Posts Tagged ‘organizational learning’

G5 — Using Small Group Carousels for Collective Idea Generation

July 17, 2010

[This is a guest blog article by Bruce Britton. Please see his introduction in the previous blog post.]

During a recent training course on ’Reflective Practice’ that I facilitated for the Asian Development Bank and invited guests I used a technique that enables groups to work together, record their ideas and build on each others’ contributions. I know the technique as ‘Small Group Carousel’ and it involves dividing a task into stages, allocating each stage to a small group, asking each group to list out their ideas then move on to each of the other lists, discussing the ideas that are already there and adding their own ideas. The groups move round each list until they arrive back at their original list but this time with the other groups’ contributions added.

This is how we used the Small Group Carousel technique on the course. First of all I introduced ‘Bob’ who needed our help (see figure below). I explained that Bob’s challenge was to develop a good practice guide on Reflective Practice. The task seemed to me to divide into three stages – before, during and after – so participants divided into three groups with each group taking responsibility for generating ideas on one of the three stages. Each group was given a different coloured marker pen to note their ideas on a flipchart sheet.

After about ten minutes the groups were asked to move on to the next stage, so those working on the ‘before’ stage moved on to the ‘during’ stage; those who had worked on the ‘during’ stage moved to the ‘after’ stage, and so on. The groups then read through the ideas they found on the flipchart sheet and added their own ideas, or annotated the existing ideas. They were not allowed to delete ideas but could question or comment on those that were already written on the flipchart. After about five minutes they were asked to move on again and add to the ideas on the third flipchart (which by this time already had the ideas of two groups written on it). Finally, the groups were asked to move to the sheet that they had started and to read and discuss the collective thoughts and ideas of all three groups.

Here are the ideas generated for each stage:

Note that each group used different colored pens (black, blue and green) enabling everyone to see how each group built on the ideas of each other.

You can see that each group has not only generated new ideas but annotated those written by other groups. This provided a rich amount of information to discuss. The next stage was to negotiate overlaps, delete ideas that everyone agreed were not suitable, and reach consensus about what should be involved at each stage. Using different coloured pens made it easier to remember which group had written which comments.

The outcome of the carousel process is a collaboratively produced and owned set of ideas that draws on the collective experience of those participating. The dynamics of the process makes it easier for individuals to contribute (because work groups are smaller) and generates ideas that both build on and challenge earlier ideas. The technique can be adapted in many ways and used in a range of settings from team meetings to peer assists.

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Guest blog posts by Bruce Britton and Norman Lu

July 15, 2010

To my blog followers,

I have not been able to post blogs for more than two months because I had been sooo so busy travelling around. I was in several rural areas in the Philippines in the provinces of Southern Leyte, Capiz and Oriental Mindoro. I made a trip to Tokyo together with other KM experts to prepare KM guidelines for SME owners and managers. I was in Bangladesh earlier this week and I am now in Pakistan evaluating productivity projects. In the next weeks I will travel to Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand.

Cheers! I intend to resume the G series promptly. I will also post two guest blogs. Bruce Britton, an expert from U.K. in learning organizations applied to the development sector, and Norman Lu, a KM specialist from the Asian Development Bank, promised to contribute blog articles on the topic of our G series: making visible how we think together.

The next blog will be about “Using Small Group Carousels for Collective Idea Generation” by Bruce.

Bruce is a principal of Framework (a UK-based consultancy organization established in 1985 and working exclusively with non-profit organizations). Before joining Framework he worked for Save the Children UK as a project manager, Staff Training and Development Officer and Regional Adviser (South Asia) on Human Resource Development. He has twenty five years of experience of working as a consultant and facilitator and has spent fifteen of those working with culturally and professionally diverse groups of development practitioners and managers in over thirty countries across Africa, Asia and Europe.

Bruce has designed and facilitated many courses and workshops on organizational learning and knowledge management for clients in the development sector including the Asian Development Bank, RDRS Bangladesh, CHF Canada, Oxfam NOVIB, TearFund, Swedish Mission Council, PSO, Netherlands, PLAN International, CARITAS Sweden and BOND. He has conducted organizational learning reviews and strategy development workshops for many international NGOs including SNV (a Netherlands based capacity building NGO working in over thirty countries), the Aga Khan Foundation and INTRAC (the International NGO Training and Research Centre, Oxford).

Bruce also has a blogsite on “Motive, Means and Opportunity.” It is about learning and development in NGOs.

I will post his guest blog within the next two days.

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T0-2 Starting a New KM Language in Your Organization

October 13, 2009

Starting KM in your organization also means starting to learn a new KM language among your members. A simple tool towards this end is an FAQ on KM (FAQ=frequently asked questions) which can be circulated among members or placed in the KM webpage in your intranet.

Download CCLFI’s FAQ on KM by pressing “Ctrl” while clicking HERE. The FAQ will appear in a new browser tab.



wordle of FAQ

Thanks to Wordle for the above “word cloud” of the FAQ

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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
or
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

anthony_de_mello

ANTHONY DE MELLO

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Another Communication Boundary: How Far Can You Self-Disclose?

August 28, 2009

Organizational learning requires the ability — and willingness — among members to self-disclose. Senge and his colleagues use tools such as “Left-hand Column” and “Ladder of Inference” which require a member to be aware of, and to publicly describe, how one thinks. That includes many things: how one reasons out, what doubts and uncertainties one entertains, whether one agrees or disagrees and why, what one does not know or what is the extent of one’s ignorance, what facts or observations led to one’s conclusion, the meaning of a word or label one uses, etc. Below are two slides from a PowerPoint presentation on Senge’s “Five Disciplines” that I show my KM graduate class at the Technology Management Center, University of the Philippines, which lists things that members of a learning organization must be able and willing to talk publicly about.

mental models

systems thinking

Double-loop learning is more demanding: it requires self-disclosure that can bring about strong emotional content: personal likes and dislikes behind a behavior or pattern of behavior, personal fears and desires that affect work performance, tacit patterns of inefficient or ineffective behavior one is unwilling to talk about, etc. The strong emotional content itself can inhibit self-disclosure.

How far one is willing to be candid and public about his own thinking and feeling processes — which are normally private or personal things — is another form of communication boundary. This “self-disclosure boundary” delimits what one is willing or comfortable to tell others; just as the “communication boundary” we discussed in the previous blog post (“Announce Your Communication Boundaries”) delimits what one is willing or comfortable hearing from others. In both cases, discomfort is the signal that tells one that his boundary is being breached. These boundaries vary from person to person, and from context to context, but watching at what point the discomfort begins is a useful way to be aware exactly where one’s boundary is.

Browse through the profiles of your contacts in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, or other similar social networks. You will notice the differences in the willingness to self-disclose. In fact people who are “very private” will not even join such social networks. You must be a “social person” or one who is less guarded about your “private space” or “personal life” to join and enjoy participating in them.

In the plane ride from Beijing to Manila last Tuesday, I sat next to a young man who visited his Chinese girlfriend. Wow! He disclosed to me — a stranger — much more than what I expected about him, his girlfriend and what they did in the two weeks he was in Beijing. He showed me their pictures in his laptop. He is a body-piercer. He told me so much about how he does it to minimize the pain in his clients. He described where (=what parts of the body) and which way he had pierced his lady clients as well as gentlemen clients, etc. He showed me the piercings in his face, mouth and head (he had temporarily removed the rings in them).

Willingness to self-disclose is not enough. Some may be willing to self-disclose more than others, and a few may be like my plane seatmate. Most people assume that they know everything about themselves — why they think, feel and do what they keep thinking, feeling or doing or NOT thinking, feeling or doing. This is a wrong assumption. Most people are actually unaware about much of their internal states. For example, most people are unaware of their “blind spots” or “blindfolds”. A willingness to self-disclose is not enough; self-disclosure to be productive of learning must be accompanied by self-knowledge that comes from years of constant practice of double-loop learning and “conscious living”.

Chris Argyris, who introduced double-loop learning, said: “Leaders and subordinates alike… must all begin struggling with a new level of self-awareness, candor and responsibility.”

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!

I believe that extending the envelope of organizational performance can be achieved through three steps:

  1. The first envelope is through better technology: this is the easiest.
  2. The second envelope is through better management: this is not difficult as there are numerous management tools for this purpose.
  3. The third envelope is through better psychological-behavioral technology: this is difficult because the tools in this area are still works in progress.

According to Management Today, “Peter Senge’s advocacy of the learning organization helped begin a revolution in the workplace. And, the relevance of Senge’s work is growing rather than diminishing over time. As more businesses go global, the need to overcome psychological barriers to necessary organizational change increases.”

Peter_Senge

PETER SENGE

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Announce Your Communication Boundaries

August 26, 2009

To my blog fans, I apologize for not posting for over a week. I was in Beijing, China and flew back to Manila only last night. I discovered, to my dismay, that I cannot access my WordPress blog and my Facebook page from Beijing.

This is perfect timing to write about communication boundaries.

Every person has his or her own communication boundaries. You can be more aware of your communication boundaries by answering the following question: What topics, manners of talking, or kinds of questions or requests bother, irritate or offend you?

When I was studying for my Master of Science degree at Cornell University, I shared an apartment with an Egyptian friend majoring in theatre. I was uncomfortable every time, during conversations, he would stress a point by talking with his face about six inches from mine. My tendency was to move back. I noted that he behaved in the same manner when talking to fellow Egyptians. His “personal distance” (a technical term in the science of proxemics) is shorter than mine. We eventually both noticed and talked about it. We both saw why I felt discomfort and had to move back, and why he felt I was disinterested in what he was saying by my moving back. We became aware of our hitherto unconscious communication boundaries, and we understood why we both behaved the way we did.

“Green jokes” (or jokes with sexual undertones) can be another example of communication that violates the boundaries of a person. If the person is unaware of her communication boundary, all she will feel is irritation at the person telling the green joke. And the person telling the green joke will continue to do so, if he is so wrapped up in his joke that he does not see her discomfort. Both are unaware of the communication boundary of the hearer, and the irritating or offensive situation can repeat again and again. The solution: be aware of your communication boundary and announce it to others.

We are free to say anything… but only up to the point where we begin to violate the communication boundaries of our hearers. The problem is, people do not announce their communication boundaries, because they are often unaware of their boundaries or they are too timid to announce them. Another problem is that our communication boundaries are often not the result of our conscious choice.

At the organizational level, there are similarly unconscious communication boundaries. An example is what Chris Argyris calls “undiscussables” — topics, manners of talking, or kinds of questions or requests that are not allowed within a particular organization’s culture. Undiscussables vary across organizations and cultural milieus. Some examples of undiscussables are: political criticism against Communist Party officials, public opposition to the CEO, facts (e.g. what went wrong) that embarrass an office mate, etc. These are implicit “don’ts” or what members of an organization implicitly agree not to talk about. According to Argyris, undiscussables can block organizational learning processes.

I believe that a precondition to productive communication in a group is the conscious review, choice and announcement of communication boundaries by each member of the group. Each member decides what kind of communication he or she is unwilling to receive. In a learning organization or a learning team, communication boundaries that are explicitly announced, clarified, acknowledged and respected can better lead to productive communications.

What do you think?

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L22- 200% Listening

July 26, 2009

During the past four weeks, I have visited five Asian countries. When I travel from the Philippines, my home country, to a less-developed country, one of the striking cultural differences I notice is less ability or willingness of sales people to listen to customers. The opposite is true; when I travel to a more developed country, I am always pleasantly surprised at how much better waiters, stewardesses and sales people try to sense what I, the customer, want and serve me better.

Two weeks ago, I asked a university professor from an Asian country his evaluation of a consultant sent to their campus from another Asian country. His answer was one terse word: “useless”. The online evaluation submitted by the counterpart faculty member was a more shocking negative description of the quality of the service they received. Later, I found out that there were several gaps in the process of matching what the client needs and what technical services will be provided.

Last Friday, I was in Singapore having afternoon tea with a management consultant on business excellence. He told me how unclear was his terms of reference in a consultancy service engagement he was entering with an SME (small/medium enterprise) in another Asian country last year. What did he do? Before starting the project, he called up the owner-manager of the SME and clarified precisely what the SME needs and what services he can provide.

There is no doubt that the ability to listen to customers leads to the ability to create more value, both for the customers or buyers (consumer’s surplus = the positive difference between the consumer’s satisfaction, measured as the price she is willing to pay, and the price she actually paid for a good or service) and for the producers or sellers (producer’s surplus = the positive difference between the price of a good or service and its unit production and distribution costs). There is a direct causal link between enterprises’ ability and willingness to listen to customers and the GNP of the national economy. See a previous blog post: “Q3- The Customer is King; But the King is Blind!?”

At the enterprise level, companies stay competitive by listening better to their customers, and by using the knowledge they gain as inputs to their process or product improvement, redesign or innovation. Customer knowledge is the most valuable input to internal organizational learning processes such as business process improvement, R&D or organizational streamlining.

At the lower level of teams and groups, a similar cause-and-effect link operates. Listening is an ingredient in productive group communication. In a previous blog post, “L12- Listening”, I listed several actions that block 100% listening. Let me reproduce them here:

  • Mentally prepare what he will say next while the other person is still talking
  • Mentally comment or judge what a person is saying
  • Recall past experiences, good or bad, about the person talking
  • Automatically defend himself when criticized instead of trying to better understand the reasons and background behind the criticism
  • Retrieve his past emotions, good or bad, he had on the person talking now
  • Fail to listen completely because of an expectation about what the speaker will say
  • Lecture on what he knows about a topic even if the other person is not interested or is not asking about it
  • Notice or get irritated at the bad grammar, bad logic or bad attitude of the person talking
  • Interrupt by saying something when the other person is not yet finished talking
  • Enter a conversation with the belief that there is little he can learn from the other person
  • Talk very long or give long lectures or monopolize the conversation and as a result the other person has less time to talk
  • Think about something else related, or unrelated, to what the person is saying now
  • Mentally dismiss whatever the person is saying because of his belief about the low credibility or trustworthiness of the person talking
  • Focus more on the emotion of the person talking than on what he is saying
  • Answer a question but say so many other extra things unrelated to the question
  • Do something else such as read something while the person is still talking
  • Get distracted by noise or any other external stimulus
  • Etc. etc.

What do you notice? 99% of blocks to listening are internal to the listener!

To fully listen, we must pay 100% attention to the speaker, but at the same time, we must also pay 100% attention to any internal blocks within us. In other words, we must practice simultaneous external attention and internal attention. You may review two bog posts on indigo skill of internal attention: “The Reflective Knowledge Worker” and “L13- Learning How to Learn”.

“200% listening” is the skill of paying full attention to the person speaking while AT THE SAME TIME paying full attention to — and managing — any internal block to listening that may present itself while the speaker is talking. Like the two-faced Roman god, Janus, 200% listening is the practice of simultaneously looking at two worlds, which in this case, are the external world and the internal world.

Janus

The second part requires constant practice and constant self-improvement. The second part is parallel to the internal organizational learning processes that a truly customer-oriented company brings itself to do in response to what it senses externally from its customers. There are technologies and tools in customer relationship management, customer surveys, quality management, etc. at the organizational level, but unfortunately there are far fewer parallel tools at the individual and group level.

200% listening is one such tool.

We will touch on a few others in the L Series. In the next blog post, I will describe how internal attention can be used in anger management.

Cheers!

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When Judgment Closes the Door to Productive Communication

July 23, 2009

What is your MBTI score? Are you and a “P” or a “J”? P-types are people who are good at observing, researching, analyzing, etc. J-types are people who are decisive, finishers, doers, etc. Actually, people are generally a mix of “P” and “J”. A person’s type can be measured along a P-J scale, where his mix is leaning either towards “P” or towards “J”.

An “extreme P” or an “extreme J” is both a curse and a blessing. An “extreme J” person is a very quick decision maker, but he tends to jump to conclusions/decisions based on bias, impressions or insufficient information. An “extreme P” is excellent in making studies, but his weakness is indecision and “analysis paralysis”. The balanced person is one who can be a “P” or a “J” depending on what is appropriate for a specific situation. He can suspend judgment in order to better sense what is going on, but he can also make a quick decision when a situation calls for it.

Ability to suspend judgment is an ingredient in organizational learning; it is a necessary ingredient in generative dialogue.

You wish to now your MBTI score? You can take a free online test (press “Ctrl” while clicking HERE). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based on Carl Jung’s observation about personality types. The fourth or last letter in your MBTI type is either P or J. Your score there will tell you how far you are from the midpoint or balance.

In problematic relationships or in situations of hostility between groups, productive communication can be killed by inability to suspend judgement on the part of both parties, which in turn can be the consequence of an inability to be aware of one’s judgments. If both parties entertain opposing or incompatible judgments, and both hold judgments based on what to each of them are fundamental values, absolute truth or even God’s will, then the door to productive communication or negotiation between them closes.

This can happen in international relations, between religious fundamentalists, between political parties holding extreme views, in marriages, in civil disputes, etc.

Take these two incompatible judgments:

Hamas suicide bomber: “I should give my life for my people and our just cause; if I die, God will reward me with paradise.”

Israeli soldier: “I should fight for Israel and for my people; God gave this land to us.”

The result is violence, a sign of failure of communication:

Fedayeen_1956

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How We Form Judgments of Other People: Female Circumcision, Lying, the Jury System and the Scientists’ “Sacred p<.05"

July 20, 2009

This afternoon I was watching a BBC news report about the new Egyptian law banning female circumcision — the traditional practice of cutting off the clitoris of young girls. A survey revealed that 70% of Egyptian women respondents say they were circumcized. Westerners judge such practices as barbaric. Interviewed by BBC, an Egyptian mother entertains an opposite judgment, namely, that uncircumcized females are unclean. “They must be cleansed. Who will marry them if they are not circumcised? It will bring shame to the family.”

Some of our judgments of people were clearly culturally-dictated. Others were the result of obscure personal decisions we made sometime in the past.

What is your answer to this question: “After how many times that you catch a person lying when you conclude that the person is a liar?”

Once?

Twice?

I asked many of my friends this question. The answer ranges from once to thrice. It is rare that people wait for four or more occasions of lying before concluding that the person in question is a liar. We make a judgment on trustworthiness after we see a behavior pattern repeated only one to three times.

That is how quickly we make conclusions about a person’s untrustworthiness. We are quick to judge untrustworthiness. Trust, on the other hand, takes longer to build. This means that for most people, they do not like to bear the (material) risk or cost of trusting someone whose future action shows he is not trustworthy. To them this cost is more important than the (goodwill) cost from not trusting someone when in fact he is trustworthy. Material costs seem to be more important to most people than goodwill costs.

In the American jury system, if only one juror in twelve entertains reasonable doubt, a man cannot be condemned for a criminal offense. In Scotland, there are fifteen jurors (thanks to Michael Heaney for pointing this out). The reason is that Western legal systems consider the cost (to the individual accused) of condemning an innocent person to be more important than the cost (to the rest of society) of not punishing a guilty person. In the Western mindset, an individual’s rights are paramount.

In modern scientific practice, a conclusion is not accepted for publication if the probability that that conclusion is wrong is more than 5%. This is the “sacred p<.05" criteria among scientists. Scientists' criterion for acceptance is stricter than the jury system. To scientists, getting at the empirical truth is a more strict procedure than establishing criminal guilt in a Western jury system.

There is a big problem from this scientific practice.

If accepting vs. rejecting a scientific hypothesis entails very substantial economic and social consequences (e.g. global warming, cancer from cigarette smoking, etc.), insisting on the "sacred p<.05" criterion is foolish. The social costs of making wrong decisions on hypotheses about the sex life of fruit flies is miniscule compared to the social costs of making wrong decisions on hypotheses about the global climate or cancer from cigarette smoking.

What I am saying is that the p<.05 decision rule is incomplete. It must be weighed by the total planetary costs and benefits of making wrong decisions: the costs and benefits of accepting a hypothesis when in fact it is wrong and the costs and benefits of rejecting it when in fact it is correct.

But back to how people construct their mental models.

Our judgments and assumptions about other people, and the process by which we adopt them, are often unconscious and obscure. Here is a practical way to make them explicit for conscious re-evaluation. Only if these judgments and assumptions are made explicit can we revisit them and ask questions such as: How have they been (unconsciously) affecting my decisions on the person? Are these judgments/assumptions still valid? If not, how do I revise them?

Select a person with whom you have problematic communications or relationship. Let’s call him Reuben. Fill in the following incomplete questions:

Reuben should… (enumerate)
Reuben should not… (enumerate)

What I like about Reuben are… (enumerate)
What I don’t like about Reuben are… (enumerate)

Reuben has a bad habit of… (enumerate)
Reuben has a good habit of… (enumerate)

Just list whatever comes to your mind, without editing or censoring. The objective is to make these judgments and assumptions explicit so that the owner of these judgments and assumptions can objectify and examine them, and see whether they are still valid and scrutinize whether they are based on deeper assumptions that can be further re-examined.

Not doing the above could mean that our communication with the person will continue to be problematic. Since we cannot identify possible root-causes within ourselves, then we continue to be the victims of our own assumptions and we cannot resolve the problematic communication.

These are tools in personal knowledge management and organizational learning. Ability to manage one’s mental models is one of the five disciplines of a learning organization, according to guru Peter Senge.

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L14- Voicing

June 22, 2009

If you grew up in North America or Europe and have lived and worked for some time in Asia, you must have experienced something similar to the following scenario in a meeting or conference among Asians:

    Many do not speak their mind in obvious deference to the boss, or for seeming fear of causing disharmony or ruining good interpersonal relationships, or because of a prevailing organizational culture against disagreements. The boss may be authoritative and he may have a habit of browbeating or putting down any idea of his subordinates. Women and juniors noticeably hesitate to speak most likely because they grew up in a culture where they are expected to just listen to men and elders. Opposing or different ideas that are suggested are expressed with painfully too much sugar-coating and diplomatic language.

If you are an Asian who has spent years in North America or Europe, you must have observed meeting or conference scenarios among Westerners similar to the following:

    Speakers are very direct and appear confrontational and even disrespectful. Ideas and counter-ideas fly in all directions and the debate is uncomfortable to Asian ears. The boss is not spared from opposing or critical views. People who are otherwise friends behave so strangely unfriendly and seemingly arrogant when they argue and debate their positions. After the meeting, everyone seems OK and so easily forget the heated and emotional meeting.

Have you personally experienced any of the above?

The manner that people voice their views in a group (including virtual e-group or discussion lists) determines whether and how far learning will happen in the group. If authentic sharing and group learning are objectives of a group, then it is useful for the group members to distinguish what are the more productive from the less productive ways of voicing.

From our experiences at CCLFI, and from the 12 Types of Learning described in another blog post, one way to be more aware of our habitual manners of voicing is through the following 12 Manners of Voicing:

12 MANNERS OF VOICING


The green areas tend to be more productive for group learning and mutual trust-building, especially those manners of voicing in the dark green area or described in bold letters. The brown areas tend to be less productive, especially the dark brown areas. I highlight respect — both intended and perceived — as a defining factor in how far communication and learning can or cannot proceed productively. This typology must be understood from the context of the earlier 12 Types of Learning.

If you are married or have been married, do you agree with me that during the courtship or dating stage your communications were in the green areas such as 3? After you are married or before you divorced or separated, did you also notice that your communications shifted more towards the brown areas? Couples married for decades stayed in Green Area 3 and/or at least one partner settled in the brown habits in Area 5.

Scientific discourse often lies in Areas 1 and 4. Generative dialogue lies in Areas 1, 3 and 4.

The stereotypically Asian authority-driven habits are also in the brown habits in Area 5 as well as in Areas 6, 10 and 12. These manners of voicing belong to Stage 1 of William Isaac’s four stages of dialogue. The Brown Areas 9-10 are more likely where stereotypically Western habits of speaking would likely land on; these latter manners of voicing belong to Isaac’s Stage 2. I will explain these stages in my later blog posts (L42 and L43).

These are only my personal impressions of stereotypes coming from eight years living in New York and travelling many times to eleven other Western countries; they are not the result of any statistical or scientific study so I may be wrong or inaccurate. My intention is to help us be more aware of our personal habits and unconscious group patterns of communication, and to contribute towards a more conscious and studied way of managing our group communications towards group learning and mutual trust-building.

What do you think?

Can you suggest how we can improve the 12 Manners of Voicing?

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