Experiential learning and the power of questions in motion (Ramblings and mumblings around…)


No focused post this week, too much is brewing in my mind. All possible walks of my professional life are in utmost effervescence or have just been put to a complete stop. A whirlwind of destructive-creative energy, and many ideas are seeping out of its trail. I am just walking forward with these ideas, shaping them up as I walk on.

So what is animating me?

How to pass on learning from experiences…

A great KM4Dev conversation, actually emerging from the combination of two different trails (which you can follow directly on the Dgroup if you are a member):

The SECI model keeps on raising eyebrows (Credits: UKEssays)

The SECI model keeps on raising eyebrows (Credits: UKEssays)

This is the great debate of combination-internalization vs. socialization-externalization. Or in other words: documenting and codifying vs. sharing and learning.

It also relates to a question I asked myself a while back: What is good in a project?

Before that, however, here’s one very interesting (f not really new) comment from one of the conversation participants:

How do you incorporate learning loops (that are not reports) in the projects you are engaged in? (Beverly Wenger-Trayner)

The difficulty of the debate on what to record vs. what to share in other ways relates to the complexity of tasks at hand: best practices can be highly codified in texts, documents, videos etc.; good practices can be listed; but appropriate practices for a given complex situation can only be explored as we move forward, sharpening our questions – putting our questions in motion. There is no giving guidelines on how to deal with it.

At the other end of that double-sided conversation, was the toolkit conversation, which also hints at the codification of practices to guide better practices. And here comes another insight from another conversation participant:

The learning step comes first, then choice of  toolkit follows – yes? Many toolkits don’t distinguish WHEN to use WHICH tool in a learning spiral. (Valerie Brown)

Yes: How to organize toolkits in a way that they can guide people through either simple, complicated or complex situations (arguably chaotic situations wouldn’t get dedicated toolkits – or would the)? There is certainly an opportunity to beef up all these existing and aspiring toolkits out there – some of which Nancy White started listing here.

And my final layer on this multi-idea multi-conversation multi-mulling process relates to the comfort of people with what is fix, fixed, static and aesthetic. The attraction of beautiful calm, still nature. I was recently talking to an acquaintance of mine who’s trying to help some organisation with knowledge management and that organisation seems to be focusing on having products (some would have the databases) like a knowledge management strategy, to feel secure on that front.

Where is the thread in all of this?

All these questions and reflections are quite interesting in themselves. But there is something more to them, that brings them together:

Experiential learning is a constantly challenging journey that brings us to meet people, co-create ideas, refine our frame of mind, our theories of change, our practices sometimes. And that experiential learning is faster, wider and/or deeper as more people join that journey (social learning), and as that journey is shaped by questions, not by answers.

The diverse perspectives and experiences between the people on that journey ineluctably lets questions arise, as bubbles of possible change that challenge the aesthetic fixed world we have created. The questions we engage in with others bring reflections of where our beautiful world is actually flawed and needs further work. Experiential learning is a journey of learning, of meeting, of change.

Learning is unrest. It requires people to let go of their security, to accept that their truth of yesterday may not be the one they wish to keep today. Some sort of transformation that is deeper in social learning (see this great framework for it below), which leads to the second relation… meeting.

Meeting people – not just superficially but really, deeply – puts you in a dynamic mode that helps you peel the layers of learning loops. Combined with learning it opens avenues for change.

Changing is agreeing – and showing – that you can actually rest with what previously caused your unrest. It is the journey to understanding that the beauty does not lie in a static picture, but in the beautiful choreography of change and transfiguration that people are going through. What is beautiful is their courage, and their resilience.

There is a point, however, in stopping from time to time that process of ‘learning and questioning in motion’ to look around. Contemplating the strong questions we have been pondering, taking our breath again before the next voyage of change is ignited. And sometimes these moments of respite are just another way to question things and trigger change but from another angle, as KMers navigating between fast flow and slow space. But the bottom line is: better be in motion, as it brings you in contact with others who help deepen or fasten your reflection of change. If you understand French you will appreciate the relation of all this with this quote…

Un intellectuel assis ira toujours moins loin qu’un con qui marche. (Michel Audiard)

And so there actually is a red thread in all of this: motion and contact, as the forces behind innovation. And the first step is to open your door, so people can see and meet you and open your mind, so other minds can see and meet you through it too.

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2 thoughts on “Experiential learning and the power of questions in motion (Ramblings and mumblings around…)

  1. Hello Nadia!

    Thank you for your engagement and reflections, as ever! Yes unrest is part of questioning journey, and it actually gets quite comfortable also to ask questions. And then it itches again when you see that you keep turning up the same questions but the actions behind the questions are not following through… which creates more questions. Perhaps the ‘life in perpetual beta’ which Harold Jarche talks about is indeed the right metaphor. Prototyping as a way of life…

  2. Dear Ewen, great post, many thanks. I couldn’t agree more. Yes, learning is a constant journey shaped by questions. Ela Ben Ur said, “a prototype is the question.” I would add, the journey is the question. Unrest is part of it. Best, Nadia

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