Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Universe Story and the Person Story

What's the meaning of existence? Well, that's a huge question, and not one that lends itself easily to reflection. But let me try here. I think there are two parts to the answer:

1. A universe story
2. A person story

The former concerns the meaning of the whole thing, the latter just the meaning of one individual life.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Talent, gavn og fortryllelse

Hvori består en livsmening? Hvad skal en livsmening handle om eller indeholde, hvis den skal være i orden? Lad mig foreslå disse tre ting: talent, gavn og fortryllelse.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Is Terrorism a Purpose-in-Life Pathology?

It's a challenge for most people to find deep purpose and meaning in today's secular, superficial consumer society. Some people turn to traditional religion, and a few find extreme, simplistic solutions to their maladaption and meaninglessness.

Strap a bomb around your waist and join the divine by flicking a switch. Your life, although over, has suddenly become meaningful. This is the ultimate in instant gratification, however perverse.

Telos is the Greek term for purpose, and teleology is the study of purposeful behavior. Is the modern terrorist a teleopath? Someone who is pathologically disturbed in the purpose-in-life department?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Learning, self-organization and meaning in life

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak to a group of Danish consultants who teach project management. They wanted input on principles and criteria for better educational practice: How can we become even better at teaching project management?

I suggested that since the modern konwledge worker has turned life itself into a project, we need to teach project management in a way that mobilizes people's sense of meaning in their lives.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Facilitative democracy

Facilitation is a way of helping a group of people make decisions. But isn’t this what government is all about: Making decisions that apply to a group of people? In particular, isn’t this what we understand by democratic government: The people makes its own decisions?

Let’s elevate facilitation to a form of government, just as democracy and autocracy are. So, facilitation is not just one of many management techniques, it actually represents a major way of governing people.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Læring og livsmening

Hypotese: Vi lærer bedst på det emneområde, hvor vores livsmening ligger.

Understøttende påstande:
  1. Alt, hvad der har med vores livsmening at gøre, oplever vi som utroligt spændende (interessant, sjovt, vigtigt).
  2. Det, vi synes er spændende, elsker vi at lære nyt om.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hvordan forskning kan kvalificere praksis

Kommentar trykt i Information 4.5.06

I sidste uge forsvarede to kommentatorer samfundsforskningen mod min anklage (18.4) om, at den primært beskriver problemer og ikke bidrager nok til løsningen af dem.

Søren Gytz Olesen (24.4) mener nøjsomt, at det er tilstrækkeligt med empirisk og praksisbeskrivende forskning. Og hvad er i øvrigt mit forskningsbegreb?

Tao Kongsbak (28.4) foretrækker at borgerne selv gennemfører sociale eksperimenter. Fint, men samfundsforskere kan kvalificere dem betydeligt. Hvordan?

Lad mig besvare begge spørgsmål med et eksempel fra vores forskning på Learning Lab Denmark ved Danmarks Pædagogiske Universitet.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Autopoiesis for Beginners

Autopoiesis means self-creation, but why is that concept so interesting?

It was coined by the Chilean biologist Humberto Maturana around 1970. It was picked up by familiy therapists, social constructivists, organizational psychologists and, famously, the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann.

But what does it mean? I have come across countless incomprehensible explanations. In what follows I’ll share my understanding, developed when I was associating with some of Maturana’s and his pal Heinz von Foerster’s groupies in California in the early 1980’s. Forgive me if my terms are a little rusty, I haven’t been keeping up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Horseshoe Dive: A Model for Transformative Research

Many social and organizational researchers want to improve organizational life or transform some such corner of the world. That seems like a contradiction in terms, for is research not a matter of figuring out how things are and letting others do the changing? Well, yes, that's the classical view. Today, how may we conceptualize social research as an attempt to improve action?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

17 Learning Techniques for Lectures

You’re a teacher, a lecturer, a professor. You have an hour’s worth of lecturing to do. How do you help your students get more out of your stuff, so you won’t see them nodding off after half an hour? Try these facilitated learning techniques.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Otte opråb om forskning

1. Det er ikke primært flere
forskningsmidler, vi har brug for
Alle forskere ønsker flere penge til forskningen. Men det er ikke mængden af forskningsmidler, det kommer an på, men hvad de bruges til. Mere af det samme fører os ingen nye steder hen. Vi kan få langt mere samfundsmæssigt udbytte af forskningen ved at forskerne ændrer karakteren af deres forskning - som jeg hævder i min bog "Forskning i sammenhænge" (Multivers, 2006).

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Did Luhmann Write over Maturana's Dead Body?

I read an interesting factoid in the Wikipedia the other day: that ”Maturana has explicitly refused to be cited by Luhmann as a supporting theorist” (in the entry on Niklas Luhmann). This is remarkable, to put it mildly, in light of the fact that Luhmann’s entire mature oeuvre, twenty years of work and almost as many books, is built on Maturana’s concept of autopoiesis.

Tjener samfundsforskningen samfundet?

[Trykt i Weekendavisen, Ideer s. 8, d. 9. juni 2006]

Er samfundsvidenskaberne indrettet på at hjælpe samfundet udvikle sig? Nej, det var synd at sige.
I de seneste år er forskningen overraskende kommet i politisk medvind. Politikerne forestiller sig, at forskning fører til økonomisk vækst og velfærd. De bliver naturligvis ikke modsagt af universiteterne, for her er jo endelig en chance for større bevillinger.

Forskning for samfundet?

Trykt i Information, 18. april 2006

Information har i en serie artikler med temaet ”Ud af kosteskabet” belyst det spørgsmål, jeg rejser i min bog, Forskning i sammenhænge: Bidrager forskerne nok til udvikling af liv og samfund? Eller medfører deres forskningsmetoder og karrierehensyn, at de specialiserer sig ned i snævre huller, hvor fx samfundsforskerne blot beskriver samfundsproblemer frem for at bidrage til at løse dem?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Research that Connects

I have a new book out, in Danish: "Forskning i sammenhænge", or "Research that Connects".

I argue that the natural and social sciences should contribute more to the development of life and society than they do now. Scientists are much too concerned with publishability and careers. They could become involved by studying the way the natural world is connected or coheres and ways the social world could cohere.

Facilitation: a Key Distinction

Here's a conceptual challenge for students of facilitation. You can't tell people, "Make sure to have fun at the party and laugh a lot." That's nonsense. But you can tell people, "Walk around these chairs, and when the music stops, find a free seat quickly."

Likewise, on a more serious note, a mediator can't tell people in conflict, "Get over it." But she can tell them, "Each of you, tell me how you see the issues, and please don't interrupt each other. Then I will help you make a list of your issues. Then you will come up with many ideas on what to do about the first issue on your list, then the second..." and so on, all through the six steps of a mediation. Which may finally help the parties get over their conflict.

How do you express this difference in general terms? What is it that a facilitator can and cannot do?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Action Knowledge

There is much talk of the knowledge society. But for that, we need a new understanding of what knowledge is: Action knowledge. For a start, I think we need to distinguish between knowledge and information.

In an airport, the four monitors displaying departures and gates offer information. Only the one line about my flight turns into knowledge as I read it: “The gate just closed, I gotta run!”

Information is cool facts about the world. Knowledge is the hot stuff I can use to act. Information may or may not be relevant to anyone. Knowledge is only what is relevant to someone, that is, useful, meaningful, valuable and personally important. Information is parceled into bits, facts and statistics, but knowledge is always contextual.