Sunday, March 08, 2009


Arthur Battram's excellent Navigating Complexity has this little gem from Sheila Harri-Augustin:
Learning operates on the edge of chaos, somewhere between a stable system of order and an unstable system of disorder!It is here that personal meaning...gets constructed. At the two extremes of behaviour of all systems, order and chaos pervades. Between these two extremes, at the edge of chaos, one finds complexity!
So the edge of chaos is where the action is - take the original sense of chaos as chasm and we get a sense of standing on the edge of an abyss - comfort zone, perhaps, in the vernacular.

I can relate to this aspect of learning - a far cry from the received wisdom of learning as a process of filling memory with data and algorithms.


I thought it did until I looked up chaos in an etymological dictionary. It derives from the greek for empty space, abyss and links to chasm. So it's about a lack of organisation or structure. But is it confused? Or are we so conditioned by our love of structure and certainty that we project confusion onto what is perhaps better termed a possibility space?

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I came across this notice on Thursday, up in Scotland. Is it me, or this one step on the Health and Safety ladder too far?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Yesterday's facilitation of a local government management team reminded me of polarised management approaches: "Don't bring me problems - bring me solutions" is at one end of the scale and provides a sink-or-swim development opportunity. At the other end, the directive approach, where the manager tells their report what to do and how to do it, short circuits the development opportunity but gets the job done.

Somewhere between these two extremes lies what you might call the coaching approach: the manager supports the employee to find a way forward. This reduces the risk of error and failure, provides development for the employee and the manager, and fosters delegation, independance and, paradoxically, collaboration.

Clearly this won't work for all occasions, but perhaps it'll offer long-term growth possibilities for the whole organisation that the others can't?