Re: Self-organized Learning LO255

Richard Karash (
Sun, 26 Feb 1995 16:57:04 -0500 (EST)

I've inserted my comments below...

On Sat, 25 Feb 1995 wrote in LO243:

> Joe, the examples you give of "self-organized learning" seem to me to be
> more like SIGs of organizations; that is, groups of people who want to
> meet or otherwise communicate "to find out more".

SIG = "Special Interest Group"

> [...snip...]
> Personally, I am engaged in trying to be as non-intrusive as possible
> while maintaining the energy behind a SIG in a national organization. I
> feel I need to know a lot more about how this is done, because I am
> feeling that it is critical to the life of organizations. Elsewhere,
> Mariann said something like "use as little as possible but as much as you
> need."
> I guess what I'm getting at here is a question: "What do leaders need to
> do to engender self-organized learning in organizations?"

I think one of the most important things you can do is show your
confidence in the group. This applies whether you're the "boss" or an
outside consultant.

I've spent most of my career as an executive in small high tech firms.
Even though I was a founder or early-in, I had bosses. It made a
remarkable difference whether the leader had confidence in the people to
learn and solve problems. This gets expressed in lots of ways, and from
the times you've been on the receiving end, you know it.

When I shifted careers into this LO work, I resolved to show my
confidence in people in training and in working with groups and teams.

One of the most subtle but important things in preparing people to teach
systems thinking or any of the learning organization disciplines is to
have them take this stance with respect to their "students." It's a
pitfall for a beginning instructor to worry about how to get the sudents
to give the "right" answer. Instead, I encourage them to start with an
expectation that everything coming from the group is "right," sincerely
motivated, and if not what's expected, then it's probably a new insight!
Once program leaders adopt this frame of mind, and give up trying to
control the program, it seems that much more progress is made.

Working in a style to promote self-organizing means giving up a good bit
of perceived control.

> ...A corollary
> question: "How can people accept authority for their own behavior
> (self-direction) when the authority has been "granted" in a hierarchy
> (empowerment)?"

If the authority has been "granted" by a higher up, then it's not real
empowerment because it can be taken away at any time.

On a plane ride with Peter Senge a couple years ago, he was talking about
this. He said, "Real freedom cannot occur from someone giving it to you.
Because if it's given, then it can be taken away. Real freedom comes only
from an idea. From a principle. Our Declaration of Independence says,
'We hold these truths to be self-evident...' "

> ...And finally, "If we believe all behavior to be
> essentially self-organizing (as I do) what can we possibly mean by
> leadership, and what is the function of hierarchy?"

Yes, and yet leadership certainly makes a difference in our
organizations. We really feel the yoke when leadership is poor. I think
the role of outstanding leadership is creating energy and enthusiasm,
creating an environment in which productive self-organizing takes place,
where there is shared vision and alignment.

> Jack Hirschfeld I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?

Richard Karash ("Rick") | (o) 508-879-8301 | Mac * Flying
Innovation Associates, Inc. | (fax) 508-626-2205 | Systems Thinking
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