What do Learning Organizations, Plato’s Cave and the Veil of Forgetfulness have to do with eachother? Let me try to explain a little bit. Every person on this planet has to learn. You can do this roughly two ways: learning by the book (risc avoiding) or learning by making mistakes (risc seeking). If we project this onto Plato’s Case we can see basically two “types” of people in there (sorry for the categorization, just done here to explain the concepts). The ones who look at the illusions and thus only see reflections, they don’t see the real light outside. Maybe they even don’t want to see the real light. If that is the case, better leave them be where they are happy, don’t force them to learn things they don’t want to learn. They’re probably just happy where they are. And then you have the other “types” of people, those who want to discover, and who don’t want to live in illusions. These are the people that probably want to ascent to the (sun)light and are probably very open to share their knowledge with anyone. What they should never forget is to apply the Universal Law of Free Will when trying to share their knowledge to those who are not really open for it. And then finally, there is the Veil of Forgetfulness. What the veil says is that if there is no misunderstanding there will also be no error. So if there is no error, there is no experience. And if there is no experience, there is no spiritual growth in the brain. So people definetely need chances to learn by making errors sometimes. This is what the veil is meant for. And now wrapping it all up: if you want to help an organization or group of people or a culture or a network become a learning organization, never forget to use the Law of Free Will to find people who want to learn from others. Also never forget the Veil of Forgetfulness to help find those people that want to learn by making mistakes. And apply Dalai Lama’s statement “Life is too short to learn all things yourself by experience” to find those people that are open to learn from others.
Goffman’s Interaction Rituals inspired me. Wikipedia says the following: “Once an individual gives out a positive self image of themselves to others they then feel a need to keep or live up to that set image. When individuals are inconsistent with how they project themselves in society, they risk being embarrassed or discredited, therefore the individual remains consistently guarded, making sure that they do not show themselves in an unfavorable way to others.”
This (very common) human behaviour is in my opinion driven largely by fear, in fact fear for inconsistent behaviour and/or fear for being “tagged” as incompetent (fear for incompetency). In a society like ours, where fear is most often regarded as a taboo, it is therefore very very, sometimes extremely difficult to change existing “systems” or “system of systems” just because we dare not to say to our environment that we were wrong earlier. We rather keep up appearance that everything is fine, is ok, even though in our deepest heart we know it is not of we know we would like to change the systems we designed ourselves in the past. Fear is therefore an emotion with a negative connotation and is hidden or suppressed at large. This is because we do not dare to publicly show that we have these kind of fears. This in fact is because society would make us a victim and victims are not really accepted in our society. The real victim here is however the society itself by allowing all of us to sustain our hidden/suppressed fear behaviour. This behaviour can lead to strategies like re-use before buy/build, whereby we don’t want to replace existing designs by new designs, just because once ago (sometimes long ago), we designed such a system ourselves. Take the financial system as an example: we collectively designed that in the past, now we see through recession that it doesn’t work optimally anymore, but yet our collective fears for redesiging the system blocks us from innovation where it is most needed.
So what’s the remedy? In fact, it is super simple. The opposite of fear is respect/caring/love for each other, showing to each other that no-one’s really to blame, allowing each other to make mistakes because that’s human. Imagine the innovation power our society would obtain if we were able to replace all fear with love! I therefore am a great supporter of Peter Senge’s 5th discipline about learning organizations (learning culture) and also a believer in Dalai Lama’s statement: Learn by errors made by others, you don’t have time to repeat them. This had inspired me to replace the traditional re-use before buy before build paradigm with re-search before re-use before… So take “re” “search” serious: if you are going to (re)design a system, first re-search before re-use and innovate if another has had already better ideas than you (principle: follow the knowledge).