Gini Nelson\’s Engaging Conflicts

February 9, 2007

Transformative Learning, Adult Development, and Adult Complexity Of Mind, Part One — EngagingConflicts.com

Filed under: Uncategorized — Gini @ 8:18 am

sheep looking into cameraThis post marks the beginning of a series on adult development and adult complexity of mind, a relatively new field of study and application about how human thinking capacities evolve sequentially and how these theories can be practically applied in such fields as adult learning, professional development, and leadership development, all of which are relevant for attorneys, mediators and others working in conflict management and resolution. I previously published the series as part of a column I wrote in 2002 and 2003 for the print newspaper, the Los Alamos Monitor. The series will overview some of the leading theories and tools used in executive and leadership coaching: constructive-developmental psychology, Carl Jung’s theory framework of mid-life as a natural epoch in human development, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator© (MBTI©).

“Complexity of mind” is defined as broader perspective taking. The ability to take and keep broader, additional perspectives in mind is crucial to developing competencies “such as systemic thinking and the ability to develop collaboration among diverse constituents, create learning organizations, and question and evaluate existing systems and models in order to innovate and make long-range strategic decisions.” Goodman, Robert G., “The Use of Adult Developmental Theory as a Basis for Transformative Change,” Executive Coaching: Practices & Perspectives, [edited by] Catherine Fitzgerald, Jennifer Garvey Berger, Jennifer, eds., Davies-Black Publishing, an imprint of Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., 2002.

Does it matter how broad a perspective we take? If we are responsible for solving problems, it does. For example, we are advised to look at “performance improvement” when we are evaluating performance problems in an organization. It’s a form of training that focuses on solving problems, instead of on building specific skills, the focus of traditional training. In addition to skill training, performance improvement considers whether the organization structure supports the work flow, and whether the environmental work conditions are appropriate. According to one source:
[c]lose to 80% of performance barriers are environment-related. Developing job skills will not improve these organizational issues:

  • Employee lacks necessary equipment
  • Job description does not match the job
  • Employee has wrong qualifications for the job
  • No incentives to improve
  • Employees are inadequately supervised
  • Job progress is not monitored for immediate feedback
  • Policies are out of step with expectations
  • Manager has a hidden agenda
  • Job procedures are out of date and do not support the process
  • Design of the organization thwarts productivity
  • Staff is not authorized to make related decisions
  • Lack of organizational leadership

Guide on the Side – A Model for Training and Improving Performance,” Marie Wallace, published at LLRX.com, one of the leading legal and technology resources on the internet.

Just as developing job skills will not help correct those organizational issues, so, too, will failure to evaluate and address a more subtle issue that may be present: failing to distinguish between informational learning and transformational learning. Informational learning has been defined as “new knowledge added to the current form of one’s mind,” and transformational learning, as “learning that changes the very form of one’s mind, making it more spacious, more complex, and more able to deal with multiple demands and with uncertainty.” Fitzgerald, Catherine and Garvey Berger, Jennifer, “Leadership and Complexity of Mind: The Role of Executive Coaching,” Executive Coaching: Practices & Perspectives, [edited by] Catherine Fitzgerald, Jennifer Garvey Berger, Jennifer, eds., Davies-Black Publishing, an imprint of Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., 2002. In the next segment of the series, I’ll discuss this theory of constructive-developmental psychology.

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