Sunday, November 29, 2009

Learning from masters and across disciplines

Rom Violist (Budapest, 2006)Image by daskar via Flickr

It is much easier to learn from practitioners who are doing similar things and are working in similar ways as you do. But maybe are slightly ahead of you in some ways.

Weggeman in his book 'Leiding geven aan Professionals? Niet doen!' about managing professionals recounts the story of a famous violist. The story illustrates at the one hand that there may be masters who may find it hard to explicitate their knowledge in words. On the other hand, it show that it is hard to learn from someone who is not a practitioner with a similar knowledge base. Here's the story:

A journalist asked him what the secret was of his success. He thought for a while and then said: "I think it is the way I use my bow, look, this is the way I do it. And this is the way a lot of my colleagues do it." The journalist didn't understand it and couldn't turn it into any sensible information. There was a masterclass pupil of the violinist who had heard the interview and was busy for about half an hour to try and explain to the journalist what the famous violinist had meant.

The journalist did not have the same basic knowledge about playing the violin as the masterclass pupil had. As a result the journalist could not understand the explanation. the pupil was able to understand it and make sense of it.

This bites the idea that you can learn and innovate by working across disciplines. The potential to learn from other disciplines may be high- but the risk that you never understand a thing is very high too.. It may explain for instance the sometimes apparent closedness of the development sector. You hear complaints that the sector is not open to learning from other sectors. It probably needs brokers like the masterclass pupil to make sure that learning is possible at all.
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Dorine Ruter said...

Hi Joitske,
Interesting thoughts, thanks!

A large part of my work relates to the topic of farming for health or green care. Using the farm en farm environment to support wellbeing and sometimes rehabilitation of people with special needs (disabled persons, older people). Many of the problems in this work are caused by misunderstanding between people with either an agricultural or a health background. Best care farms are those where the farmer him/herself acquired experience as a practitioner in both fields. Also, you often see succesful care farms where the farmer's partner (mostly wife) has a background in health or education. So the partnership / marriage is the bridge between two disciplines.

Finally, one more comment: I think that a lot of potential in 'learning across disciplines' is also in the use of metaphors. E.g. managers learning to deal with complex crisis situations through a 'cooking class' from a master chef - who's ofcourse an expert at handling a lot of responsibilities and actions that need timely responses.


Joitske Hulsebosch said...

Hi Dorine, nice one about the marriage as the bridge between the two disciplines! I like you example about managers learning from cooks too, though I wonder about the learning experience here. Unless there is a link to a burning question and some reflection- managers may not learn many lessons I think

Web Solutions said...

Learning from practice is a really good skill. In this way you will be able to learn a lot from your masters.