Posts Tagged ‘story listening’

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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Your Judgement Can Block Your Learning

July 9, 2009

Quoting Anthony De Mello again:

    “… what you judge you cannot understand. …if you desire to change what is into what you think should be, you no longer understand.”

When you judge you measure what is in front of you against the standards, expectations or values inside your head. You are trying to fit ‘what is’ to your concept of ‘what should be’. Judging can block your learning, which is why one of the requisite skills in a learning organization is the ability to suspend judgment.

For example, a productive brainstorming process is a two-stage process: a free-for-all no-judgment no-evaluation idea generation stage followed by a weeding-out selection or judgment/evaluation stage to arrive at the single or few best ideas. The first stage uses divergent thinking where the P-type (MBTI type) members exercise their right-brain talents of idea generation. The second stage uses convergent thinking where the J-type members exercise their left-brain screening and judgment talents. Brainstorming would be less productive if the J-types are allowed to control the first stage, or the P-types are allowed free rein in the second stage.

In the 12 Manners of Voicing (see blog entitled “L14- Voicing”), the least productive of learning are those that entail exercising judgment (the brown areas below) and the most productive are those that require suspending judgment and respecting the other person (the green areas below).



In the 12 Types of Learning (see blog entitled “12 Types of Learning”), the most productive of understanding one another are those types (those on the left side of the diagram below) where a person can show to another her past experiences that throw light in how she came to adopt her current beliefs, paradigms, interests and values. This is why story listening (NOT storytelling) is a most powerful tool for learning and understanding.

Listen to Anthony de Mello: “the shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.”

12 ways we learn


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12 Types of Learning

April 19, 2009

To prepare the ground for my next blog post (Q24- KM and power: constant bed fellows), we will use the KM framework introduced in F2 (Intangibles: More Essential for Value Creation) and F5 (A Proposed KM Framework) to look at different ways that we learn.

I have illustrated 10 different ways to apply the KM framework in 10 past blog posts:

Delineating the 12 types of learning (see diagram below) will be the 11th illustration of using the KM framework. I am using the same color codings (yellow for knowledge, crimson for action and green for results) as in the above 10 illustrations. This typology refers to the channels or modalities of learning and does not presume whether and how far in fact the knowledge receiver learned (thanks to Bill Kaplan of Washington, D.C. for pointing this out).

12 ways we learn

Person A and Person B are co-equal in power, authority and influence. Interactions between people with unequal power are discussed in the next blog post on “KM and Power”. In the diagram, we start with Type 1 at the extreme right and proceed towards the left for Type 2 and the rest.

Type 1 is simply studying What Works Better, where A and B compare results of their actions; the two learn when they discover which action produces better results.

Type 2 or Communal Validation is similar to Type 1 but it involves a community and its protocols for knowledge validation. For example, the scientific community learns and generates new knowledge through scientific protocols on observation of results of actions/experiments up to analysis and interpretation of data. In a community of practitioners (CoP), identification, documentation and transfer of best practice follow similar protocols: results of many similar actions are compared and a “best” practice is identified, documented and shared with the rest of the community. Ken Wilber calls the steps in Type 2 learning as “three strands of valid knowing”; see his books “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” or “A Sociable God”. (Thanks to Mark Wolfe for pointing out that the feedback does reach back to enculturation and training.)

While Communal Validation is a feedback from observed results to mental models (=knowledge, beliefs, paradigms), when we rework our mental models or re-organize what we know (thanks to Katherine Bertolucci for pointing this out) we Reframe how we view the world. This learning process is the feedforward back to observation of results.

Type 3 is similar to Type 1 and 2 but Reflective Practice can involve only one person. Types 1-3 involve feedback or observation of results to improve knowledge and practice. A common variant of Type 3 is Learning from Doing, which happens largely semi-consciously. If you wish to learn more about Type 3, start by reading the book “The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action” by Donald A. Schon.

Type 4 is Presentation where A or B talks and the other listens, such as watching YouTube, listening to a lecture or reading a book. This type of learning is suited for learning concepts but not skills. Discussion occurs when participants take turns in presentation and then proceed to a mix of Type 1 and 2 learning, and oftentimes with Type 5 and 6 thrown in.

Type 5 is Criticism, Praise or Judgment where B — using his own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values — judges a statement or action of A. If A and B do not share the same knowledge, beliefs, interests or values, then A will defend himself based on his own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values. If A and B are co-equal in power, and neither will give up their own knowledge, beliefs, interests or values, or they are unable to shift their discourse towards Type 1-2 or Type 8-12, then the result is —

Type 6 is Debate. Learning can still happen through Type 5 and 6, but this learning is least likely to happen compared to other types. Unfortunately, when one or both of A and B strongly believes he is right, or avoids being proven wrong, or is unable to shift to Types 1-2 or 8-12, then each tries to convince/criticize the other but the other then digs in and defends himself, and the process can degenerate to an ugly downward spiral (I have seen this many times in one of the KM discussion lists). In a debate, the objective is no longer learning but winning, or proving the other person is wrong, or pushing for one’s pet theory or belief. In the end, people hardly learn or change their beliefs as a result of debate; and goodwill is often the casualty. It is unfortunate that many people allow themselves to be drawn into this inutile form of communication. This is common among people holding on to different religious and political beliefs, but I also see it among intelligent people holding on to different academic schools of thought. I wrote about Debate versus Discussion versus Dialogue in a previous blog post. If you want to learn more about the difference between debate, discussion and dialogue, start by reading the book “Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together” by William Isaacs.

Type 7 or Exemplar is when A through his actions and speech models, manifests, demonstrates or acts as exemplar of a knowledge, belief, interest or value such that B learns through observing A. This is the process that occurs during mentoring when the apprentice watches the mentor perform, and when a child watches her parents and teachers. The mentor initiates the learning process not through trying to convince but through demonstrating how certain actions produce desired results.

Type 8 is when A and B consciously and jointly review or revise their Mental Models, underlying assumptions or frameworks that sponsored or led to specific actions or statements. This is one of the five disciplines of a learning organization according to Peter Senge. Learning or changing one’s beliefs is more likely to happen by making our assumptions explicit and examining them together than by trying to convince, argue or attack another person (Types 5 and 6). If you have not read the landmark book “The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization” by Peter M. Senge then I suggest you do. John Naisbitt’s “Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future” is entertaining to read. A prevalent variant of Type 8 is the unplanned or semi-conscious process whereby two or more people through conversations Reconstruct their shared view of social reality.

Type 9 is Conscious Living, where a person studies why he does what he keeps doing, reflects on his own assumptions and beliefs, and consciously manages how he thinks, perceives, interprets, values and makes daily life decisions. My NGO — the Center for Conscious Living Foundation — has been developing, practicing and teaching tools under this type of learning since 1999. Check our website for more information.

Type 10 is Storytelling and Story Listening, where B shares his experiences with A. If A is able to truly listen, or to listen while suspending his judgments and beliefs, he may understand or appreciate why B thinks and believes the way he does. Then A can discover new ways of looking at the same thing they are both looking at. Check out the book by KM gurus John Seely Brown, Stephen Denning, Katalina Groh, and Laurence Prusak: “Storytelling in Organizations: Why Storytelling Is Transforming 21st Century Organizations and Management.”

Type 11 is Insight or Intuition, when new ideas or thoughts emerge in one’s consciousness — through processes the thinker himself is not clear about — that can provide the basis for better action.

Type 12 or Generative Dialogue is the process where a group of people have reached a level of trust and skill in performing Types 8-11 such that they are able as a group to reflect and explore how and why they think, see and interact the way they do, consciously discover their limiting assumptions and biases, reframe a problem or issue, revise or improve their mental models, and generate new options or solutions. Learning is more likely in Types 8-12 than in Types 5-6 which are hampered by inability or unwillingness to reflect and to suspend judgment. I have written about Generative Dialog in a previous blog post. Besides Isaacs’ book mentioned above, check out also Adam Kahane’s “Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities.”

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