Sitting on the Learning Precipice

Thinking back to the first day of class, I am reflecting  on the overwhelm and confusion I always feel at the beginning of any new learning experience.  In fact, it usually takes me about one third of the allotted time for to go “AHA that’s what is going on!!”, and by then, I have to catch up on what has already been learned by everyone else, so I always feel on the back foot. 

That is  my adaptation pattern and I wonder if you have thought about yours?

Alvin Toffler once said, “The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  

This tends to reinforce the “empty vessel” notion of education, where knowledge needs to be poured into the heads of passive students.  Yet that is not how life works.  We are always learning and don’t stop to deconstruct what we know to unlearn it before we begin to adapt to what is new.

We do, however, perceive the world through our own lens of reality and  it is impossible to erase the neural pathways of experience.   If we want to understand the world differently, we need to break free of our perceptual filters and habits of knowing.   This means consciously letting go of the confines of our world view.  

It takes curiosity rather than conviction and the willingness to let go of our addiction to being right.

Last week I had an interesting experience with a large client who I have been working with for a long time and who  contracted to deliver a large and complex project.  The project is now midway and stakeholder relationships have become tense and adversarial,  communication has broken down and trust is being eroded at every point of contact.

We reviewed their current situation, and they quickly realized that their course of action is becoming more and more destructive.   Alvin Toffler also once said, “If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy”, so we decided to forge a different pathway that would be more constructive. 

After many hours of searching for defensive solutions to complex problems that demand a transformational rather than a tactical strategy,  I asked a critical question which was  “Who is the enemy”.  Their dawning realization  was “we are behaving as if they are”. 

We then  began to experiment with creating a new set of maps based on  possibilities that could emerge if they held a different perspective.  We agreed that seeing the client through new eyes would result in a natural shift in their approach from being defensive and attacking to one of partnering and collaborating toward shared goals.   They have not re-engaged with their client yet, but I am waiting with baited breath to find out if their new paradigm  will yield results that are are of value for all stakeholders.