Archives for April 2013

What poses more danger to the NHS – dirty data or dumb leadership?

A great blog on the stupidity of leaders and politicians, and it’s getting worse!

Reflections on the Open Space event 21 March 2013

Open Space event 21 March 2013We judged the event (details) to be a success with a 100 or so present in the audience. Thanks to Wendy Mill, Fiona Savage, Mike Bell, Jacqui Mitchell, Andy Lippok, Chris Alder and Gordon Cassells for all their work and for speaking on the night.

The event was free to attend and the venue (Summer Hall) was chosen accordingly. That worked out well on the whole, although there were some drawbacks, principally around the acoustics for the discussion groups in the second half. Another time, we might position the groups in a different way to avoid these difficulties.

We sought feedback from the attendees and have a number of points to think about. In general terms, the feedback varied from unconvinced through to “fabulous”, mostly in the favourable to very favourable category.

One specific theme is refining the message of the Unreasonable Learners so that it engages widely, is positively expressed, and retains sufficient coherence to make a difference. With the diversity of subjects and viewpoints in play, this represents something of a challenge.

Another theme that has been emerging for some time and which was reinforced by the Open Space event is how we most effectively share the learning already at our disposal within the network. Gathering the expertise and achieving the personal growth necessary to effect systemic and sustainable change is a key area.

This will be discussed further at our meeting on the 18th April.

Running the event on a free-to-attend basis was in line with the ULN’s philosophy of achieving as much as possible without outlays. Whether this is the right policy is regularly discussed. So far, the case for establishing a funded organisation with administrative resource has not been made. The time may come though when that is an essential step. Meantime, we proceed with an approach of sharing the tasks as widely as possible. Remaining an entirely voluntary organisation has implications for consistency and our ability to meet third party expectations. Views on this point would be welcome.

Our speakers at the Open Space event deserve our thanks. If you attended the event, thank you for coming along and contributing to a considerable success.

Please feel free to comment with impressions of the event, ideas for further events, and suggestions or comments in general on the points mentioned above.

Connections with the Society of Organisational Learning (SoL) in Boston

SoL logoSoL North America is interested in the work of The Unreasonable Learners. (The Society of Organisational Learning (North America) is closely associated with Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, one of the classic references on systems thinking.)

Every month, SoL NA organises a conference call of members to focus on the work on one of those members and support them in their projects. David Fraser is a SoL member and recently suggested that the group might be interested in hearing about and discussing the work of the Unreasonable Learners. This they were and the call is taking place on 5th April, facilitated by Michael Sales who, among other things, studied with Chris Argyris and has a number of useful perspectives relevant to our work.

Michael Sales

Michael Sales

The call is focused on three questions of both particular and general relevance chosen from a longer list of issues…

  • Recognizing the constant interplay between inner personal maturity and the outer system, how do we further the development of the relationship between the self and the system – both in ourselves and in others?
  • How do we best lead in a system that is tightly controlled?
  • How do we stop the bipolar nature of organizational and public politics preventing the generative dialogue needed for organizational learning?

SoL members putting forward the subject of a call are encouraged to make substantive requests for assistance from the other participants. Suggestions of specific requests for help from SoL North America would be welcome. Please comment here or email

SoL North America is very keen to be connected with what is going on in Scotland, in and around the Unreasonable Learners Network, and sees systemic change and the organizational learning that lies within it as something it would like to support and contribute to.

Feedback from the call will be posted in due course.

Comments welcome.