A fascinating meeting at SOL Brasil – Society for Organisational Learning

I went to a really interesting meeting on Friday with SOL Brasil. SOL is the Society for Organisational Learning founded by Peter Senge, who has of course written about Henri Bortoft along with Otto Scharmer. There were some really interesting people there, many of whom are business consultants and analysts introducing systems thinking into organisations.

SOL Brasil

The talk was about Schumacher College, Kaos Pilots in Denmark and Team Academy in Spain, i.e. cutting edge educational models. I had some great side conversations, and one chap was already doing a part-time degree in Anthroposophy here in Brazil.

A question I get asked a lot is how can this be applied at a practical level. For me Henri Bortoft’s demolition so to speak of General Systems Theory is still as relevant now as it was in the 1970s, and still has yet to be widely appreciated (This can be found in Bortoft’s 1996 book The Wholeness of Nature). I think if we need to help people comprehend the limitations of “drawing lines and boxes and thinking that that was the whole” as Henri used to say, and move towards a more organic systems view of organisations and people within them.

Another person spoke about how people he has worked with always talked about “resources” and he was confused until he realised that they were talking about people. Some people think in mechanisms, others see real human beings.

I have recently read David Cerbone’s Introduction to Phenomenology, and although the great proponents may have been attempting to achieve different things with phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Satre, Merleau-Ponty), what it really does well is force us to contemplate questions that science can not handle. It forces us to really examine our own mental models in a way in which is phenomenally profound (excuse the semi-deliberate pun).

What I focus on is talking about the intimate relationship between thinking and seeing, and this I have very much learnt from Henri. Language is not just about the transmission of facts. It can be a way which leads us into the phenomenological way of seeing, but it takes someone like Henri to write in the way he does to really help us get there.

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