Model for Education in the MG Taylor Network
July 11, 1997
"Knowledge, for us, is an abstraction
with no independent existence. . . When I listen to Native people I get
the impression that knowledge for them is profoundly different: It is
a living thing that has existence independent of human beings. A person
comes to knowing by entering into a relationship with the living spirit
of that knowledge." --F. David Peat
"Communication is not a transmission
of information, but rather a coordination of behavior among living organisms
through mutual structural coupling [a structurally coupled system is a
learning web that responds to its environment by changing its structure]."--Fritjof
"The power of abstract thinking has
led us to treat the natural environment--the web of life--as if it consisted
of separate parts, to be exploited by different interest groups. Moreover,
we have extended this fragmented view to our human society, dividing it
into different nations, races, religious and political groups. The belief
that all these fragments--in ourselves, in our environment, and in our
society--are really separate has alienated us from nature and from our
fellow human beings and thus has diminished us. To regain our full humanity,
we have to regain our experience of connectedness with the entire web
of life. This reconnecting, religio in Latin, is the very essence
of the spiritual grounding of deep ecology." -- Fritjof Capra
Editor's Note: The models in this paper were developed at the knOwhere
store in Hilton Head, South Carolina by a team consisting of Gail Taylor,
Bill Rutley, Dave Desmond, Brenda Eckmair, Jay Smethurst, Todd Johnston,
Michael Bell, and myself. However, I have chosen to add a number of my
own views here, which are not necessarily held in common by the team;
indeed, some of these ideas were not even presented during that session.
I hope the team will indulge my solo excursion.
Bryan Coffman, editor
We're not going to reinvent the university system. Our approach to education
has nothing to do with reinvention.
In early discussions concerning education and training in the MG Taylor
network, we coined the term "Flock University". University implied
the educational aspect of the initiative, and flock
referred to the emergent property of complex systems that enables a collection
of agents following simple rules to coordinate their behavior for mutual
support without resorting to a command and control, top-down method of
direction. The next time you watch a group of birds flock, you'll understand
how impossible such behavior would be if it relied upon a chain of command.
The flock's efficiency and reaction time would allow for massive predation
of the community and probably an inability to compete for food sources
in a requisite time frame. Sounds like what a lot of ventures of all sorts
are facing today.
Unfortunately, the term "university" conjures up a strong mental
image of departments, buildings, exams, lectures, and labs. Tables in
rows. Professor and students. Grades. I'm not attacking the university
system. However, it cannot serve as a model for our own education and
Even the term "education" brings deeply ingrained assumptions
to the forefront of consciousness. It requires considerable effort to
create a system that is both workable, yet leaves much of the baggage
of a 19th century, industrial economy-based invention behind.
With those thoughts in mind, what follows is a somewhat different approach
to education and training in a distributed network.
The Six Components of the MG Taylor
Education and Training Model
The shell that maintains the structural integrity of the entire
system is purpose, or reason for existing. Purpose is not merely a statement
of intention. Pattern Lanaguage
elucidates purpose. Purpose is a complex, dynamic description of an archetype.
People in the web refer to and act from these patterns in order to replicate
and evolve its structure.
Communication creates and maintains the web and allows it to
adjust in balance with the environment. We need to expand our sense of
dialog for purposes of this model, however. By dialog we mean that everything
speaks. Nothing is passive. Nothing is merely an object. People, machines,
artifacts, images, physical environments all interact with one another.
The quality of this interaction and the management of the resulting body
of knowledge determines the fitness of the web as a whole.
Quite simply, the efficacy of the purpose is demonstrated through our
work with our clients. This is the story-making part of our work.
This is as close as we'll get to a traditional approach to education.
Simulations are algorithms designed to allow individuals and teams to
get a feel for the dynamics of a system without the expense or risk of
engaging the real system. They also allow us to repeat the experiment
over and over with some control of the variables--to run a number of iterations
to gain more understanding of the system from a variety of vantage points.
When I refer to simulations I include computer simulations and computer-supported
group immersion simulations as well. Putting a team through an "office
of the future" scenario is an example of immersion simulations. The
Patch Theory simulation we've run
at several 7 Domains® Workshops is another example.
Using the term "simulations" only serves to remind us that
each workshop contains a simulation component and a simulation feel, much
like a DesignShop® event. People interact with each other as individuals
and in teams engaged in exploring and experiencing concepts. Explanation
and example are kept to a minimum.
I confess to some uneasiness using this term--I am sure that many Native
Americans would find the application offensive, and rightfully so. I just
can't think of an alternative other than the term "Consortium of
Transition Managers." I don't believe Westerners have any sense of
what it means to be tribe--at least the vast majority of us don't. We
make and break our bonds with each other far too easily. We have no conception
of interconnection in general. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, we consider
the individual as the focal point of life--we're consumed with our own
self, our behavior, our angst, our passion. We have an entire, burgeoning
legal and theraputic system that attempts to compensate for our inability
to maintain the strong relationships implied by the term "tribe."
Committing to tribe is not about being unselfish; it's about changing
what we mean by the "self." Remove an organ from a person, and
the organ dies. Is is incapable of separate existence apart from its ecosystem.
If the viable unit is the individual person, then our vision of education
is in trouble--we had best recant, retrace our steps and adopt a more
conventional approach to education that focuses on the success or failure
of the individual in the system. If we can casually remove ourselves from
our mutual commitments then we haven't any web at all. And if we preach
web from this vantage point, we're engaged instead in an act of self-deception.
However, if the viable unit is the tribe or web, then we have a chance
of changing the world.
Organizations and ecosystems take time to build. Transformations take
time and stable networks to effect. The MG Taylor approach to delivering
NavCenters facilities calls
for a three year roll-out
and transfer of the process to support organizational transformation.
I used to think this was too long. Now I think it's too short. The connection
ought to last much longer.
Simply because the rate of technological change increases at some geometric
rate doesn't necessarily imply that all transformations on a human scale
should follow suit. Some things require a lifetime to learn and can't
be gained in a 30 second sound bite.
So, hampered by having no experience of what it means to be a part of
an Indigenous Tribe, let me paint a picture of the purpose and actions
of the MG Taylor Tribal Council.
The council consists of every member of the network who has been determined
fit to represent the MG Taylor philosophy and methodology (which is not
necessarily the same thing as representing MG Taylor, the organization).
The council meets to reaffirm and recreate the Pattern Language for the
Web, the Rules of Engagement, and the Modeling Language--the MG Taylor
way. Council members work with each other to improve the ways in which
they all work within these three components. These components express
our collective belief concerning how the world works and our place in
it. They bind the tribe together. Members tell stories that illustrate
the Pattern Language, the Rules of Engagement and the Modeling Language
in their own practice. The council follows the Four Step Recreative model
by creating and recreating Vision, Templates, Actions and Feedback.
The Council also determines fitness. A new member to the network receives
a sponsor and joins a Community of Practice. When the sponsor and the
member agree, they come to a Council meeting where the Sponsor will advocate
the new member's qualification to represent the MG Taylor philosophy and
methodology. The Council members discuss the issue in the presence of
the sponsor and the new member and at some point make a decision, which
must be unanimous. There are no secret ballots.
There are only two "standard" fee rates for KreW in the network:
one fee for new members, and another for those who are fit to represent
the MG Taylor philosophy and methodology. Other fee rates exist, and here's
how it works. Once a member is fit, he or she may engage their own clients
(they may choose not to, but some will want this option) and deliver to
them the process within the boundaries of the pattern language, the rules
of engagement, and the models. For example, there must be an appropriate
environment, etc. Within these boundaries, the member may represent that
the process the client is entering into is an MG Taylor one. Outside of
these boundaries, the member may consult but may not use the modeling
language, nor represent that the process they use is an MG Taylor one.
Whatever the member can charge for the session is what they can charge.
Of this fee from the client, a portion will be available for KreW, which
may come from local sources or through the MG Taylor network Stew function.
The member states the parameters of the session and offers a fee for the
KreW members. The fee can be any value. The Stew function posts the information
for the network to see, and then we have created a market place for Council
or Consortium members.
The last function overseen by the Tribal Council is the approval of individuals
to serve as Sponsors in the network.
Sponsored Communities of Practice
The Sponsor, the Community
of Practice and the Tribal Council are the three organizations that hold
the network together. Every new member to the network receives a Sponsor.
(see also the Learning
Path: Five Points of Mastery model). Sponsors are not assigned: instead,
the new member may peruse a directory of Sponsors and which communities
of practice they belong to. (It's not necessary for the Sponsor and the
new member to belong to the same Community of Practice.) The new member
then asks the Sponsor to be their advocate. Once a Sponsor accepts, then
it's up to the two of them to work out and follow a program that leads
the new member towards attaining fitness in the network and membership
on the council. This includes participating in Events, Simulations, and
also attendance at Tribal Councils (without decision-making authority).
Or the member may decide that working in the web is not for them.
A Community of Practice is a ValueWeb community consisting of a
small group of people, perhaps up to twenty or so. It may have one or
- Geographic proximity, for example, a small Management Center, Design
Center or knOwhere store may have one or more communities of practice.
- A particular client, for example, a NavCenter facility in a company
may have its own community of practice.
- A small manufacturing or service organization: perhaps a small company
builds components of WorkFurniture™ for AI as a community of practice.
- A skill-focused community like a group of scribes or facilitators.
- A group focused on a particular project, for example, a multi-media
package or the Journal of Transition Management on the MG Taylor website.
There could be many different types. However, a true community of practice
has a purpose and an ability to demonstrate its viability within the network.
Each community of practice has a Knowledge Work Information Broker (KWIB)
as its point of contact, and a web page describing its activities.
Each member of a Community of Practice will serve in all of the five
points of mastery, as indicated in the following diagram.
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