Thursday, May 3

The New Hierarchy: First, learning to BE; second, learning to DO; and only then, learning to KNOW

I had a high school teacher who observed that the male students seemed to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to be male students, and the female students seemed to spend a lot of time trying figure out how to get male students.

As I work with companies implementing both social networking and simulation technology, I have observed a new hierarchy of needs.

1. Learning to Be

People strive to know who they are. What do they like to do, and what do they hate to do? With whom are they most comfortable, or motivated, or depressed? Who are their role models? How can they get satisfaction and sustainability out of life? What are their priorities? What is a good day and what is a bad day? Where do they fall on the issues of the day? Is it better to be directive or participative?

As people figure this out, they want to test this new personality out on the world. They make comments online, and post pictures. They speak up at meetings. They give suggestions and then orders of their co-workers, friends, and subordinates. They strive understanding and validation.

To a large degree, this has been the drive of much of social networking and web 2.0, as well as pop culture, and "Cosmo" and self-tests. People today strive for self definition increasingly globally, not just defining themselves by where they live, where they work, or as a friend or enemy of the next door neighbor.

2. Learning to Do

People then want to have a impact on the flow of their world - to change the course of activity in a positive way because of what they do.

This is where the big skills, such as leadership, stewardship, project management, and innovation come in. This is where people put forth some blood, sweat, and tears, and experience ownership

This is where simulations play a critical role. Immersive learning simulations, especially practiceware, have the ability to give people ten years of distilled experience in 15 hours.

Sims develop an awareness of the all-critical "active knoweldge" trinity of:

  • actions;
  • results; and
  • the hidden system that too often counter-intuitively connect the two.

3. Learning to Know

At this point comes the learning to know. This might be cultural literacy/history, or organizational history, or trivia. This is where we try to make sense of the world we inherited - to piece together the giant puzzle. This is where books and the History Channel become so interesting. It is around this third category that academics has built both their curricula and their research process, one of the reasons I have so little hope for the role of Ph.d dominated Foundations to add significantly to the first two.

I say again that what we teach is limited by what we can teach. The exciting thing about this new media order is that we have more power at our fingertips for development than ever before.


Bill Sawyer said...


I would add a thought that you missed one. I'm just not sure of its locations in the hierarchy. It would be one of the following:

0. Learn to Learn
1.5 Learn to Learn

Well before our consciousness develops into a sense of "I", we are learning machines. We depend upon it for our survival as both individuals and as a species. But, learning grows with us.

Initially, learning is virtually an autonomic process. Before long, it begins to take on more and more characteristics of choice. There is still learning by chance or environment, but we begin to take more control over our own learning. Eventually, Malcolm Knowles' six core adult learning principles (andragogy) come into full effect.

However, we have completely ignored the question, Is this the best way to learn? Are there better systems, methods, processes for learning that, if we first learned how to utilize these, we would or could dramatically improve our learning? Or, what learning processes have been imposed and/or inflicted upon us that, if we could remove their influence, would or could dramatically improve our learning?

Overall, I think this is a wonderful model for career development. Forget the old new hire orientation. Move to a model that simply teaches an employee how to "Be", "Do", "Know" ... and somewhere in the mix, "Learn"

That's my two cents,
Bill Sawyer

Clark Aldrich said...

Hi Bill,

Great point. I think that is a component of each of the three. But if I had to put it in one, I agree that learning how we best learn is part of learning to BE.

jay said...

Clark, I don't understand why this is a hierarchy. All three levels are interrelated. One influences the others. No?


Clark Aldrich said...

I believe all hierarchies and taxonomies are artificial, with inevitable overlaps and an editorial overcompensation!

Perhaps more relevantly, in this case they are also iterative.

For example, I have just been hired by a company. 1. Who am I in this new company? 2. How can I do what I am asked to do? 3. What is the greater context?

So yes, Jay, you are right (or rather, I agree, because who am I am tell you that you right!). But for some, the hierarchy will still be a useful tool.