This is, as you can probably imagine, a rather short story. As I noted in another post, trying to get MBA strategy students excited about anything more than next quarter’s results is a particular challenge. In much of the project work in which I was involved, the project groups were comprised of a consortium of partners from different European countries working through the common medium of English, and consortium lead partners generally worked on the assumption they knew what needed to be done and how and were less than open to alternative approaches to anything other than what they know. And that is the crux of the matter: in most situations, although processes are involved, if you aren’t the process driver, you stand little to no chance of getting anyone to open up something new.
About 10 years ago, though, my oldest daughter and a business partner started-up a small English-language training company, and by that a company to improve English-language competence in companies. It did not offer, like most of its competitors (Berlitz, Wall Street Institute, Interlingua, etc., all of whom have their own “secret-sauce” methods to guarantee learner success) general-purpose English instruction, rather it offered business-sector specific and department-relevant instruction for its customers. That meant English for sales and marketing in an international transport company, or automotive-design English for a global car maker, etc., or stated differently, we offered highly customized programs to individual customers, both at the customer and at the individual level. This was our foot-in-the-door offering to be complemented downstream by scalable programs on intercultural business competence.
This is only possible if you are willing to base your approach on open standards (Common European Framework for language competency levels, related to the notion of Communicative Competence across all four basic language functions (listening, speaking, reading, writing) as applied to whatever business domain is involved) and have a process that allows for flexible, yet targeted, development. Our model for lesson/module/course/curriculum development was based on Young’s seven-stage process model which was coupled with Kolb’s learning cycle and styles model (which fits well with the levels of Young’s model) to guide delivery.
As my daughter was the primary instructor, it was fairly easy to get her up to speed on what I was thinking, but we also employed a number of freelancers as is so often the case with start-ups. It wasn’t too difficult to get them to understand how and why this might be a meaningful approach, especially since they themselves were often unsure just how one tailors language instruction as specifically as we were. But Young’s model is also easily depictable on a Powerpoint slide, and in a brief “teacher-training” session I was able to get the essence across fairly quickly.
Yes, yes, I know, it sounds like a brilliant idea, but inept marketing and sales along with even more inept financial management (my daughter’s business partner’s ballywick) combined with the financial crash in 2008 which hit the Stuttgart area of Germany particularly hard created a cash-flow asphyxia that the company simply couldn’t survive. It was fun while it lasted though.
I’m all for recursive reflection, and I think that’s what I hear you addressing, a self-reflective reflecting on reflections that are not just one’s own but reflected by those mirrors of self we call others. Yes, life’s often like finding you’ve awoken in a hall of mirrors. And to deal with this, I believe we need tools, which we’re very capable of making.
Theories make me itchy. Too often, theories are little more than glorified and academicized opinions. I’ve been too close to science for too much of my life to want to base my actions on opinions. If you’ve got a theory that can be tested, fine; then show me how I can use it in my world or what good it does in helping me understand the world and I’m OK. Some theoretical musings, however (and both Young and Gebser are very relevant here) are presented such that we are offered or can derive models from them. As I described above, Young’s model is very adapatble in many areas of of life that have nothing to do with its origins (a cosmology of consciousness). Gebser’s framework provides a general-purpose tool for evaluating statements about consciousness. There are other more general tools out there, like the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, that are exceedingly helpful in finding one’s way around the hall of mirrors. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that thinks providing life sojourners with little things like knot-tying techniques, skills in using a pocket knife and how to use nature as a compass might be helpful when you aren’t around to answer questions.
One of the first lessons I learned when I went from working in an education into a commercial-engineering environment was “the person with the list wins”, so I was always making lists. It turned out that more often than not, this list overlapped in some way with that list, or maybe even that other list as well, and the next thing you know I found myself building spreadsheets, and cubes that helped not only with my own orientation but which were helpful to others.
Fundamental principles, from physics, biology, software development, engineering, literature, education, religion, esoterism … you name it … are invariably compatible with each other and with the larger, more general purpose models and frameworks I’ve collected. But even disregarded mundane items can be helpful. Taking a tip from Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking, I found that if you put disparate things (ideas, problems, models, notions, concepts, objects) in the same “space” and observe them long enough, their relatedness will become manifest and it will be a productive manifestation, perhaps one that inspires the making of a special-purpose tool. Being artistically challenged, I would say, I’ve never found how to present the results in art. What I have found, though, is that I can often construct a diagram or the like that gets the point across to others more quickly than I can explain it in words alone (like the Tower of Babel I made to identify language content areas, or the C3PM (Contextual Communicative Competence Process Model) for curriculum development or whatever.
In other words, nothing is taboo and everything is somehow related and we can focus our awareness and attention on whatever tickles our fancy … but more importantly, we can share those attentions, awarenesses, and tickles with others. That is what I understand under aperspectival adjacent possibilities. We always have to be mulling over whatever we have to mull over and my experience has shown that this can be hugely inspiring to others if the others whom you are with are open to mulling and have a willingness to be inspired. The world isn’t going to be saved (if it can be saved at all) by some grand overarching idea. It will be saved because thoughtful, reflective, insightful people did things to save it.