LO list as practice field? LO12152

Myers, Kent (myers@carsoninc.com)
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 14:58:07 -0500

Replying to LO12085 --

Malcolm Burson proposes that we treat LO experience as a microworld and
make a connection to organizational life. I can point to two examples.
Malcolm may not think that they qualify, or if they do qualify, that they
don't yield much.

We probably don't agree on what a microworld is, so here's my view. The
world we are thrown into is James's big buzzing confusion, and it takes
discipline and imagination to set apart and use a microworld. Schon's
"reflective practitioner" achieves this. Schon emphasizes the psychology
of the reflective stance, and finds that rough and ready microworlds
appear as a natural consequence. Good engineers and architects walk
around with partial models and use sketching to play with specific
situations, run informal experiments, and find insightful solutions.
Sociotechnical system designers do the same, but their reflective practice
is less visible.

Microworld A: In Sherri's rules for Wheatley Dialogue, she was the only
one allowed to comment on the process until the "experiment" was complete.
Afterward, everyone was invited to comment. The notion was that we had to
lay down some experience before we talked about the experience, otherwise
we were left with ungrounded chatter and nothing to point to. The thread
was an attempt to create shared data and apply models of dialogue. The
hope was that we would learn to conduct dialogue better, using one
dialogue as a object to play with.

The Soul thread, even though it continued Sherri's interest, is not a
microworld. Talking-about was eliminated, not delayed and controlled. If
learning occurred, it wasn't through Schon's "reflection in action", since
the prohibition of reflective speech suppressed any but silent or
disguised reflection. Any reflection is 'out of action'.

Microworld B. Mike McMaster has been reflecting in action. He has a set
of partial models he keeps playing with. He is correct in saying that
people on this list have learned to expect certain things from him.
Unlike others, he does not simply react, running with the first opinion or
connection. He explains that he is looking to discover something through
juggling his equipment against new case material. He word-sketches,
asking how complexity can frame the new situation and lead to an insight.

Was there learning from either microworld? I think most would agree that
the Wheatley Dialogue was not adequately processed. It was too hard to
work with the accumulated data, there wasn't much interest in machinery
that could have organized it, and there was reluctance to name names.
Whenever we turn ourselves into the object, people get nervous, and its
hard to keep the viewpoint steady.

The McMaster microworld was more successful, even though it appears to
have involved fewer people. McMaster says he made progress in his
writing, and Ben Compton reports that he's built a new complexity
perspective, based both on reading and on LO discussion. In this
microworld, what was steady was McMaster and his machinery, not a data set
or a group. Also, the data or problem was usually not the group itself.

In response to Malcolm, I'd suggest that he consider shifting his units of
analysis when attempting to locate microworlds within LO. A microworld
may be more strongly associated with a person or a family of models rather
than a thread. Also, while a response is necessary for
reflecting-in-action, does the response have to be from a person directly,
or can it be from the material, or indirectly from persons, or from one's
self? I'm not saying that these other linkages are superior, only that
they are operating.


Kent Myers myersk@us.net

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>