Saturday, December 09, 2006

How Old is Your Knowledge?

When you learned your science, physics and chemistry at high school, could you imagine that the information you were getting was over 30-50 years old already? How old are you now? You do the math - you might possibly be a little bit out of date.

Professor Natalia Tarasova, Director of the Institute of Chemistry and Problems of Sustainable Development at Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia, spoke at our network meeting today about the need to update curricula in the sciences and keep it current so that our next generation of scientists don't leave school already out of date.

What about the rest of us? How do we update our learning? We can’t all go back to school - this takes time (which we don't have), it takes money (which we might also not have available), and it might take displacement (which we don't want necessarily.) And it is possible that the information you will get is also 30-50 years old. That updates you a bit, now you are just 30 years out of date again instead of 70. But what if you want to be right up to date – how do you do this?

Where do you get your information? Do you have time to read books? Do you have time to surf the web? How deliberately do you try to find the information you need to do your work and make your decisions, or do you rely mostly on what you have? Jay Cross, author of Informal Learning, says that workplace learning is 20% formal and 80% informal. Formal learning might be those introductory Spanish classes that they offer at your work. Informal learning however, is an interesting combination of reading, internet surfing and search, audio-visual inputs, speeches and presentations, meetings, and conversations in the cafeteria, corridors, and on the bus. For the most part in these activities learning is quite accidental and not a deliberate objective. There are learning opportunities around every corner. What are you doing to structure your informal learning?

We Don't Use the "L" Word.......Enough

Did you know that the Earth Charter, a soft law instrument that is gradually becoming "harder", has the word Love in it? One of the principles of the Earth Charter is to "Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love."

Leadership development practitioners, such as those at the Teleos Leadership Institute are increasingly talking about "Whole Leaders" and how to build capacities in our development leaders which incorporate mind, heart, body and spirit. Their new book Resonant Leaders explores "renewing yourself and connecting with others through mindfulness, hope and compassion."

This weekend I am at a steering committee meeting for a network of sustainability scientists and leaders that I have the pleasure to attend each year in December, in Walliselen, Switzerland. In our very first conversation this morning we talked about what makes this particular network of sustainability leaders, which has been active for 25 years, so successful. Members agreed that when this community meets, it becomes one of the few environments - safe creative spaces- where you can integrate your intellectual work and "love". In the conversations of this group, people can talk in the same sentences about global change, development trends and dynamics and care, concern and love for society, the environment, their friends and themselves.

The difference? They do not feel that this type of holistic conversation diminishes the intellectual rigor of their points. On the contrary. It is felt to be more real, more accurate and more representative of the real world, than the potentially one-sided conversations happening in science-based bodies now. Think about it, when was the last time you used the "L" word in one of your workplace conversations?