Monday, 7 May 2007

Is Ignorance Bliss? 11-On Organisational Learning

Erich Fromm in his books ‘To Have Or To Be’ and ‘The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness’ also points out that individuals fall fundamentally into one of two pre-dispositions, either a ‘having character’ or a ‘being character’ These pre-dispositions are deep rooted, extremely difficult to change and can rarely be concealed over the long run even though specific behaviour might be modified for short periods to mask the underlying character. (a leopard never changes its spots!)

In summary the ‘having’ character seeks to ‘possess’ either directly or through control, all things and people. In more extreme cases this is a manifested in malignant aggression, cruelty and destructiveness not only of other people and things but ironically the very systems within which they exist. The shorthand for which can be stated as ‘life thwarting’ behaviours.

If this idea is applied to the ‘living organisation’ then it seems reasonable to suggest that at a very fundamental level whatever people do at work can be categorised as ‘organisation thwarting’ or ‘organisation enhancing’ and that these behaviours can be identified with a view to some form of management intervention. In the context of organisational learning these character pre-dispositions affect an individual’s orientation towards learning, knowledge and authority, and for me, Fromm makes some particularly interesting observations in that regard which can be summarised as follows:

• Mere collecting of ideas
• Commitment to memory
• New ideas disturb
• Unchanged by learning

• Raising of new questions
• Respond and interact
• New views created
• Changed by learning

• Have knowledge by 'collecting' information
• Believe the superficial
• Aim to have more knowledge by collecting from others

• Be in a process of ‘knowing’
• Penetrate the surface
• Aim to know more deeply

• Not competence based
• Applied thru Power
• Exploitative
• Symbols and Titles are mistaken for competence
• Suppression of critical thinking

• Competence based
• Applied through leadership
• Collaborative
• Encourage growth and questions

What might this suggest for practical management?

I also recommend that you visit workplace survival for some intersting views and opinions on the themes discussed in Is Ignorance Bliss?

Workplace Survival

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