Business & Education: Some Uncommon Sense About Learning — Part 2
A Surprise Bonus: The Development of Intelligence.
The improved performance that results from both the HOTS program and the Developmental Organization Technology are, by themselves, highly impressive but are not the most startling change that occurs. There is also a documented increase in the level of intelligence in the participants over time as they continue to develop in these models. In the schools, this increased intelligence is in:
• Meta-cognition: Consciously applying strategies to solve problems
• Inference from context: Figuring out unknown words and information from the surrounding context
• Decontextualization: Generalizing ideas from one context to another
• Information synthesis: Combining information from a variety of sources and identifying the key pieces of information needed to solve a problem
What the HOTS Education Process Looks Like
The education model takes ten percent (10%) of the students’ time and involves them in a self-organizing, self-managing process. If you walked into the classroom, you would observe the teacher engaging with an ungraded group of students, or on some occasions individual students, in an intensive interaction. S/he may be asking them to reflect on discoveries of the previous day and/or to link concepts learned from the previous day’s program to other programs or everyday experience. Any answer that is offered is immediately followed up with challenging and probing questions. The idea is not to determine a correct answer but to push students to articulate their thinking, to experience extending and building thinking interactively, to explore alternative strategies, to help them see and understand the perspective from which they are looking at the situation or idea, and to learn to construct meaning rather than be told what to do, how to do it, or why to do it.
Students learns to test ideas as fast as they can generate them, using instruments on which or through which to develop their thinking. In most schools this is a computer, although the computer is not the dependent variable in the process. After testing an idea, there is again probing interaction to produce reflection in the student and again articulation of the thinking that is developing. Over a period of 3–6 months, students begin to model the teacher’s interaction and thinking processes and become more self-generating of the processes already initiated. At this point, there is an escalation in the complexity and scope of the concepts and the processes used to engage the student.
As a part of the process, the student is also asked to extrapolate the learning from one situation and apply it to another situation. They begin to be able to move ideas and understanding from one situation or one context to another. When barriers or confusions arise, students are, through carefully worded questions, guided to develop their own answers and, from these discoveries, to develop a process for formulating their own strategies for solving problems. Students are challenged with very difficult concepts, and are responsible for generating their own thinking. This inevitably results in students producing an increasingly rich quality of thinking and understanding.
Students are presented with materials and exercises that are ambiguous in concept and direction. The student is expected to extract the meaning from the materials and interpret the exercises to determine the direction. There is no attempt on the part of the teacher to influence the thinking developed or direction taken, again only to ensure reflection on the part of the student to observe value gained, processes used, and utility of the thinking developed. Audits of the level of understanding that has been developed are used neither to correct nor to give approval or disapproval to the student, but only to design subsequent materials and processes. Working with the computer or other instruments for feedback, students are increasingly able to understand themselves and their own development. They learn to understand how they arrive at the “output” thoughts they have by understanding their own thinking processes.
One of the surprising elements is that there is no teaching of math or reading or any other basic skills in these sessions, and yet these skills, as we noted above, rapidly improve at rates that exceed those of average students and, in many cases, equal those of gifted students.
What the Developmental Organization Technology Approach Looks Like
For the past 30 years, the Developmental Organization Technology has been applying fundamentally the same principles which shape the HOTS approach to development and learning in business arenas in many companies around the world. Walking into a developmental session utilizing this technology, one would see processes very similar in nature to those described above, though with other instruments substituted for computers. The development of adults, however, presents additional challenges not found in working with children. In order to ensure the same level of success, additional processes and higher levels of capability on the parts of the instructors are required, in part because it involves working with a far more complex set of mental and emotional dynamics. Not surprisingly, many of the mental and emotional characteristics that create these added challenges are a result of schooling in traditional learning processes.
With so many more years of life, most adults have crystallized very strong ego patterns that filter any new experiences or input. They have very little tolerance for being uncomfortable, and consider it something to be avoided. Business managers and workers also have very little patience to wait for results. They have additionally been conditioned to believe the conventional wisdom about how education should be conducted, and so may be less open initially to processes that contravene this wisdom. In some cases, this leads to a fear of “looking stupid” for not having the “right answers” immediately. These differences do not make this approach impossible, but require that more work be done initially on changing people’s belief systems about learning, developing and “trying on” new behavioral concepts, and building more self-reflective capability.
Processes Unique to Developmental Organization Technology
In developmental sessions where new materials are introduced, people work in holographic and/or natural work teams whenever possible. Instead of the computer, the use of sophisticated concepts to improve work in the pursuit of greater value adding and value generating processes and products provides focus for learning and development. By using real business tasks to apply the new concepts and engage with the developmental processes, changes within the work environment can be used as feedback from which the participants extract meaning and self-reflection. Conscious, intentional use of mental structures builds both systems thinking capability and discipline in the minds of individuals and groups. A fundamental aspect of Developmental Organization Technology is people working on their own personal development, along with team and organizational development, in order to learn to manage in the face of the challenges and struggles that are evoked in any transformative process. Working on personal development requires some way to be of service (to make a contribution) to something beyond oneself in order to activate the higher nature of self which then serves as a managing entity for the ego as it experiences confrontation.
Essential Capabilities Required by the Developmental Organization Technology
In the HOTS approach, the primary focus is on the role of the classroom teacher. In the Developmental Organization Technology, capabilities in two key roles are essential to having the process work — both must be present and integrated. These are Leadership, (initially from managers; ultimately from all levels within the organization) and Resources (initially external resources or consultants, ultimately internal resources or employees of the business).
Managers plays a particularly critical role in providing the nature of leadership required to enable success in the initial stages. Over time, this leadership is developed at every level, and in every function within the organization. Some of the primary characteristics of this nature of leadership include:
- Belief in the capacity of everyone to develop and learn beyond any level that could be predicted.
- Appreciation for the role of ambiguity, complexity and struggle in developing intelligence and, correspondingly, ability to restrain the desire to help or rescue people for whom one feels responsible.
- Willingness to redefine one’s own role, and to help others do the same as capability develops.
- Ability to sustain integration of developmental and business improvement efforts. (e.g. providing arenas for testing and applying new capabilities which involve responsibility for increasingly demanding business situations, goals and concerns)
- Value for building developmental processes into all the systems, structures and processes which make up the on-going operations of the business.
- Supports the developmental process from a basis of personal experience and integrity as a result of having participated to a meaningful level of depth.
The Resource is the closest equivalent within the Developmental Organization Technology to the role played by the classroom teacher in the HOTS approach. Because of the sophisticated level of capabilities required of this role, it is initially played by a consultant as an External Resource. One of the responsibilities of this consultant however is to develop, within the organization, Internal Resources who can carry on this role through time. These people are an essential element in the self-sustaining nature that is characteristic of the technology when it is appropriately applied. Capabilities required to play this role include:
- Extensive experience and skill in Socratic processes; (interactive questioning processes which evoke self-reflection) and understanding of the design, timing and psychology of successful struggle. For example, ability to work interactively to create the development of meaning and deep understanding, without particular attachments either to any “right” answers or to the subject matter being worked on; ability to maintain a non-judgmental and developmental environment in which participants can face the struggle, experience initial failure at difficult tasks and eventually master them due to innovative instruments and teaching methods, thereby building confidence through their own achievement in succeeding at levels beyond which they initially felt capable.
- Capability to design developmental processes. For example, ability to design and manage group processes that introduce and maintain a level of ambiguity in the concepts and direction that is appropriate to the current level of capability and developmental needs of the group; ability to design for individuals and groups in a living way so as to always be just ahead of their evolution.
- Understanding of the full range and systemic interrelationships of the developmental models and processes that must be introduced in order to embed self-sustaining, self-organizing change processes (normally a period of up to 8 years), and the theoretical base from which they are built
- Ability to model, with authenticity derived from personal experience, personal development, self-reflective processes and self-management.
What is Not the Cause of the Improvement
Research has isolated the following elements, and discovered they are not the dependent variable in creating the successes resulting from the HOTS program and the Developmental Organization Technology. In other words, doing any of the following by themselves will not produce the transformation in intelligence and ability to contribute that marks these two approaches.
- The use of the technologies and associated instruments, such as computer/software, or the frameworks and mental technology without the interactive processes and teachers/resources with sufficient capability and experience in designing, leading and engaging participants in these processes. Using questioning of participants without understanding the structuring behind the questioning process does not create the shift in state or thinking. The recent popularity of having third parties ask questions may get people to think about a question, but without the particular curriculum, the technology for structuring particular nature of questions, and the capability to ask reflective and systemic questions, the transformation in intelligence and personal state does not happen.
- Use of the interactive processes with any curriculum. The sophistication of the materials, appropriate levels of ambiguity and increasing levels of complexity and precision in concepts and language are all essential ingredients of the “curriculum” required to build intelligence.
- Copying the form of the results: For example, putting participants in multi-level, cross functional, operating, or slice teams. The teams, without the other elements, will move quickly to a depleted state, even with initial positive energy.
- Expecting more of people or using recognition and rewards with teams or individuals which meet the expectations. Instead of promoting self-organizing development, this creates people who are motivated by external forces rather than intrinsic reflection.
- Using traditional approaches to teaching thinking skills. The traditional approaches include teaching problem solving models, as well as critical, and lateral thinking skills. Although they are teaching useful techniques, they are not transforming of intelligence, and therefor of the ability to create one’s own techniques to meet ever-changing environmental demands.
- Trying to produce a crash course that accelerates learning. A constant and continually building experience involving the introduction of concepts and interactive processes over an extended period of time is required to embed the capabilities required for self-sustaining, self-renewing change processes.
Both the Developmental Organization Technology and the Higher Order Thinking Skills Program share as critical elements the developing of thinking capability in interactive processes that use appropriately designed materials, in conjunction with instruments that can give interactive, self-extracted feedback (distinct from externally generated, toxic feedback, discussed elsewhere). This feedback is used, in turn, to help the participant (whether individual or team) gain self-reflection and self-managing capabilities. These capabilities enable seeing and managing one’s own mental processes, one’s own inner responses to challenge and uncertainty. Perhaps even more important, they also develop the capability to generate strategies to continuously improve one’s ability to manage the above — a capability that is at the core of the continuous evolution of an organization.
About Carol Sanford
Carol Sanford is a regenerative business educator, the award winning author of The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, and executive in residence and senior fellow in social innovation at Babson College. She has worked with fortune 500 executives and rock star entrepreneurs for 40 years, helping them to innovate and grow their businesses by growing their people. Learn more about Carol and her work at her website.