system for learning how to learn, we start by being conscious and keenly observant of our daily learning processes. Psychologists call this practice metacognition. MIT Prof. Donald Schon studied and described the personal knowledge processes of a “reflective practitioner”. Prof. Charles Tart of the University of California at Davis calls it “self observation” (interview by Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove in the book “Thinking Allowed: Conversations in the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery”).

At CCLFI, we call it internal attention or simply “listening within”.

Start sharpening your skills of listening within by practicing the following:

  • Study your attention habits. When you read newspapers, notice that you habitually zero in on certain sections and always ignore other sections. Is it time for you to free yourself from your unconscious attention habits and consciously plan and select your information sources?
  • When you encounter a “silly” or “stupid” idea, it is your unconscious mental models, assumptions and value systems that are labelling the idea as “silly” or “stupid” or whatever. Suspend your judgment; hold your horses. Use the moment as a mindful opportunity to discover your unconscious assumptions. Are they still valid? Or are they valid in this instance?
  • Have you tied yourself to a pet theory? A theory or framework is double-edged: it allows you to see things that otherwise you could hardly see, but it also channels your seeing and thinking in particular and predictable ways. Theories and frameworks come and go. Is it time to let go of a “pet”?
  • Notice what things, events, words, experiences, people or any trigger make you uncomfortable, uneasy or drain you of energy. Very often these things happen repeatedly but you never noticed, until it surfaces as disproportionate anger, headache or sickness (because these drains lower your body’s resistance to germs and viruses). Listen to your body. Practice observing what and how these things drain you. Study how you can avoid these energy drains. An energy drain may stem from an internal resistance on your part against something; if you find a way to inwardly accept that something then the energy drain can fade away.
  • Be aware of your learning preferences and your thinking and learning style. Take a free online MBTI test or online learning style inventory and be more aware of the best ways that YOU learn.
  • Install a feedback habit within you. After finishing a task exceptionally well, ask yourself “how did I do that?” and “what made me do that task so well?” or “what do I do to repeat the success?” Practice the same feedback habit after making a mistake. Write down your learning and other insights in a journal that you can re-read later.
  • When you are driving in heavy traffic and you notice that you are tense, watch the tension within you. Many times the tension will die off simply by watching it. Don’t say “I am tense” because that statement makes you identify yourself with the tension. Objectify the tension by saying to yourself “I see tension in me”. Of course, continue to pay attention to your driving! Practice this skill minutes before you attend a meeting that you expect will be tense. Start by noticing and watching that expectation within you. That expectation is inside your head; what will happen in reality could well be something else!

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

If you have your own personal practice in sharpening how you learn from daily work and daily life, please share it by clicking the Comment link below.

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