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Tuesday, 15 July 2008 12:08


Section III - Transformative Learning
Chapter 7 - Other Seminal Learning

Organizations that are continually expanding their capacity to create their future require a fundamental shift of mind among their members.

Taken from the Learning Organization web site

What are the key learning experiences that provide the fabric into which we blend other learning, and from which new knowledge and wisdom emerges?

When I attempted to answer the above question, I came up with the following learning from which I've synthesized the thoughts and stories in this ‘book'. We each have our own seminal learning, and it is hoped that what's offered here complements what you've learned, and motivates you to think about and share the seminal learning in your life. Every once in a whileOO_III-7_2009-02-16 we learn something that has us rethink and reset what we thought we knew, and helps us create a basis for listening to a new understanding of how life might function. In some ways the new learning matches other life experiences, so at some level we already knew it, but it helps us overcome the myths upon which previous beliefs were built.


What follows is a series of seminal learning topics that are key to my world-view and embedded throughout this website.




Theory U

Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself - while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble

Taken from the Theory U web site


What inherent capability do we each hold for synthesizing ideas and experiences?

Last Fall I had the pleasure of hearing Otto Scharmer, the author of Theory U explain and literally show us his teaching. After explaining that there are three phases to Theory U - Co-Sensing, Co-Presencing, and Co-Creating he articulated the following. Co-Sensing is a process of downloading patterns of the past, seeing the view from the outside, and sensing the view from within. Co-presencing is viewing the source while having not only an open mind, but an open heart and an open will. Co-creating, is the full integration of every facet of our lives. When this is done within the context and guiding principles of the natural world, then we will have co-created our sustainability ethic and it will live in the heart and soul of everything we do. Let me share three examples - one from Otto Scharmer's presentation, the second in the write-up that follows on Panarchy, and the last in the write-up on BioMimicry.

Dr. Scharmer showed us a video of Placido Domingo in concert. He was singing in Italian so I have no idea the name of the aria or what any of the words meant. But I could feel his connection with the deep loves and losses in his life. He was standing next to the conductor of the orchestra that provided a very powerful musical background. In fact, at the beginning of the song, the conductor seemed in his own world, focused on the creation of his own beautiful music. As the expression of love, sorrow and gamut of feelings poured from Mr. Domingo in the most beautiful and powerful way, the conductor became entranced with the singing and the orchestra assumed a supportive role being careful not to distract from the solo performance they seemed so privileged to be viewing. We have a tendency to perceive of Mr. Domingo's greatness as his voice rather than his capacity to include in his voice his true emotions and spirit. And when we hear this beauty, we may not understand that Mr. Domingo's capacity to express his emotions awakens within us parallel emotions. And although few of us have such beautiful voices or other widely recognized talents, we do have the capacity to remember past experiences, be touched by their impacts, and to express them authentically. In the write up on Human Dynamics below, there is an acknowledgement that individuals do differ in terms of their capability to tap into the emotional facets of their experiences, and these differences each include their own set of gifts.


Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler

Albert Einstein

How might we learn to flow with nature and its cyclic changes?

One of the critical components of understanding Living Systems is their common flow that was developed by a group of scientists who studied macro systems such as glaciers, savannahs, and coral reefs and compared their findings. The study and the common flow are described by two of the scientists, C.S. Holling and L.H. Gunderson, in their book, Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems.

The following graphic, a simplified ‘Panarchic Cycle’, is briefly explained below, and in more detail in the context of Living Systems in Chapter III-3.

Generic Flow of Panarchy

Relative to the basic energy of the system, there is always some significant energetic stimulus followed by rapid release and reorganization, followed by exploitation, then conservation, and then another energy stimulus. In the case of the savannah, it is easy to discern that there are millions of living plants and animals all operating in their cycles, and contributing to the ongoing change in the overall savannah. Dr. Hollins noted that in every case exchanged by the scientists where there had been an attempt to manage the natural resource, it had had a negative effect. Instead of understanding the flow of the system and flowing with it, there had been an attempt to change the flow.


It was a relatively short time later in the same
Illahee series that I heard a gentleman named Jerry Franklin, a professor of Forestry at the University of Washington, relate his story as the first person out of the helicopter on Mt. St. Helens after its 1980 eruption. He told us that everything he'd been taught to expect from his geology and life sciences classes needed to be discarded. He had expected nothing but death and destruction everywhere - that he would step onto a dead zone that might take decades to recover. Instead, he found himself surrounded by life. Plants were beginning to pop out of the ash, and there were little critters everywhere - release and reorganization had begun immediately after the eruption.



Biomimicry is a new discipline that studies nature's best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems.

The BioMimicry web site

How might Nature be included as an integral member of our learning culture?

In Spring of 2000, I had the privilege of attending a Janine Beynus workshop at the Chinook Center on Whidbey Island where I was introduced to Nature as a Model, Mentor and Measure. The themes as I remember them were that -

  • Nature's technology was superior to our own in that over the billions of years that it had evolved, it created stronger materials, was more efficient, and better (perhaps perfectly) suited for sustainable living.
  • There are lessons to be learned in terms of cooperation, as well as blending relational and hierarchical ways.
  • A few very forward thinking entrepreneurs have successfully used nature as a model for designing products, organizing and technological innovation.
  • Mother Nature provides all that is necessary for life.
  • Mother Nature can also be very unforgiving.
  • There is a sensuality and intelligence that pervades all of Nature.

When I left the workshop, I felt very inspired.

In October of that same year, I attended the Natural Step's 5th annual Sustainability Conference where Janine was a keynote speaker. She arrived a couple hours before her talk, and I when I saw her, I went over to see if she would like my input on the Conference. She said she would and confirmed that she was going to use the same slides she'd shown us at her workshop a few months earlier. I told her that I thought they'd be received very well, and remarked that I sensed a little different listening at this Conference. There were attendees from all over the World almost all of who practice sustainability and honor Nature more than our own culture, and many of whom were Indigenous. She said that it was interesting that I mentioned a different listening because she had felt since infancy that she communed with nature - both the plants and animals. As I remember, she said that she had a mild form of autism, and I asked how old she was before she spoke. She said three or so, and that to this day she doesn't speak the way I, or others, do. She said that everything comes to her from the Earth, and up through her body, and out her mouth - she has learned to trust this way of being. So in addition to all the other things I learned from Janine about BioMimicry, I learned about the very deep energetic connection that some of us have with all of life, and to appreciate the wisdom it brings.

I find myself understanding that other people have the capacity for deep energetic connection with the Earth and all of life, but it is not something that I experience as they do.

The following two seminal learnings helped me immeasurably in developing my understanding and appreciation. The first, Human Dynamics helped me understand that based on an individuals preferred way of bringing in information and processing it, and the predominant dynamic of his or her cultural, there are vast differences on our capacity to connect with Nature. The next, Quantum Physics helped me understand that Newtonian reality isn't the only reality, and in order to connect most deeply, there must be an internalization of the quantum reality.

Human Dynamics

The work of Sandra Seagal and her associates is seminal. It offers a simple, elegant and powerful framework for understanding the diversity of human functioning and for realizing its potential. It will have an immense impact upon management, education and families. Those of us involved in building learning organizations will look back and wonder how we ever proceeded without the understanding and appreciation of the diversity of human functioning that Human Dynamics brings.

Peter Senge
Author of "The Fifth Discipine"

How might we explain the vast differences among cultures so we might combine the best that each has to offer for addressing sustainability?

Shortly after we formed the Organizational Learning Center - Northwest, I was asked to meet with a woman, Ms. Kathy Quigley who had been trained as a ‘Human Dynamics' facilitator and recently moved to Portland. She explained to me that Human Dynamics (HD) was formulated by Sandra Seagal who opined that we each have one of three preferred ways for bringing in information, and one of three preferred ways to process it. Our dynamic is defined by combining these two preferences. So there are nine potential dynamics, five of which are common in our culture. Kathy then showed me a 2-part video. The first part was of adults, grouped by their dynamic, who had been invited to join in preparing and sharing dinner followed by a conversation related to, ‘What is Important to You in Conversation?'. I was quite surprised at how different each of the five groups appeared to be, and the degree to which I related (or didn't relate) to their opinions and reactions to each other. The second part of the video was of five groups of three children, 10 or 11 years old, grouped by their dynamic, who were given a big table to work on with lots of creative resources, and were asked to build a model park. How the children listened to the instructions, interfaced with one another, what they built, and how they responded to questions and comments afterward, were all distinctly different. I was told and later confirmed that the essence of these results was consistently replicable for both the adult and children when grouped by their dynamic.

I needed to know more and we set up a Human Dynamics workshop. After some introductory work and each of us getting clear about our own dynamic (a few people struggled with identifying themselves), we were presented demographic data that showed different cultures have different predominant dynamics. Caucasian cultures of Europe and North America are very different than Indigenous and Asian cultures that may vary from country to country. It also became clear that the dominant culture in the US in terms of our leadership and power is a minority dynamic (25% of us), and the majority dynamic (60% of who we are) is a weak or non-existent voice in power situations. I remember how this hit me, and I blurted out - ‘We have a majority minority in this country.' The facilitator asked me what I meant, and I said that the majority of people care about how others feel and relate in whatever group they're in, and the people who set the agenda's in business and government, generally have no time for it. What I then learned was that this 60% of caring, nurturing, sharing people - attributes I'd always assumed to be feminine - were, in fact, about 50% males. Another significant learning from the workshop came from a display at the back of the room in which there were pictures and writings arranged in 5 displays - one for each of the most common dynamics. At the center of each display was a statement, ‘Learning Begins'. To recognize that there are distinctly different needs for learning that fall into 5 categories, and that students need to be taught, affirmed and measured in distinctly different ways is paramount for education. I've been told by 1st grade teachers that a child knows by November of the 1st grade if they are falling behind, and we know from HD that some children who have the potential to be very good readers (and storytellers), probably won't do well on reading and writing measurements until the 3rd grade. Needless to say many of these children get discouraged and never catch up.

Some months later, I was asked to explain HD to a faculty group at Portland Community College. After a short presentation, I showed the video of the children building the model parks. When I asked the professor who invited me what she thought of the video she said, ‘I have just seen five beautiful works of art -- none of which could have been judged accurately if I didn't know the child's dynamic; and none of which could have been judged fairly if I didn't know my own.'

The examples I've given of isolating adults or children by their dynamic provides a great deal of learning, but it is very misleading in terms of understanding the worth of Human Dynamics. I attended a 4-day workshop in which the primary intent was to learn the power of having a group composed of people from each of the 5 prominent dynamics. We were asked to complete a relatively difficult problem in a short time, so we relied on each other's inherent strengths, and came up with a proposal that exceeded any of our expectations in terms of depth and quality. We not only combined our individual strengths, but we shared in ways that brought multiple perspectives to sub-portions of our project. It also was very clear that each of us as individuals wanted to be more integrated in terms of bringing in information and processing it in ways that before seemed difficult, perhaps even foreign to us.

Perhaps it is important to note that I am of a minority dynamic - Physical-Mental. I prefer to bring in information mentally - think rather than feel, and process Physically - systemically. The dynamic is only 5% of who we are in Caucasian cultures. It is the predominant dynamic in Japan - a culture that I loved to work with while at IBM, and a place that I find very comforting to visit. As you can see from the ‘Conditions for Learning' description below, it accounts for my desire to be systemic, look for broad perspectives and synthesize.


  • Purpose for the learning made explicit;
  • Structured outline and considerable context provided;
  • Clear, systematic, and concrete detailed presentation;
  • Opportunities for "learning by doing" (kinesthetic emphasis);
  • Instruction supported by models, diagrams, and charts;
  • Careful pacing, with sufficient time to absorb, assimilate, and distill data, complete tasks, and formulate responses;
  • Opportunities for reflection and solitary work;
  • Opportunities to work with others after assimilating details and preparing models.

Also, one of the conclusions from the ‘Archetypes for Sustainability' work in Section IV is that the learning and wisdom that is most important for us to understand is from the Indigenous people of the World. Their predominant dynamic, Physical-Emotional is energetically connected to life and the Earth, but is also only 5% in Caucasian cultures.


  • Utility of the learning made explicit;
  • Considerable context provided;
  • Clear, systematic, concrete, and detailed presentation;
  • Clear parameters for assignments (specific instructions for what, why, where, when, how);
  • Kinesthetic emphasis in a "hands-on" environment (opportunities for learning by experience, demonstration, and involvement of the whole body);
  • Deliberate pacing;
  • Sufficient time allowed to absorb, assimilate, and distill data, complete tasks, and formulate responses (whether spoken or written);
  • Concentration on one topic at a time over an extended period, rather than many different things in a relatively short time;
  • Periodic checks to ensure that sufficient data is available;
  • Avoidance of singling out from group;
  • A relaxed atmosphere.

Understanding these attributes may make it clearer why this particular dynamic generally struggles in most public school systems, and why their wisdom is absolutely essential if we are to achieve sustainability.

Quantum Physics

Though physicists do not understand the origin and organization of these invisible force fields, they are convinced that they definitely exist and play a regulating or guiding role in all physical systems

Gary E.Schwartz, page 12,
IONS Shift Magazine June-Aug 06

How might we open up to the possibility that there are realities beyond our every day experiences?

I was a Math-Physics major as an undergraduate at Whitman College, and I had a 'Quantum Physics' class shortly before graduating in 1962. My professor's name was Dr. Ross Lomanitz. He was a protege of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer who was instrumental in building the atomic bomb. Like Dr. Oppenheimer, Dr. Lomanitz was targeted as a suspect during the McCarthy era, and in 1949 testified before Congressman Richard Nixon and the House Un-American Committee. I didn't know it at the time, but Whitman had stepped way out on a limb by hiring him. It is with great gratitude to Whitman and Professor Lomanitz for their courage and integrity.

The Quantum Physics class was extremely difficult from the point of view of trying to understand the mathematical equations that describe how atomic particles behave. Yet it was totally intriguing at a conceptual level for reasons that more and more apparent to me years later. Recognizing that there is a part of our world based on probability and uncertainty; that we exist in a field that is so present yet so mysterious; that there is always a relationship between the observing and the observed; and that the potential dangers of nuclear radiation with half-life's of tens of thousands of years both exposed and enhanced my Newtonian worldview.

Quantum physics defines for us a new reality that has been masked by our Newtonian reality with it's laws that seem so complete and absolute. One of the things that has been masked and is integral to this workbook, is something that is omnipresent but unseen. It is the energy field through which all life is connected, and it carries with it the capacity to communicate not only in words, but all of life's emotions, intentions, and sensual pleasures. In terms of this workbook that began as a book with the title, 'The Appreciation Field: Co-Creating our Sustainability Ethic', this energy field can be discerned as an appreciation field, the medium in which goodness begets goodness in ways that truly allow us to understand the concept of abundance.



Each of has experienced some set of learning that has not only change how we think, feel and act, but blends together with an emergent learning affect.

What is this set of learning for you?
How did one learning complement the other(s)?
What is the new reality that emerged for you?


Rev. 2009-02-16


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