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Organizations of Learning or Learning Organizations:
The Challenge of Creating Integrative Universities
for the Next Century
Susan M. Awbrey, Ph.D. and Jon L. Awbrey, M.A.

This is a preprint of a paper subsequently published, with some changes, in Organization: The International Journal of Organization, Theory, and Society 8 (2), May 269-284. See below for history of this paper.
Paragraph numbers are provided (in brackets located flush right) for use in referring to particular passages.

Today, society is everywhere pressing for answers to the large, human problems it faces, such as poverty, hunger, and a sustainable environment. As part of this quest for solutions the university has come under scrutiny and duress to apply its knowledge more directly to the needs of the world it inhabits. Mary Walshok (1995) writes of the importance of "knowledge without boundaries". Donald Schön (1994) and Nicholas Maxwell (1984) implore us to focus on solutions to the large "civilizing problems" of life — to develop the wisdom that will lead to a "better and wiser world" (Maxwell, 1984, 3). Achieving such wisdom will call for an understanding of the interrelationships of knowledge that will allow problems to be reframed and solutions to coalesce in new ways. Beyond translating discoveries into action in the service of society, the university is also being asked to prepare the next generation of citizens with the skills and abilities that are needed to face the challenges of the new world in which they will live — skills such as the ability to construct meaning from knowledge, to recognize connections and interrelationships, to reach beyond what is known through experimentation and inquiry, and to achieve mutual goals through collaboration (Reich, 1991).
The Importance of Integration

Ernest Boyer's illuminating work, Scholarship Reconsidered (1990), attempts to redefine the university's role in addressing the purposes mandated by society. His model of what it means to engage in scholarly work includes traditional areas of university life, in particular, the scholarship of discovery or research and the scholarship of teaching. In addition Boyer also introduces two new forms of scholarship that are less familiar within the university tradition. The scholarship of application is an expansion of the traditional service role. It is the process of applying knowledge to "consequential problems" and even of forming an agenda for scholarly investigation based on social problems. Finally, he proposes a scholarship of integration, stating that "by integration, we mean making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context" (p. 18). The scholarship of integration "is serious, disciplined work that seeks to interpret, draw together, and bring new insight to bear". Boyer cites Mark Van Doren's remark that:
The connectedness of things is what the educator contemplates to the limit of his capacity. No human capacity is great enough to permit a vision of the world as simple, but if the educator does not aim at the vision no one else will, and the consequences are dire when no one does (p.19).
Boyer goes on to say that the scholarship of integration is vital because traditional disciplinary categories "prove confining, forcing new topologies of knowledge". He states that integration also means interpretation, fitting one's findings into larger intellectual patterns. The researcher asks: What is to be known, what is yet to be found? The scholar engaged in integration asks: What do the findings mean? Boyer asserts that many of today's professors recognize this, citing survey results in which patterns of opinions hold across all disciplines and all types of institutions.
Still, we are left with two other recognitions as well. First, professors also indicate that in most circumstances research is the most highly credited activity within the institution when it comes to promotion and tenure, followed by teaching and far more distantly, by service or application. Integration does not appear. Therefore, it would seem, to paraphrase Chris Argyris, that the valuing of the scholarship of integration is an espoused theory within the organization and not a theory in practice, for example, it is not a public part of the reward system. Second, the organization of the institution — its very structure — militates against integration. The structures of today's universities remain locked in academic and administrative silos that have little genuine ability to communicate or to recognize the interdependence of knowledge. These structures inhibit not only integration within research but also integration of knowledge within the teaching/learning context as well as within the total community of learners — faculty, staff, and students — that comprise the institution.
Frank Rhodes, in his lecture The New American University (1990), eloquently articulates the need for a new type of university to overcome these barriers.
What we need is a new model of knowledge — a new disciplinary approach in addition to a new multidisciplinary approach to knowledge, and a new attitude in which we look beyond such things as microeconomics and one-meter square ecology and embrace a more general view. We need to see knowledge in a completely different way if we are really to solve the problem of the universities. I believe the time has come to acknowledge that it is unsatisfactory to see knowledge as a deposit. It is unsatisfactory to view knowledge as an instrument. It is inadequate to see knowledge as a personal profession. We must regard it instead as a common quest, an exploration undertaken in partnership with others. Otherwise our universities have no meaning .... Knowledge will be gained not in isolation but as part of an interacting community in which questions are addressed in common.
We assert that a significant purpose of the university, the aim of the wisdom it tries to convey, is to develop people as whole persons and teach them how to go on being whole persons for their whole lives. This does not mean that every bit of specialized knowledge can be approached holistically but that each bit of knowledge has to be, in time, integrated into the whole, reflective conduct of the person. It would help our discussion to have a word for this "highest integrity of a person's conduct". When there is no danger of being misunderstood, we will venture to call it "wisdom", understanding that this word is little more than an abbreviation for a vastly more verbose and nuanced description.
In the next part of this discussion, we focus on obstacles to the aim of wholeness that seem to have entrenched themselves in the structure of the "modern" university and that continue to maintain their "built in" features in spite of all attempts to reform them. What accounts for the persistence of these obstructions? How do they continue to block the vision that the project of the university claims to support? We try to isolate for examination one problematic assumption, the "triviality of integration" hypothesis, along with some closely related issues from which these obstructions seem to arise.
The Trivializing of Integration

Why is our current "house of knowledge" constructed the way it is? More generally, what are the "building codes" that we follow? To begin, we must recognize that the university structure is an artifact that embodies espoused values and that is built on underlying assumptions (Schein, 1992). We would like to isolate for discussion one of the underlying assumptions that leads to the generation of our "modern" university. The roots of this "modern" dilemma, appear traceable to Aristotle and Descartes. We cite three passages to draw out this assumption.

The first passage occurs in Aristotle's treatise On Interpretation, where he articulates his understanding of the fundamental relationship that exists among objects in the world, signs or images in the media of communications, and ideas or "affective impressions" in the mind. Due to the complexity of this relationship, Aristotle is forced to make a number of simplifying assumptions. This is a reasonable way to begin, but the fixing of these assumptions into the form of a dogma led many subsequent generations of thinkers to ignore the full potential of this relationship.
Words spoken are symbols or signs (symbola) of affections or impressions (pathemata) of the soul (psyche); written words are the signs of words spoken. As writing, so also is speech not the same for all races of men. But the mental affections themselves, of which these words are primarily signs (semeia), are the same for the whole of mankind, as are also the objects (pragmata) of which those affections are representations or likenesses, images, copies (homoiomata).                 (Aristotle, 1934, 115)
Aristotle's account contains two claims of constancy or uniformity, asserting that objects and ideas are the same, respectively, for all human interpreters. This ignores the plurality and the mutability of interpretation, issues that we cannot afford to trivialize in the general consideration of diverse perspectives, if only with respect to the human potential for creative variation, or in the application to education, where the whole idea is to learn new interpretations. In their effects, these assumptions lead to the idea that every diversity among observers is merely a disagreement about words.
The second passage occurs in Aristotle's discussion of psychology, where he argues that the mind has an inherent capacity to integrate the data of the senses. Aristotle's doctrine of the common sense-faculty, or sensus communis, is ably summarized by W.S. Hett (1936) in his introduction to Aristotle's treatise On the Soul, where he glosses this term in the following way:
Sensus Communis. The solution given is that there is a common sense-faculty (located in or near the heart ...) which receives and co-ordinates the stimuli passed on to it from the various sense-organs. This same faculty also directly perceives the "common sensibles" (i.e., those attributes, such as shape, size, number, etc., which are perceptible by more than one sense), among which Aristotle includes movement and time .... It also accounts for our consciousness of sensation, and it is responsible for the process of imagination.        (Hett (in Aristotle), 1936, 5).
The question of a common sense, that compares and contrasts the data of the senses, can be put in relation to the question of interpretation by recognizing that the data of the senses are particular kinds of signs that naturally refer to objects in the world.
The third passage that we offer for examination comes from Descartes' Discourse on the Method of Properly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking the Truth in the Sciences.
Good sense is the most evenly shared thing in the world, for each of us thinks he is so well endowed with it that even those who are the hardest to please in all other respects are not in the habit of wanting more than they have. It is unlikely that everyone is mistaken in this. It indicates rather that the capacity to judge correctly and to distinguish the true from the false, which is properly what one calls common sense or reason, is naturally equal in all men, and consequently that the diversity of our opinions does not spring from some of us being more able to reason than others, but only from our conducting our thoughts along different lines and not examining the same things ....

[A]s far as reason or good sense is concerned, ... I am ready to believe that it is complete and entire in each one of us, ... that there are degrees only between accidents and not between the forms or natures of the individuals of a given specie.                (Descartes, 1968, 27-28).
Surprisingly enough, in view of the passage of time that intervenes between the two accounts, and considering all the other contingencies that are commonly imagined to have changed, this passage closely echoes in all of its main respects the doctrine of Aristotle concerning the common sense.
In contemplating these texts and trying to assess their impact on the contemporary scene, we can view them as expressions of underlying assumptions, maintaining their force in our culture whether or not individual members of the culture have ever heard them made explicit in precisely these terms before. These ideas form the basis for what we are calling the modernist thesis of the "triviality of integration". This is the idea that nothing is lost in taking things apart, as in the process of specialized analysis, because 'just about anyone' can put them back together. In other words, common sense suffices to achieve the necessary synthesis or the subsequent reconstruction.
Aristotle's thesis that the senses are integrated by a common sense has been used as a metaphor for the relation of the specialized disciplines to the whole of knowledge within the university. It is the idea that the disciplines bear the same automatic relationship to the whole of knowledge that the senses bear to common sense. This underlying belief leads to the problematic assumption that the integration of the disciplines is a trivial matter. If anyone can do it, it is not incumbent upon us as educators to develop the skill in our students and experts in any discipline are automatically well equipped to interpret and synthesize the knowledge from disciplines in which they are novices.
In addition to the "triviality of integration" hypothesis there are other closely associated problems. The first arises from the tension between the formal and the informal contexts. The university is the world of formalization raised to its highest level, a world ruled by abstracted facts and detached theories. This is a world in which the intellectual aim of inquiry is often dissociated from human and social good. The world external to the university is a world of policies developed from human aspiration and values. Seemingly, but all too seemingly, we have kept these two worlds apart. This pretense that facts and values can be separated has led to a state in which our knowledge is not being fully brought to bear on the great human issues of our time. Recognizing the original integrity of facts and values and allowing more explicit overlap in our analytic pictures of them, through more permeable boundaries among the disciplines and between the university and the external community, could lead to the building of both better theory and better policy to address human issues (Scott and Awbrey, 1993).
Two closely linked issues arise from the assumption that integration is trivial. One is the problematic of communications created by differing mental models, in other words, by the tendency to form internally coherent but externally disparate systems of mental images. The other is the disjunction that this assumption permits to occur between the denotative and the connotative aspects in the full representation of reality. Aristotle's assumption that objects and their mental impressions are the same for everybody and that only their signs are different for different language communities makes it seem like all problems of communication reduce to problems of translation rather than constituting appreciably different ways of perceiving and interpreting the world.
Denying the Triviality of Integration

We turn now to a closer examination of these underlying assumptions and issues. First we examine the tension between the formal context and the informal context.
Individuals describe their world through a process of formalization (Figure 1). When a person reflects on or observes a pattern of activity in the world (informal context) the individual generates a description by articulating his or her reflections and observations. Different aspects will be observed depending on the angle of approach, or attitude of observation, that the person takes toward the object under examination. The description that is generated represents a first step toward a formalization of the activity in question, and so we can place the end result of this entire process within a conceptual area that we call the "formal context".

Figure 1. The Field of Observation
The descriptions that are generated through this process are necessarily partial. This statement is conditioned on the fact that the typical object of interest is most likely well beyond anyone's capacity to describe completely. Therefore, different observers with different angles of approach or attitudes of observation will end up describing different aspects of the same activity. At the level of communities of observation these differences tend to become embodied or institutionalized into specialized disciplines. These disciplines are formal arenas with specialized languages, or interpretations of languages, that focus on and are devoted to different aspects of the reality in question.
At first for reasons of simple efficiency, and later by dint of inveterate and unreflective habits, formal arenas gradually develop the structures of bunkers, ivory towers, and silos, with opaque barriers growing up or being erected around the perimeter that obstruct the view of the informal context from directions other than along their favorite and habitual lines of vision. When the relationship between a formal arena and the informal context reaches this stage of development, the boundaries are no longer permeable but appear to be cast in stone.
Analysis has acquired a privileged role in this process of differentiation. But if it succeeds to the throne of knowledge and dominates the field of observation, it is only by default — because of the absence of a balanced attention being accorded to the process of integration, due to the notion that synthesis can be left to the last, and justified by the fond hope that all disharmonies generated in the meantime can be atoned for in the end. It is a feature of modernism that it produces an overemphasis on the analytic aspect of the process of description while marginalizing or trivializing the synthetic component.
The Pragmatic Framework

We would like to introduce some ideas, derived from the philosophy or the way of thinking that is usually called 'Pragmatism', that we think can help to address these issues in an integrated way. In a pragmatic perspective, the theory of knowledge, or epistemology, is incorporated within a generative theory of inquiry. Knowledge is the product of inquiry. The impact of this idea is that our interest in knowledge shifts to an interest in the process of inquiry that is capable of yielding knowledge as a result.
Within the pragmatic framework all thought takes place within a general representational setting that is called a "sign relation". As a first approximation, a sign relation can be thought of as a triadic relation, that is, a three-place transaction that takes place among the various domains of objects, signs, and ideas that are involved in a given situation. For example, suppose that there is a duck on the lake (this is an object) — we refer to it by means of the word "duck" (this is a sign) and we have an image of the duck in our minds (this is an idea).
Ideas are just special cases of signs and are given the technical name of "interpretant signs". It is by virtue of their role that ideas can be distinguished from signs. For example, if you hear the word "duck" and form a mental image of a duck, then the word is the initial sign and the image is the interpretant sign. But these two roles could just as easily be reversed, for instance, if you form an image of a duck in your mind and then say the word "duck", then the image is the initial sign and the word is the interpretant sign. What becomes important is that one sign follows another in the process of interpretation.
Figure 2 represents an "elementary sign relation". It is a single transaction that takes place among three entities, the object o, the sign s, and the interpretant i, and it is usually represented by means of the ordered triple (o, s, i). Within this elementary relation one can observe a number of selective aspects that go to make it up. Besides the individual entities o, s, i already mentioned there are the "elementary dyadic relations" constituted by the ordered pairs (o, s), (o, i), and (s, i). The relation (o, s) between object and sign is called the "denotative aspect". The relation (s, i) between sign and interpretant is called the "connotative aspect".

Figure 2

Figure 2. An Elementary Sign Relation
If a person focuses solely on the denotative aspect, that is, the relation between an object or activity in the world and its sign, then he or she, like Aristotle, may believe that all people have the same perspective on a particular object. The connotative aspect includes the references that a sign has to ideas, concepts, intentions, affects, and to the whole realm of an agent's mental states, broadly encompassing intellectual associations, emotional impressions, and motivational impulses. The connotative dimension of the sign relation embodies the possibility of multiple perspectives.
Another way of picturing a sign relation with a view to its denotative and connotative aspects — but this time taking in the whole sign relation, not just one particular element of it — is illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Aspects of a Sign Relation
The cube in the center of the Figure represents a "Cartesian coordinate system" (all puns intended). Its axes are labeled O, S, I to indicate dimensions of variation within the object, the sign, and the interpretant domains, respectively. The planes on either side represent the denotative and the connotative aspects as projections on the OS plane and the SI plane, respectively. A sign relation is represented as a solid body that resides in this OSI space. Its denotative and connotative aspects are represented by shaded areas on the two planes.
Before leaving the subject of pragmatic thinking, that is to say, before setting its conceptual framework back into the background of our own thinking, there is one final topic that we need to discuss. This is the issue of 'reducibility' versus 'irreducibility' in regard to sign relations. Since there are, in fact, many different notions of reducibility that might be brought to bear on a sign relation, perhaps even more than a finite consideration can survey, it will always be somewhat ambiguous to speak in these terms of sign relations, at least, without further specification, either explicit or implicit. For now, we would like to consider one of the notions of reducibility that is the easiest to picture, based on the so-called 'projective reduction' of a triadic relation to its dyadic aspects. It will turn out that this is not the most powerful mode of reduction, at least, not from the point of view of logical analysis, and eventually a student of the subject will be forced to consider the so-called 'compositional reduction', but what we discuss here can serve as the gentlest approach to the whole troubled problematic of reducibility versus irreducibility.
Suppose that you are given an arbitrary sign relation and that you form its projections as we have just done on the dyadic planes, keeping only the pair of two-dimensional pictures that result. (For ease of discussion, we are considering only two of the three possible projections. However, to be more exact, one does get to use all of the available dyadic information.) The question now arises: Can you reconstruct the original body from just these flat projections or has an irreducible loss of information occurred? It turns out that some sign relations can be reconstructed from their dyadic projections but that others cannot. Those which cannot be reconstructed are called "irreducibly triadic". As an example, imagine that one has a sign relation that looks like a hollow sphere and another sign relation that constitutes a solid sphere, both with the same radius and center. These two bodies have the same two-dimensional projections, and so you cannot possibly tell them apart from this information alone. In such a situation, for instance, if it is important to tell the difference between "hollowness" and "solidarity", then one is well advised to keep a copy of the original sign relation in question. This possibility, the potential "irreducibility of triadics" in general, serves as a paradigmatic counter-example to the "triviality of integration" hypothesis.
Implications for the University

We have argued that a major purpose of the university is to develop whole persons and to teach them to be whole for their whole lives. Inquiry was defined as the process of learning and knowledge formation through which this development occurs. Integration was shown to be a major component of the inquiry process and an important component of the formation of knowledge in ways that contribute to the wholeness of the individual. The lack of integration in the university was traced to the triviality of integration thesis that emerged as a modernist interpretation of Aristotle and Descartes. Problematic issues arising from the thesis that integration is trivial were also considered. What implications, then, does this discussion have for the structure of our "house of knowledge?" We would like to address the relationship and extensions of our arguments as they pertain to the level of student learning and to the level of the university as an organization.
Implications for Student Learning

We began our discussion by citing the types of graduates that society is asking the university to develop. As we accelerate the need for more broadly educated citizens, the question arises of how we can prepare graduates for a future that is becoming less and less easily knowable. Bowden and Marton (1998) note:
The faster society changes, both technologically and culturally, the greater difference we can expect to find between the situations in which institutionalized forms of learning are taking place and those in which people will be making use of what they have learned .… Given the obviously situated nature of human acts, how can people through learning be equipped or equip themselves to face situations of very different kinds, mostly impossible to predict or foresee?         (p. 26-27)
The authors go on to propose that the solution to this dilemma lies in learning, which they see as a change in the way an individual sees or experiences the world. They conclude that this process of change in perspective takes place by discerning and focusing on critical aspects of situations and by identifying patterns that characterize situations. This definition of learning as discernment and identification of pattern is analogous to our earlier discussion of inquiry as the process of analysis carried out through different angles or attitudes of observation followed by the process of reconstitution or integration. Thus, by trivializing integration we limit the opportunity for our students to fully engage in the learning process in a holistic way. The capacity for discernment, according to Bowden and Marton, is developed through exposure to variation. It is through practicing and applying this capacity in numerous unfamiliar contexts that it is developed, and it is this practice that prepares students for a successful future in the unknown external environment beyond the institution, in other words, in the informal context (p.40).
A second assumption also militates against changing the way we see and experience the world. Our earlier discussion presented this assumption as a fixation on the denotative plane. It is the "deeply felt assumption that what we see and experience is the world exactly as it is, and that others see and experience exactly the same world" (p. 40-41). In the practical realm this assumption can be countered by making the differing viewpoints and perspectives of other people explicit and recognizable. On the philosophical level understanding the relationship between the connotative and the denotative planes can lead to a recognition of the possibility of multiple perspectives.
Bowden and Marton write of two other barriers to learning and the process of inquiry that emerge from the learning environment:
[W]hy do learners under certain circumstances focus on the sign instead of what it signifies, on the words rather than on the meaning and on the surface rather than on what the surface is the surface of? [Because in the institutional setting] learning ... is experienced as a demand, and living up to the demand of proving that one has learned becomes dominant in the learner's awareness. (p. 57)
Instead of deep-level learning in which learners try to "get hold of the phenomenon dealt with", learners are focused on first order superficial characteristics. To address this issue requires the university to rethink the ways in which learning environments are structured and the ways in which assessment is carried out.
An issue which follows closely on that of superficial learning is the extent to which inquiry is no longer a part of the student's educational experience. We have already indicated that the process of integration has been marginalized in the process of inquiry, but in the student situation the process of analysis or discernment is also often missing or limited.
[I]n the study situation the act of discernment is frequently excluded. By presenting the relevant aspects of the phenomenon only and the relations between them, the finding of the relevant aspects and the pattern of which they are constituent parts disappear in the study situation. Instead of the figure-ground structure of aspects that are relevant and those which are not, you get a kind of lifeless two-dimensional picture with the relevant aspects only. (p. 81)
These examples of barriers to inquiry and learning point out the importance of understanding the full process of inquiry and how that process prepares students to deal effectively with the current and future world.
Implications for the Institution

As we undertake the task of bringing this discussion to bear on the institution as an organization, we return again to the concept of wholeness. Authenticity dictates that in order to develop wholeness in our students, our institutions of higher education should be organizations that also foster wholeness in their faculty and staff.
Under the modernist paradigm, the reduction into fragments has touched all facets of our lives, including universities. The separation into disciplines and the silo model of university functioning have led to feelings of isolation and loss of community. However, this paradigm, one that has lasted for three hundred years, is in the process of being supplanted. Margaret Wheatley (1992, 12) writes, "As we let go of the machine models of work, we begin to step back and see ourselves in new ways, to appreciate our wholeness, and to design organizations that honor and make use of the totality of who we are."
The process of inquiry and knowledge formation has the potential to reconnect the disciplines and the institution in new ways, increasing what Bowden and Marton call the "collective mind" or consciousness, and releasing the energy and the enthusiasm that is embodied in diverse viewpoints on the world. The richness of many voices can enhance our collective understanding of the world we inhabit. This collective mind or "community of inquirers," as C.S. Peirce described it, is linked through common pursuits and purposes, and shares in the greater human project. In the institutional context new boundary-spanning relationships between the social, historical, psychological, and educational processes of knowledge formation, as they presently exist in the specializations, need to be formed (Bowden and Marton, 1998, 286). A connected, engaged university will also form connections that span the boundaries between the formal world of the institution and the informal world of the external community.
The modernist mechanistic paradigm is deeply embedded in our consciousness and only through the creation of viable alternatives will we move to richer ground. Change within the university, as in all contemporary organizations, will demand deep-level change that reaches to the heart of the institution — to the passions and aspirations that underlie the everyday practice of our lives. This change must be transformative in that it must reach to the level of the people who comprise the institution both individually and collectively.
The greatest contribution of quantum physics to the social world has been the deconstruction of the mechanistic paradigm which, when interpreted in the social context, mistook control rather than connection as the basis for order (Wheatley, 1992, 22-23). As Deming, Senge (1990, 7) and others have noted our society has rewarded individuals for performing for others rather than encouraging the inherent human interest in learning — with regard to students this leads to superficial learning, with regard to employees in an organization it leads to blind followership and the inability to bring intelligence to bear in practice. Beyond this it also produces a disconnect between the person and their work.
Within the university the initial controlling authority was the church and religion. This authority dictated the hierarchical organization structure and was viewed as the foundation for knowledge formation. The test of leadership was unquestioning faith. The rise of science and the modern era created the model of 'scientific management' with its 'value free' model of knowledge production and linear organization of work. Scientific management spread to the university when leadership changed from the religious or faculty models to a separate professional administration.
Alan Bryman (1996) reviews the stages of 'modern' leadership theory. He notes that up to the 1980's these theories viewed the leader's role as influencing group behavior to achieve a goal — focusing on defining tasks and organizing to achieve them. Then, the "new leadership" approach emerged, shifting the emphasis to leaders as "managers of meaning" through the creation of vision. During this period Schein (in Bryman, 1996, 284) wrote that the unique and essential function of leadership is the manipulation of culture. In this new leadership approach leaders are seen as heroes, unique individuals who must wrest order from chaos and impart their values to the institution. Martin (in Bryman, 1996, 284) identifies this as an "integration" perspective. However, this integration, unlike the integration we have discussed as part of inquiry, is based on the method of authority. Integration in this perspective is based on unification brought about through agreement with an espoused set of values, imposed by the leader, that "binds" members of the organization together. As Willmott (in Bryman, 1996, 284) concludes such 'culture development' is "little more than an extension of management control in which the aim is to colonize the minds of members of the organization" — a circumstance that can lead to greater cynicism in the organizational community.
Martin also identifies two other perspectives of leadership that move beyond the new leadership approach. These are the differentiation and fragmentation perspectives (Martin in Bryman, 1996, 284). The first views the organization as lacking in consensus and made up of diverse subcultures. The second goes further to view organizational culture as "suffused with ambiguity and confusion" in which leadership is almost "decentered". A parallel might be drawn between the earlier rational leadership perspectives developed under the modernist paradigm and the almost deconstructive way in which these perspectives look at leadership under the sway of post-modernism.
How can we develop a sense of organizational identity without either having values imposed by the leader on the one hand or a total lack of order and confusion on the other? We suggest that a new 'way of seeing' organizations can also lead to a different view of leadership. New ways of viewing our universe have led to the concept of the self-organizing system (Prigogine, 1997). Self-organizing systems have as their distinguishing feature resiliency rather than stability. They have the ability to recreate and reconfigure themselves in response to their environment. They lack the rigidity of other forms of organization, being open and flexible. Jantsch (in Wheatley, 1992, 95) writes that these structures "teach the optimistic principle of which we tend to despair in the human world: the more freedom in self-organization, the more order". In the social context, "[s]elf-organization succeeds when the system supports the independent activity of its members by giving them a ... frame of reference" (Wheatley, 1992, 95). For organizations, the key is how to achieve a strong frame of reference while preserving the dimension of freedom.
Bryman (1996) identifies a separate tradition of leadership studies that is developing which he calls 'dispersed leadership'. This tradition focuses on leading people to lead themselves and building the capacity of others so they are not dependent on formal leaders. This tradition appears to speak to the type of leadership that is needed in self-organizing systems. Peter Senge's work (Senge 1990, 1994) illuminates important capacities of such leaders. They are people able to facilitate not only adaptive but generative learning. Senge defines generative learning as creative learning that requires "new ways of looking at the world." These leaders take on new types of roles in the organization such as designer of "social architecture". The first task of such an organizational designer is to design governing ideas of purpose and values. Asking an organization's members about their view of its purpose and listening to the answers begins to build toward a new type of vision. By providing a process in which people at every level of the organization can speak from the heart about what really matters to them and be heard builds shared vision (Senge, et al., 1994, 299). Profound commitment can arise from such a process where shared vision doesn't arise from simply telling, selling, or even consulting but from co-creating a view of the future.
We believe that universities have incredible potential to both deeply understand the importance of creating organizations that have generative learning and inquiry at their core and also to transform themselves into connected, integrative, learning organizations.


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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 'Second International Conference of the Journal Organization', entitled 'Re-Organizing Knowledge, Trans-forming Institutions: Knowing, Knowledge, and the University in the XXI Century', University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, September 17-19, 1999.  Return to Top

END OF:  Awbrey and Awbrey, "Organizations of Learning or Learning Organizations: The Challenge of Creating Integrative Universities for the Next Century"


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