Posts Tagged ‘indigo learning practices’

The Dream of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Humankind’s Discovery of the “Second Fire”

September 26, 2009

When I was in high school, among the books I was attracted to was “The Phenomenon of Man” by Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I did not fully understand the book but somehow it impressed my young mind as a work of extraordinary importance.

It was decades later, when I was teaching at the Asian Social Institute’s doctoral program in Applied Cosmic Anthropology, that I fully grasped one of de Chardin’s insights: that the cosmos itself is evolving towards higher complexity and high consciousness. In fact, it had undergone a sequence of three creative quantum jumps:

  1. “Big Bang” of the cosmologists: the birth of energy-then-matter from nothingness
  2. Emergence of life and living forms
  3. Emergence of human consciousness: to Teilhard de Chardin, humans becoming conscious of evolution and its part in that evolution is like “the universe folding back in itself.”

Along the three creative quantum jumps, according to de Chardin, Earth is a geosphere from which developed a biosphere from which he foresaw the coming of a “noosphere” or the sphere of human consciousness. Many believe that the Internet is the physical beginning of de Chardin’s noosphere. He dreamed of a vision — both scientific and spiritual — of a noosphere among women and men of goodwill and love: “The day will come when after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” Indigo learning practices belong to these new “second fire” technologies.

Like many prophets carrying forth a new message, he was misunderstood and made to suffer from his message. Institutionalized mindsets defended itself: his superior in the Catholic hierarchy formally silenced him and the Vatican officially denounced his works after his death.

However his writings were circulated secretly in mimeographed forms among Catholic priests and non-Catholic sympathizers. His book “The Phenomenon of Man” was published after his death in 1955. The dream and vision of de Chardin must have a compelling truth in them that resonates with many people; as a result his works continue to grow in popularity. For samplers, read what cosmologist Brian Swimme and theologian Ursula King says.

It may take decades and centuries, but in the end, people wake up to discard smaller truths and embrace larger truths. Last 24 July 2009, the Pope finally acknowledged Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by saying “This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy.”



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L25 -12 Types of Learning, Part 2

September 7, 2009

Collaborative learning is a strong incentive towards inter-communication within a group. This is the incentive behind the rapid growth of inter-communication among:

  • Scientific researchers in numerous disciplines
  • R&D teams in innovative corporations
  • Professional associations
  • Guilds among craftsmen, artisans and artists.

Last Thursday in Bangkok, as part of a 3-day KM training program for UNISDR, UN ESCAP and various international and regional non-governmental organizations, I asked participants to “Estimate what percent of your total knowledge now came from your formal education/training?” The participants were international development professionals, and many of them have had KM experiences.

The average answer was only 15-20%. We observed that we learn from work and from life much more than we learn from school, yet we devote MUCH LESS resources, planning, tools/technologies and systems/institutions to get the 80-85% than we do to get the 15-20% from school! We are missing out on something important here. What is it?

For learning from work, we need tools and technologies of Organizational Learning.

I also asked the participants to write down their answers to the question “How Do I Learn?” The 84 answers were clustered. The two biggest clusters that emerged were: (1) learning from work or learning by doing or practice, with 21 answers, and (2) learning by interaction with others, with 18 answers. If so, the next question then is, what is the technology (and art?) of collaborative learning?

This is where Indigo Learning Practices come in.

In a previous blog post, I proposed a way to classify and clarify how we learn (see “12 Types of Learning”). The “12 Types of Learning” follow naturally from the simple KM framework developed in the earlier F Series of blogs, with the addition of Experience as a prior factor in the causal chain:

Experience -> Knowledge -> Action -> Results
E -> K -> A -> R

In short, learning happens when we individually or collaboratively examine and communicate what happens across these four elements.

12 ways we learn

Here is a short summary of the Twelve Types of Learning. The numbers refer to Person 1 and Person 2 who are engaged in communication for the common purpose of learning. The KM framework provides a way of seeing and understanding how knowledge flows between two people. Because Beliefs and Values also affect Action and are also affected by Experience, I place these two items with Knowledge. For similar reasons, I place Statements with Action. The causal chain then is: Experience -> Knowledge/Beliefs/Values -> Action/Statement -> Results.

  1. Type 1: Comparing notes to learn what works better (R1 and R2)
  2. Type 2: Communal validation and reframing is the type of learning powerfully demonstrated by the scientific method (R modifying K and E). It consists of a group of practitioners testing and revising knowledge and reframing beliefs against what works.
  3. Type 3: Reflective practice, where a practitioner does “conscious learning by doing” (individual study of K -> A -> R)
  4. Type 4: Presentation and discussions (S1, S2)
  5. Type 5: Criticism, praise or passing judgment on another (K1 or V1 applied to A2 or S2)
  6. Type 6: Debate is a two-way exchange of Types 4 and 5
  7. Type 7: Learning from exemplars, models, benchmarks or best practices (A1 or S1 leading to K2)
  8. Type 8: Learning through study of each other’s assumptions, mental models (mutual study of each other’s K, B or V)
  9. Type 9: Conscious living or study of one’s assumptions or beliefs in relation to one’s experiences (individual or group study of E -> K and new K reframing E)
  10. Type 10: Storytelling and story listening, or knowledge from others’ experiences (E1 leading to K2)
  11. Type 11: Insight or intuition (birth of new K through ill-understood internal processes)
  12. Type 12: Generative dialogue is productive communication that combines Types 8-11.

From my experience, Type 5 learning happens mostly if one person (the one exercising value judgments) has more power than the other person. Between equals, Type 5 easily leads to Type 6 but learning happens with difficulty in both cases.

Learning is more likely when members of a communicating group practice skills in Types 8-12. To me, the most powerful skills are story listening and generative dialogue. The set of Indigo Learning Practices is a contribution towards the systematization of technologies of collaborative learning.

“The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.” – Anthony de Mello



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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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L21- On Michael Jackson, or Our Mental Models of People We Know

July 18, 2009

Through our experiences with friends and colleagues, we form a mental model of each person we know.

1. The “Business Card” Stage

When you meet a person for the first time, you tell each other basic facts about yourselves. You exchange business cards (or calling cards or name cards). You get to know superficial information about each other:

  • Name
  • Organizational affiliation
  • Position in the organization
  • Academic “pedigrees”
  • Telephone numbers: direct landline, cellphone, fax line
  • Geographical addresses: work and residence
  • Email address
  • Website of the organization

When you accept each other as a friend or a link in a virtual social network such as Facebook or LinkedIn, the same thing happens when you access each other’s profile page, except that you get usually more information about each other through this medium. Members of social networks can also update, add/modify, decide who gets to see how much about himself and engage in a large variety of voluntary interactions with each other.

People can become “acquaintances” but this is a superficial level of relationship. Most relationships stop at this stage. A small percentage proceeds to the next stage.

2. The “Regularized Communication” Stage

When two people communicate regularly for personal, work-related, social or other reasons, they begin to see behavior patterns of each other and they form mental models of each other. This process is very often an unconscious process on both sides. Our mental model of a person we know consists of:

  • Memories of his actions particularly those that we liked or disliked
  • Personal or work-related qualities we attach to the person based on the pattern of our experiences with him
  • Labels or words we associate with the person
  • Our judgments or attitudes towards the person or how he “measures up” to our own internal standards
  • Our memories of pleasures or hurts we experienced with or due to (in our perception) the person
  • Our level of comfort or trust on the person
  • Etc.

3. The “Mutually Imprisoned” Stage

It is an unfortunate fact that in most cases, we form and revise mental models of people we know largely in an unconscious and therefore unsystematic manner.

Yet, our mental models of people we know, once established inside our heads, affect the way we behave and communicate with those people. They provide screens which color or slant our perceptions of those people. We stop seeing them as they truly are because our mental models act as if we are looking at them through colored eyeglasses or lenses. If our mental models of a person includes a strong judgment we have formed about him, for better or for worse, that person becomes the beneficiary or victim of our (internal) judgment.

We stop seeing people as they truly are because our experiences about him from the past intrude in how we experience him in the present. Our mental models then become our self-inflicted but unconscious mental box or mental prison that dictates how we relate to the person for the rest of our life. Then, we both become the unknowing victims of our unconscious mental models of each other. Unfortunately, we are often unaware that we have entered the “mutually imprisoned” stage.

A common negative result of this tyranny of our mental models of each other is divorce. It is likely that spouses who have come to dislike each other have formed mental models of each other that are no longer true representations of the other person. A well-known positive result of the tyranny of our mental models is the public adulation over Michael Jackson. It is likely that the mental model of Michael Jackson in the mind of a fan is a distant or perhaps distorted representation of the true Michael Jackson. Whether positive or negative, our unconscious mental models can act like tyrants who distort our thinking and seeing without our knowledge and permission.

To escape this stage, we need tools for consciously managing our mental models about people we work with — a pre-requisite for productive learning and working together as a group. We need Indigo Learning Practices.



Thanks to Wikimedia Commons and my acknowledgement to Alan Light for the use of the image in this blog post.

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Listening (and Building Cross-Cultural Relationship Capital)

June 12, 2009

A good listener seeks to discover and understand the assumptions of a speaker. Cultural assumptions are particularly challenging to discover, because people are most often unaware of their cultural assumptions. This challenge has become more acute in a rapidly globalizing world economy, where cross-cultural collaborations and cross-cultural communications are multiplying all around us.

Some years back I met an American lady in a party. She had been stationed in the Philippines doing development work. She complained to me: “Filipinos sometimes say ‘yes’ just to be polite and then I later discover to my dismay that ‘yes’ actually meant ‘no.’ Why don’t they tell me the truth from the start?” She sounded perplexed and appeared irritated.

I paused for a while.

Then, instead of answering her directly I asked her a question: “Have you experienced being a guest with other Filipinos in a Filipino home where the host offered food?”

“Yes I did,” she answered.

“Did you notice how the host keep offering the food and how the Filipino visitor keep declining, but in the end relented and accepted the food?”

“Yes I did notice that,” she answered.

Then I explained, “Among Filipinos who are not acquaintances, visitors who accept food immediately after the first offer are viewed or interpreted as eager to get a free meal or quick to take advantage of the host, or as an uncouth ‘kalatog pinggan.'”

“Kalatog pinggan” (literally “clanking of dishes”) is a derogatory term Filipinos use to describe people who gate-crash parties or fiestas (town celebrations) or who constantly look for opportunities to get a free meal from anyone.

I continued to explain, “To avoid being viewed as taking any advantage, the visitor will say something like ‘Thank you but I am not hungry’ or ‘Thank you but I just ate something before coming here’ – statements which may in fact be untrue.

“Despite these answers from the visitor, a good host will repeat her offer because she understands that the visitor does not wish to impose any inconvenience on her, the host. If the host does not make a second offer, the common interpretation among Filipinos is that the host was never serious nor sincere in her offer in first place.”

“This cycle of offer and decline is often repeated a second time,” I continued to explain, “The repeated offer is a sign that the host really would like to play the role of a good host, and the repeated decline is a sign that the visitor really would not wish to impose or take advantage of the generosity of the host.”

“Finally, the visitor would accept and eat the food, and everyone is happy. This ritual is repeated almost every time a stranger visits a Filipino home. It shows that among many Filipinos not telling the truth is a lesser evil than not starting or not maintaining good interpersonal relationships.”

“Now I see,” said the American lady.

Preference for good interpersonal relationships and social harmony — which are common across Asian cultures — can become anti-learning if a person will choose not to speak, oppose someone, or voice out his truth for the sake of avoiding “rocking the boat” called “harmonious relationship.” “False harmony” is the first of William Isaac’s four stages towards generative dialogue. We will discuss this and other blocks to learning in the next blog post L13 and future posts in the L Series.

In a cross-cultural encounter, a person from another culture has at least two choices:

  • Judge a behavior of another as stupid, silly, perplexing or unproductive, or
  • Listen closely to understand (which is not the same as appreciate or agree) the cultural meanings behind the behavior.

The first choice is often not a conscious choice but an automatic judgmental reaction, often by people who have rigid beliefs about what is “right” and what is “wrong.” The second is often a conscious choice followed by a considered process of listening, asking, and attempting to understand or see the assumptions and meanings behind the perplexing behavior. This process requires 100% listening, awareness of one’s own mental models, assumptions and values, and temporary suspension of one’s judgment based on those values — skills that are integral in indigo learning practices and personal knowledge management, and in the broader capacities required in a learning organization.

Rigid beliefs and automatic judgmental reactions (or being unaware victims of our own childhood and cultural programmings) are becoming counterproductive in a world where cross-cultural encounters are multiplying exponentially. Indigo learning practices and related skills are needed more and more if people of different cultures are to live together peacefully or to work together productively in an ever more crowded and more interconnected world. New capacities are needed for all of us to build cross-cultural relationship capital together.

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