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Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago

April 2,2007


The intended output of learning systems is to increase the health (see Health for definition we are using) of an individual, and through that, increasing the health of other related systems.


If we consider an individual a well bounded communication ecology, we can focus on the individual through the lens of our model. In the following discussion, I will use system to focus on individuals, but to suggest that the same process applies to all living systems at different scales and space/times.


The process we call learning might be described as decreasing the cycle time between input and output, and increasing the innovation functionality of the transformation activites in the service of a system's ability to make activity decisions that will tend to create wealth (See Wealth for the definition we are using).

Input---->Transformation---->Output---->Stress Reduction----->Wealth

The efficiency of a system can be measured by the time elapsed from Input to Stress Reduction.

Healthy systems create wealth as a byproduct of stress reduction.

Sustainable systems create more energy than they consume.


Most living systems naturally adopt new activities primarily in response to stress. In this sense, stress is a motor force of change. See Stress for the definition we are using. For stress to be creative, as opposed to dysfunctional, a number of conditions should be met.

  • The time horizon should be clear and long enough for stress resolution but short enough that it is within the individual's time horizon.
  • The necessary new inputs should be both available and accessible with appropriate energy expense.
  • A variety of transformation functionalities should be both available and accessible.
  • The penalty for failure should be manageable for the system (individual).
  • The value for success should be clear and well defined for the system.


An additional factor in maximum learning effectiveness is the system governing the interactions of the proximate systems of power.

  • A relationship of power inevitably creates significant stress on a system, primarily through the rules that govern communication and activity. Power centers have sanctions - both real and imagined - that can significantly effect perspective activation and activity decisions direclty.
  • If the power center perspective is focused on the learning individual it can be an important factor to move towards creative stress.
  • But if the activated power centers use perspectives that are focused on other activites, the probability of dysfunctional stress can be significantly increased.



In plain words, this model might be helpful in intervening in some of the following situations.


If the power centers of a public corporation are focused on the stock price instead of the output that is the source of their revenue - their product and the customer experience of getting that product - they tend to make ineffective decisions.


If the power centers of a local public school are focused on increasing their brands to their supervisors in the larger system, they have less time to focus on managing the prime value creating relationship in a school - the relationship of students to teachers, other adults and each other.


If the power centers of a political system are focused on the needs of getting elected, and the operant perspective is informed by the need to hire consultants and raise money, they have less time to focus on the needs their constituents.


If the power centers of a university are driven by the needs of expansion and greater prestige, there is less time to focus on the value creating activites of teaching and research.


Since most system intervention in more formal societies is in the form of communication as opposed to coercion, this model might suggest some practical approaches.



Focus on the systems that create value in a particular system.

In most schools it is the personal relationship of a student with a teacher, either in the classroom or in more informal, usually extra curricular, settings. Sports, clubs, newspapers, etc have the unique property in most schools of being voluntary activites. Students' participation is usually relatively reliable evidence of the interest that is the necessary but not sufficient, condition for learning to occur.


Only proximate personal relationships can respond fast enough to student stress. This is what has been called the "teachable moment". It passes very, very quickly. To be most effective, the response must be almost immediate.


In most businesses, it is making the deal, deliverying the product, responding to customer questions. Again, these are all "teachable moments". Usually a slightly slower response leads to an outcome where what is learned is not to trust the business. Definitely suboptimal for building a brand.


In politics, it is listening, and responding quickly. The point at which a regular citizen gets in touch with a political organization is a "teachable moment". Interestingly, based on my experience, most of the new internet "discussion" of this election cycle is same old, same old. The automated spams one gets after signing up to "join the conversation" demonstrates that the new contact is seen as a ATM machine or a network of ATM machines. What is learned from the stress of this "teaachable moment" is that the politician is interested in getting your money. Perhaps it is in the interest of "good positions" But definitely sub optimal for building loyalty to a brand or getting new "customers".


What might a policy maker do

Policy makers are usually focused on the legacy power centers of formal organizations.

If the legacy power centers do not have the time or resources to focus, put in place a different power center that can. An alternative approach might be to modify the communication flow so that the costs, to the power center, of input of appropriate information is significantly lowered. Lower information acquisition costs will increase the likelihood of power centers receiving "actionable intelligence" in a time frame that might allow appropriate intervention.

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