Archive for the ‘Philosophical Foundations’ Category

As always I invite you to read my thoughts and referenced articles.  I value your insights and perspectives.


Consider for a moment how we traditionally describe learning environments: formal education; informal learning; structured; unstructured; and so on.  I have taught courses face to face (brick and mortar classrooms) and online (learning management systems).  I have taught informally in structured settings (large group conferences; small group collaborations in face to face settings and through software/internet) and spontaneously unstructured (coffee shops; available rooms elsewhere, software/internet).

The idea here is that learning is situational all the time for everyone, everywhere.  Let me try one more time:  You and I are people in the world.  Every moment of our lives we are in situations.  Always.  Thus every moment of our lives we are learning.  This isn’t about the potential to learn.  I am saying we are always learning something in every situation – every moment of our lives.  (Jarvis, 2006)

We are learning about ourselves, others, our “self” in relationship with others.  We are learning about situations.   We are learning culture and context.  We are learning roles and duty.  Certainly we are learning these and more.  (Ryberg & Larsen, 2008)

The motto of my Leadership and Learning Group is this:  “Power and success flow from reflection and a willingness to learn.”  Naturally our motto will mean different things to different people because we define the words through who we are as individuals.  What is “power”?  What is “success”?  These are personal.  Learned through previous situations and reinforced or revised through any given current situation.  Likewise the outcomes of “a willingness to learn” are personal.  (Duarte, 2009)

So, a group of people encounters a situation.  The learning will be unique to each person based on who they are: their abilities; skills; previous knowledge, and so forth.  The individual learns something from that common situation, intentional or not.   That being said, all situations entail some level of social context. We may discuss the situation together.  We may opt to talk about the situation to others.  We may write about the situation that then gets shared.  The immediate event of the situation is often social (an is social in the case of a group experience).

In a world of “connectedness” where everything is connected to everything else then social is true regardless of how many people may be present.  One aspect of this connectedness is who I believe I am.  Who you believe you are.  Our identities are formed and reformed in social context – through situations. (Jones, Ferreday, & Hodgson, 2008).  In a world of connectedness we need to recognize that everything we learn in every situation is available for application on every other situation.  (Gordon, 2008)

So now, it is on us, as individuals to learn well.  It is on us as individuals to be good facilitators of one another.  Even here what does it mean to “learn well” and to be a “good facilitator”?  There is no single answer.  As always the definitions are as diverse as the people providing them.  (Ryan, 2011).

For me it comes down to this:  am I becoming more loving, compassionate, and respectful of others and myself?  Am I facilitating the same in others?   I can tell you this, the more I learn the more I know that I have so much more to learn.

Duarte, F. (2009). Rekindling the Sociological Imagination as a Pedagogical “Package” in Management Education. Journal of Management Education, 33(1), 59-76.

Gordon, M. (2008). Between Constructivism and Connectedness. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 322-331.

Jarvis, P. (2006). Towards a comprehensive theory of human learning. London New York: Routledge.

Jones, C. R., Ferreday, D., & Hodgson, V. (2008). Networked learning a relational approach: weak and strong ties. [Article]. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(2), 90-102.

Ryan, J. (2011). Accuracy and Bias in Perceptions of Political Knowledge. [Article]. Political Behavior, 33(2), 335-356.

Ryberg, T., & Larsen, M. C. (2008). Networked identities: understanding relationships between strong and weak ties in networked environments. [Article]. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(2), 103-115.


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This posting should not be taken as an end all of marriage and communication.  Rather my exploration of my own marriage and communication.

What is the purpose of marriage?  What is the purpose of communication within marriage?  Why did I get married?  What do I hope to get out of my marriage?  These questions and more surface to me as I contemplate.

I married Trixy because I truly believe I was called to marry her.  Strange as that may sound.  It is my divine concept worldview that leads me to this conclusion.  We met, I was attracted, we continued getting to know each other.

However it is in this process that we see communication at work.  The day we met I was communicating with her and her classmates, just as I communicated every day with students and faculty.  The purpose of which was to ascertain levels of computer literacy and database search skills; to build up skills; and to build rapport – at the very least.

Aside from the literacy and skills based stuff, she gained my attention, quite by accident, in that she wore a bicycle century T-shirt.  We saw each other on campus.  She had my attention but along the way I had her’s as well.  If we had not we would not have exchanged verbal pleasantries when we bumped into each other.  However attention getting can be done in a build up or tear down way.  For me, a temper tantrum is negative, but a calm “I’ve been thinking /feeling about…” is positive.  Yet even as I write that I realize these attitudes are built on experiences and conceptions from my family and upbringing.  Rarely did we have to yell to gain attention and most often a temper tantrum for attention met with negative consequences – and thus the purpose of it was unfulfilled.

Now to hear a friend describe her interactions with her significant other, I would think they would be trying to bully the other into submission.  At least on first hearing the stories.  But as I probed deeper into her experiences I found that she was open to him and she believed he was open to her.  Yet their methods would not work for me.

I am suggesting the point of communication in marriage is to know and understand the other.  Not to exert pressure to get what I want.  The tools of dialogue and appreciative inquiry can be used, but one party cannot make another party participate.  If it were even possible to force dialogue the mere active of using pressure tactics would limit the value of dialogue.  Appreciative inquiry is possible to be more one-sided as it requires only one to ask questions.  But to be effective the other must answer in the spirit of a larger purpose.

In this sense is a marriage a marriage because of policy and law? or is marriage a marriage because the partners have committed to building up and not tearing down?  This building up and tearing down then become negotiated through communication.  Each person brings their worldview, experiences, beliefs, ethics, learning capacity, and so on as expectations of what marriage should (or is supposed to) be.  What it becomes will be a different reality from what the individual expects.

If the purpose of communication is to “win” the result may be one-sided.  If the purpose is “to one” then we may find some sort of success.

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Much speculation again about your medical leave of absence. Apple’s stock prices were down 7 to 8% in Europe today. Tomorrow Apple is reporting financials. I suspect it will be very good news.

Someone asked me recently if I thought you were a good leader. I had no good answer. I have never worked with you nor do I even know you. Yet I do know of you.

Are you visionary and you have some pretty high standards of what you consider excellence. You are focused and can be fairly intense from what I understand. You are a leader to be sure. I say this not because of the position you hold in your company or even the market position of your company. No. Rather you are a leader, like the rest of us who have a sense of responsibility and struggle with balancing that in a paradoxical world. You understand profit, but don’t seem to be driven by it – at least not as much as some of those who follow you. You seem more interested in artistic expression and creativity than in earning a buck, but you recognize that earning a buck and protecting your investment is vital.

I can’t even pretend to know all the conflicting issues you face each and every day. I can only second guess you and play the arm-chair quarterback.

Steve, for my dollar, you are not Apple and Apple is not Steve Jobs. Apple is a part of who you are and clearly a product of your influence. You gave it a rebirth – a second chance. You made some very hard decisions and many people were unhappy. Throughout your time you have been true to your vision if not always communicative about what that looked like. But I do understand that. Sometimes the vision is fully developed and we only know what it isn’t. Vision is often an unfolding – a revelation that is built on discovery. I also get that you might have clearly held a vision that has not change or evolved. But one that was so far forward that it was out of the frame for the rest of us – out of our zone of proximal learning – that you may have incredible patience as the vision unfolds for the us.

I may not always agree with all that you say or do, but seriously – thank you for your vision and the products that have come from it (oh, and yes, for nurturing Pixar).

So Steve, whether you return to Apple or not, whether you live to be 56 or 106, it is my prayer that during your current medical leave of absence that you will take care of yourself and your family. Take time to fully heal your inner man. May you know and experience, not only during this absence, but throughout the reminder of your days: peace, joy, and unconditional love.

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Whose responsible for what?  and Why?

I can’t seem to shake this question.  As I begin reading “Responsibility in Context” a “gut level” take is that because we are social we have a responsibility one for another.  I don’t yet see where this is a foundation of society – good or bad.

A given person’s worldview would seem to dictate what they considered essential and valuable in context of their social environment.  Worldviews could hardly be considered infallible.  One may have a worldview of “top down”, where the most powerful “hero” is the leader.  This person may be able to exert the most force to get people to do what they want.  In their worldview, it may be that they believe they have the best idea of what their subjects need.  But if you depart from their prescribed order, you may be imprisoned, tortured, or killed.

Is the leader responsible for his/her followers?  What role to the followers play?  Again, these terms are defined by worldview.  Lets move away from “leader/follower” for a moment.  In more traditional corporate responsibility, we engage the corporate body in responsibility to the social/societal context in which it operates and functions.

Does responsibility rests in those with power and influence?  Or does responsibility rest with the individual regardless of power and influence?  Do we sue the automaker for accidents due to faulty manufacturing?  Does it make a difference if there was an unknown defect? or deliberate cover up?  Do we sue the automaker when we have an accident, because they built a car that goes faster than the legal limit?  we can apply these questions to physicians, corporations, individuals, governments, and so forth.  Who is responsible for what? and why?  What is the responsibility of a company to its employees?  the President to the citizens?  A nation to the world?  Can we question all basis of action? What is “good” or “bad”?  Who defines these?  And perhaps it is important to know how they come to be defined.

Across my computer screen this week, I have read about “selfishness”.  What is it?  Is it a virtue?  Does it make the world go ’round in peace and harmony?  There seem to be two definitions of “selfishness”.

The first and most common, seems to have come into existence between 1628 and 1640.  It centers around self-interest without regard for others.  Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying “Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs.” [Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene,” 1976].

The second declares “selfishness” a virtue.  Promoted widely by Ayn Rand, this type of selfishness has the best interest of self and others.  It is opposed to altruism (as self-sacrifice) towards others.  Where she views altruism as asking “Who benefits?” And making the morality of “right” being self-sacrifice of the giver.

All of this is based in her ideas of “objectivism” and reason.  This type of selfishness rejects the satisfaction of whims because they may actually be harmful to one’s self or others.  It rejects altruism because, to be morally “good”, one must harm themselves.  Indeed, one of Rand’s critisims of religion seems to be around the teachings of “altruism”, as giving to the hurt of one’s self.

My own interpretation of the teachings of Jesus, is that this type of altruism is not what he had in mind.  (Matthew 25 – parable of the 10 virgins; Matthew 22:39/ Mark 12:31/ Romans 13:8-10/ Galatians 5:14/ James 2:8 – love your neighbor as yourself).

I have not read Rand’s book.  I have only read through the links below.   There is much to appreciate about her approach. It seems that the main point is that every individual human being has objective needs.  The selfish human will reason that it is in their best (moral good) to take care of their “self” and the “self” of others.  In this I wonder how far off “selfishness” is from “Agape”.  I am still thinking.  Clearly, however, “reason” only goes so far.  There are so many interpretations of what is right and reasonable.

In her own life, she rejected all forms of organized religion and faith as “antithetical to reason”.  Her ideals influenced Alan Greenspan. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Greenspan) among others.  Her ideals are embedded in the Republic Party of the United States.

Clearly in our current society there is a gap and breakdown of this type of “selfishness”.  Our economic collapse, both of 1929 and in the 2000s, show us that the typical “selfishness” is still at play.  Another breakdown is just how far we extend the ideal of Rand’s “Selfishness”, just as there is a break down in “Agape”.  Does Rand’s selfisishness extend to one’s family? Community?  Nation?  Those who hate and abuse one’s self?  who judges or arbitrates?

The question then becomes how do we balance society?  Are we living in an interconnected web of life? What is our responsibility towards others who view their responsibility differently?  Is the question one of selfishness? or is it possible that we might better be looking at another term?  I would suggest “Agape”.  Next, I would suggest that “Abuse” is the opposite of “Agape”.  Our responsibility is to “Agape” ourselves AND others – not to abuse ourselves or others.

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When it comes to the tools of communication I can’t help but think of “Methods” as well. Tools would be completely neutral to effective or ineffective communication. Methods – well, I’m still thinking about methods.

On first thought “face to face” is a method, not a tool. Where as any form of telephone is a tool. In any case I will brainstorm some of the tools and methods. I use/have used for communicating with others:

Telephone (cell; VoIP, etc)
video conference equipment (iChat, Skype, Polycom, etc)
Screen sharing (built-in to the OS [Mac/Windows], web-based,
convergence: GoToMeeting, breeze, etc
Letters, email, fax
Art: paintings of all sorts, photography, poetry, etc
Text (books, magazines, newspapers etc)

As I see these items in front of me, I begin to see how “letters” may be a method, where “Pen” and “paper” are tools. The Gutenberg press would be a tool where as a document using the press would be a method. Often I have heard it said to use the media as a tool to “get the word out”. But to be nit-picky this would be “Method” rather than “tool” in my worldview. The “Media” itself is multi-modal methods and tools: print; audio; visual; as well as the people and events created and used as “media events”. Thus we have multiple methods and tools being used with and sometimes without the impact for which they were purposed and designed.

I hope that makes sense. If not I trust you’ll post a comment below.

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From the Sereno and Mortensen text comes this definition of communication:
“a process by which senders and receivers of messages interact in given social contexts.” (p 5)

It was in my M.Ed program that I really began to probe the concept of complex adaptive systems. The individual human is a complex adaptive system. When combining any number of humans complexity isn’t reduced.

Communication therefore cannot, by definition, ever be “simple”. “Communicative events involve the whole person… perceptions, learning, drives, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, values, decoding-encoding, meaning, messages, and social situations.” (Sereno p 4).

It would seem that with each added human, the complexity is increased. The “ladder of inference” is a play here as well.

A couple of communication games come to mind: There is one where you whisper a statement to a person and they, in turn whisper to their neighbor and so on around a circle, to where the person who started the process is the last to receive the message back. Another, is where everyone writes a statement on a piece of paper (each person has a stack of paper). Everyone then hands the stack of paper with the statement on top the person on their left who then draws a picture of the statement on the next sheet of paper in the stack, sending the statement to the bottom. Again, everyone hands their picture to the person on their left, who then writes a statement of the picture on the next blank sheet, sending the drawing to the bottom. This continues until each person receives the stack they started.

Besides being a hilariously fun experience, rarely is the message received at the end the same message sent.

Now when it comes to “message” the method(s) we choose to deliver will influence the reception of the message itself. This will be “customized” based on the individual receiver. While this is my own thinking and makes sense to me based on being complex adaptive systems (we humans), there are, of course, models (and models in models) that cover this: Ladder of Inference (Senge et al 1990) and the Transactional Model of Communication (Barnlund – as seen in Sereno text 1970 p 83-102), just to locate two in my limited time.

We have face to face methods which we generally trust the most. Not only do we have a verbal message we receive, by sight, nonverbal cues. I gave a sermon the other day and had a single message sent to the congregation. My single message, based on who I am and all my worldview, assumptions, etc was conveyed to all those present. I too, received immediate feedback with both verbal and nonverbal cues from the congregation.

Some did not seem to receive it well, while others were inspired and encouraged. Some walked out, some slept, others laughed heartily, some chuckled; some said loud “Amens”, some clapped. In all there was two-way communication. The sermon was recorded. It will be available as an audio file and a video/audio file. No longer will I receive immediate feedback.

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Just a quick thought.  Maybe others have already made the connection between mentoring & coaching and discipleship.  I think I have thought about it before, but it really became concrete this evening.  I need to look into discipleship a bit more, but it would seem to be the same essence.

The other thought is how mentoring and coaching works with my other ideas of leadership: serving life; leadership is for everyone, everywhere, all the time – for better or worse.

As I read the articles I have selected I get side tracked – as it were – into seeing mentoring and coaching as a tool to “get ahead” individually or as a company.  But what about coaching and mentoring as simply the right thing to do?

Learning is a function of Senge’s “Personal Mastery”.  What we believe the purpose of mentoring and coaching to be is a function of “mental models”.   I have been reading articles and I definitely need to surface them here.  But tonight, I needed to jot these thoughts down while I had them.

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