Space to Think

So thinking can develop

Importance of fantasy and inadequacy of experts

Reading Alan Bennett’s annual ‘diary’ in the London Review of Books (vol.30, No.1); his entry for 15 October reflects on a conversation with Peter Gill who was bringing out a book on acting, Actors Speaking. Bennett writes:

He thinks that what has been a shortcoming of American actors, namely, that while superb at naturalism they find artificiality difficult, is now the case here [UK] …

Bennett goes on to comment, with Gill, “today’s generation of actors are better at imitation … but what they lack is fantasy…” Bennett gives examples of actors from lowly backgrounds who have been very successful both generally and at portraying a range of characters.

… all of them had some sense of their proper position in life, a fantasy of what they wanted to be which these days would probably be disapproved of or discouraged, fantasy frowned on as some sort of escape.

This all got me thinking. Perhaps we have so exalted the expert and technical knowledge that we fail to value the contribution that imagination and fantasy can make to our lives, personal and corporate. If the only standard against which we measure ourselves and others is established expert knowledge, or orthodoxy then there can be no real innovation, only adaptation; no entrepreneurship or leadership, only management. If we are measured against some agreed sense of ‘reality’ then what we must do is imitation rather than creativity.

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January 30, 2008 Posted by | Cognitive Edge, complexity, Education, imagination, leadership, management | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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