Saturday, April 16, 2005

Leadership - Commented Article

In John D. Smith's community of practice group, Jen Hunter posted a very interesting link to the Berkana Institute. I dare to comment one of the many articles written by Margaret J. Wheatley, namely Supporting Pioneering Leadersas Communities of Practice.

Margaret on practices:

"We are living in a period when many of our fundamental beliefs and practices no longer serve us or the greater world. Worse than that, they are causing great harm and disabling us from being effective sponsors and facilitators of healthy change. I believe that the longer we continue to use familiar Western beliefs and practices, the more impotent we become to create the world we want."

It's not a case if Asian Tigers are taking over, in fact. It's a whole new concept of management, a whole new concept of productivity, and a whole new concept of working. It's a sustainable one, in that it encompasses community needs and gains.

Margaret on beliefs:

"We wove the following beliefs into our practices: that humans are motivated by selfishness, greed, and fear. That we exist as individuals, free of the obligation of interdependence. That hierarchy and bureaucracy are the best forms of organizing. That efficiency is the premier measure of value. That people work best under controls and regulations. That diversity is a problem. That unrestrained growth is good. That a healthy economy leads naturally to a healthy society. That poor people have different motivations than other people. That only a few people are creative. That only a few people are willing to struggle for their freedom."

Beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies. By supposing people to be greedy and individualistic, a company selects that kind of persons. It's even inconsistent cause it's all about giving incentives to ego and then b*tching about how employees only think about their personal rewards!

Margaret on leaders:

"There are many brave pioneers experimenting with new approaches for resolving the most difficult societal problems. These new leaders have abandoned traditional practices of hierarchy, power, and bureaucracy. They believe in people's innate creativity and caring. They know that most people can be awakened to be active in determining what goes on in their communities and organizations. They practice consistent innovation and courage-wherever they see a problem, they also see possibility. They figure out how to respond. If one response doesn't work, they try another. They naturally think in terms of interconnectedness, following problems wherever they lead, addressing multiple causes rather than single symptoms. They think in terms of complex global systems and yet also understand this world as a global village."

This doesn't just explain why new paradigms usually are born in Asia, but also why KM inNPOs has been implemented in Asia first too. Societies like Asians and Mediterraneans, all geared on communication and sharing are THE places where to implement KM solutions.

Margaret on challenges:

    • New leaders must invent the future while dealing with the past
    • It is difficult to break with tradition
    • Supporters want them to look familiar
    • There is no room for failure
    • We want them to fail

The thing I find the most challenging is when you pioneer "invent" something new, show it and the Old Boys look at you saying "you have no data". To which I reply "You have stagnant mistakes, and no vision at all". But somehow they prefer to repeat the existing rather than trying something new.

This, too, is about crushing the ego. In order to be a pioneer, you (generic) need to be able to make mistakes and learn from them rather than be defensive of your work. But Westerners, raised to value ego, find excuses over excuses to claim their work remarkable even when it is not. The world will belong to Asians and Mediterraneans, sooner or later, because they have the cultural capability of correcting their mistakes.

Furthermore, most of such "scholars" are completely uneducated in philosophy of science and think that when you (generic) contest their results you have to prove yours valid rather than theirs wrong. Amazingly uneducated folks.

Margaret on scientists:

"Thomas Kuhn described the behavior of scientists when confronted with evidence that pointed to a truly new world view. (see The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1996, 1974) When the new evidence clearly demonstrated the need for a change in paradigms, scientists were observed working hard to make the evidence conform to their old worldview. In defense of the old, they would discard or reinterpret the data. (This was always done unconsciously.) And in the most startling instances, they actually would be blind to the new information-even with the data in front of them, they literally could not see it. For them, the new did not exist."

This fits with the constructivist approach to learning: in order to learn you (generic) reinterpret new knowledge in light of your (previous) mental models. That basically implies: if your mental models aren't flexible, you're toasted. And that also explains how scientists, that are supposed to be able to criticize theories (theirs own included), if they aren't flexible enough to self-criticize, they can't accomplish much as far as science is regarded.

Margaret on learning and Freire:

"When people understand the forces creating the adverse conditions of their life, and how they might change those forces, they become eager and rapid learners. They are capable of learning sophisticated skills that far surpass traditional assumptions about their intellectual capacity. And they learn these skills faster than anyone would have thought possible."

This is, basically, why support groups do work and also why communities of practice generate new knowledge. Sharing generates new understandings, that are shared, and that generate more knowledge.

Without loosening the sense of ego there is no leadership, no KM, no learning, no sustainability, no CoP. It's all about building some schemes, calling them "best practice" and refusing to hear anything else.


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