Thursday, 18 November 2004

Conceptually bereft or subunderstanding?

Neoligisms! Don't you love them? They just pop up from nowhere and before you know it, you are using them every day as a sort of "in language" with your crowd. Wink wink - in the know. One of my current favourites is "conceptually bereft". I work with many innovative practitioners who are pushing the elearning edge. The creative part is coming up with new ideas and shaping them. It is so stimulating and energising - a real buzz.

Rolling out those ideas isn't always as much fun as other stakeholders often need to be involved and usually this involvement contaminates your original pure creations. Oh well that's life. You have a few "Whine without cheese" sessions, feel purged and then get on with it.

Sometimes it's more serious. Innovative thinkers who are into 'status grow' are not always seen as assets by their bosses, especially if 'status quo" is more comfortable. Sometimes they have a tough time.

Take my friend Andy. He's smarter than his manager and his manager knows it. To some mnagers, smarter means asset. To others, smarter means liability. Hmmm... power could be usurped.

Being a smart liability causes Andy a fair bit of anguish as a lot of his energy is invested in ducking and weaving and hiding and hoping he won't be found. All he wants to be is cognitively flexible and intellectually curious and to do the very best for his clients.

We have some great "Whine and Cheese" sessions. Andy was really whining (technical term is debriefing) about the fact that his boss was an innovation blocker....

She's so...... she's so....

Andy couldn't find the words and the frustration was permeating through his pores. So I offered "Conceptually bereft?" I don't know where that came from. A light went on for Andy. Yes! That's exactly right! Conceptually bereft!

That's the tricky bit. Andy is conceptually adept. He values multiple perspectives and points of view, including that of his manager. His manager on the other hand believes she understands where Andy is coming from but Andy knows she doesn't. Andy's manager is conceptually bereft . Can these opposites co-exist?

Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding? is a very insightful paper that explores these issues. It's by Magoroh Maruyama San Diego, USA and the best reading I've come across in ages!

Here's what the overview says:

There are several meta-level considerations which are seldom taken up but are crucial. Two of them are discussed in this article: polyocular vision, in which the differences between images obtained from many angles enable the brain to compute invisible mental coordinates; and illusion of understanding, in which a person is convinced that he or she has a perfect understanding while missing the most important points of others. Job rotation and quasi-rotation help cultivate polyocular vision. On the other hand, concept inbreeding in an organization poses a barrier to polyocular vision. Intellectual outbreeding is facilitated by establishing conceptual ‘free trade zones’ such as the Peripheral Vision section in this journal.

It's not an easy read, but a worthwhile one! And a great resource for your next "Whine without Cheese" jam session!

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