Space to Think

So thinking can develop

Charles Handy’s Learnings in Life

Handy’s memoir has so many pithy insights from a life lived reflectively (see last posting). He is also a very good writer. He dislikes the term “management guru” and styles himself either as a “word-smith” or as a “social philosopher”.
On learning, Handy offers:

Warehoused learning does not stick.

In other words, learning that is simply tucked away for future use is rather unreliable. We need to connect learning with experience.

But Handy adds that experience without reflection is also inadequate. He uses the example from the world of counseling of reviewing casework with colleagues. Handy’s book is a fine example of the fruit of a life lived with disciplined reflection on experience. This is close to the insights of Donald Schon on education for professions. His work in Reflective Practitioner and Educating the Reflective Practitioner are still worth grappling with.

Significantly, Handy was honest and reflective enough to build these insights into the management programmes he taught. He recognised that the programme itself was of very limited value as a learning opportunity unless it helped students understand experiences they had had in the past.

I will add some further thoughts from Handy here, but recommend the postings of Terry Seamon on Charles Handy.

Terry also links to a forthcoming America Management Association webcast of an interview with Handy.

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January 9, 2008 Posted by | Charles Handy, Education, Handy, learning, management | 1 Comment

Knowledge vs Sense

I have been reading the excellent personal memoir of Charles Handy, Myself and Other Important Matters. He is true to his title and both reveals a lot of himself, particularly his dilemmas and ambivalences, and offers many astute reflections on life. One recurring theme in the book is that of education and learning. Often Handy simply expresses so well what, once it has been expressed well, is obvious or self evident.

Most education is a systematic way of passing on the knowledge possessed by one generation to the next. In that way it acts as a means of socialisation, of accustoming the young to the ways of their elders. Be like us, is the implicit message of our schools and colleges, and you will be all right. It makes for a comfortable world and to some extent it worked when life didn’t change that much from one generation to the next. The predictable world is changing, even within one generation. Relying only on what worked yesterday will not help you today; it may even hinder you.

Handy goes on to write of his time at Oxford University and his discovery,

The book answer doesn’t matter if yours is better.

Handy is, of course, merely stating in other ways what is implicit in Bloom’s taxonomy of learning; but the phrase that stood out most for me was that relykng on what worked yesterday “may even hinder you.” One thing to accept that knowledge moves on, but what if we really took seriously that education based on the transfer of yesterday’s knowledge may actually hinder the student? The challenge is, as the Hippocratic Oath has it, to keep those we serve from harm and injustice.
How can we ensure that those we resource for their learning are not deprived of Handy’s insight?

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January 9, 2008 Posted by | Education | | Leave a comment