Social Learning:A Case Study:No One No Thing

Learning is an intensely personal affair though not totally a private affair and certainly not meant for the faint of heart.

This is what I discovered about learning over an active learning span of about half a century: Effective long term learning takes place in three interdependent ways:

a) Enlist at least one like minded co-learner to start — dialogues, discussions, thinking and working together.
b) Create time and space for deep reflections or practice by doing — working on a live problem, doing something like blogging and twitting, listening, thinking, imagining, practicing a skill, commenting etc.
c) Engage a mentor, who has traveled a long way on this path  to assist the learning process — dialogue, questioning, guidance, bouncing off ideas, gently encouraging to take critical leaps in understanding, learning about lessons learned etc.

Admittedly even five years back this approach was difficult to work with. Now it is not so. Thanks to the rapid growth of the social media things are turning out to be extremely interesting, easy and full of fun. Learning is everywhere and nowhere. It depends on the learner. The modern mantra of learning is NO ONE: NO THING (not NONE and NOTHING). One can set up his/her own learning experience the way he/she likes.

With this in mind I with a group of dedicated learners started leveraging the existing social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for effective long term learning. Learning groups were formed around two subjects: a) Vibration, Flow and Wear b) Industrial Problem Solving & Innovation. In this story I would like to highlight how effective learning can take place through constructive and supportive dialogues.

We were discussing on a blog post in our one-month-old group 'Industrial Problem Solving & Innovation':Ref: (What Limits a System's Performance and What we might Do about it?)

The dialogue (excerpts from Facebook)  that followed was this:

Dibyendu De: Added a comment to the blog post to make the example more clear. Does it make it clearer? Comment.

Wednesday at 15:14 · LikeUnlike

D C Padhi: Destroying a system would need enormous courage. Possibly to hide ones fear human tend to believe that things will be OK with passing of time. I think it's not the same system that become OK after elapsed time. The future only bring new sets of essence & emergence of a fresh system where man get engaged & forget the past. Whether we ourselves destroy or not it would destroy itself once balance is lost.

Wednesday at 15:24 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: To me the airport case seems to be an excellent interaction between AND & NOW. This NOW changes every moment & with that the ANDs might also change. The complete system becomes dynamic. O&M should also include system re-design all along the system life cycle to keep it at dynamic equilibrium.

Wednesday at 15:28 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: Thank you. You just gave me a brilliant idea. I think the words essence and emergence are difficult words to understand by general public. It is better to call the essence as 'and' (the critical relationship that makes a difference) and the emergence as 'now'. What do you think?

Wednesday at 15:48 · LikeUnlike ·

D. C. Padhi: All I can say at this moment is that your understanding is 'WOW'! Gr8. Keep it up. Now we would build up from now. Can we now tackle the previous cases..?

Wednesday at 15:50 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: So from now we would use AND and the NOW.

Wednesday at 15:55 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: Yes.Essence & emergence are difficult to swallow. I find AND & NOW the best. I think this is the central theme of ST.

Wednesday at 15:56 · UnlikeLike

D. C. Padhi: Human Dimensions of change is a long story. I have not yet studied it thoroughly. Pls allow some time.

Wednesday at 16:02 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: Can we make a simple equation {AND1,AND2,AND3…..}=NOW

Wednesday at 16:13 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: Thanks for your encouragement.

Wednesday at 16:27 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: Yes, it can now be stated in simple maths or set theory. Let the elements of the set (system) be e1, e2, e3…. Then S = {e1, e2, e3,…}. Then the relationships can be drawn out (like a truth table) & defined as e1 <->e2 = AND1 and say e2 <-> e3 = AND2. Let this two form the critical relationship that determines the now. Then {AND1, AND2} = NOW.

Dibyendu De: The practical problem is how do we go from the NOW to the AND set. Why do I say this? Because we would definitely see the NOW (the visible portion). From the NOW we would have to find out the AND (the invisible portion). After we find the AND we can then change, modify or monitor the NOW for collective benefit.

Wednesday at 16:57 · LikeUnlikeWednesday at 16:53 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: So, how do you do that?

Wednesday at 16:58 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: You see that we would have to go down from the whole(NOW) to the ANDs, make some changes there, go up again to NOW to see the effect of the changes. So it is going down and up at the same time. That is wholistic creativity. What do you think?

Wednesday at 17:00 · Like

Dibyendu De: Not only up and down but sideways too and move in circular fashion. Truly wholistic.

Wednesday at 17:02 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi:I am able see a better picture.Once the NOW is crtically observed & AND is honestly understood then ST goes and DT should come into action for achieving improvement. Am I right? Making changes seems to me like manual tuning of process controller(may be a PID control sys for better stability).Do u agree here? Lastly if we are to move circular can we not move in a sphere (the world is 3D).

Wednesday at 19:00 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: "ST goes and DT should come into action for achieving improvement" – exactly. Tuning to change AND to change NOW is ok. If tuning does not change NOW – no use. The 3 words for improvements may be Design (new), Modify (change), Monitor (feedback). OR easy: Bhrama (Modify to create new NOW), Vishu (Feedback/monitor to maintain), Mahesh/Shiva (Design new after destroying the old – change the old).

Wednesday at 19:10 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: Bhrama, Vishnu, Shiva – The Trinity

Wednesday at 19:11 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: This is sublime.

Wednesday at 19:14 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: In ST we would go from NOW to AND. In DT we would go from AND to NOW.

Wednesday at 19:20 · Like

Dibyendu De: In fact in ST it is an iterative action between NOW to AND and Back and.. In DT it is AND to NOW and back …(again iterative action..). In ST the iteration is in the thinking. In DT the iteration is in the action (doing) that promotes thinking.

Wednesday at 19:23 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: Revised the blog post. Check whether it is now easier to understand.

Wednesday at 19:24 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi; This is instant DT. May I call it Rapidinnovation.

Wednesday at 19:26 · UnlikeLike

D. C. Padhi: Now the engineering community may understand what you say.

Wednesday at 19:27 · UnlikeLike

D. C. Padhi; The blog post has a new NOW. more valuable.

Wednesday at 19:30 · UnlikeLike

Dibyendu De; OK. So Rapidinnovation is the play of the AND and the NOW or Rapidinnovation = Doing by Thinking about Thinking (ST) + Thinking by Doing (DT). Does it look right?

Wednesday at 19:32 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: It looks wonderful. She is most beautiful.

Wednesday at 19:37 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: It's beauty compels me to use "she" instead of "it".

Wednesday at 19:38 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: LOL. Understand your viewpoint.

Wednesday at 19:39 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De; This conversation was simply fantastic — a thing to remember for life. I would be out for about 2 hours. Would pick up the thread at about 10. Thx for the wonderful exchange.

Wednesday at 19:41 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: Yes. I can't help LOL

Wednesday at 19:41 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De: This is the power and the reward of a fruitful dialogue. The reward is only a benign smile inside — smile that bring contentment. That is wealth which all the riches of the world can't buy.

Wednesday at 19:44 · LikeUnlike

Dibyendu De; It fulfills the very purpose of opening the forum in FB. The desired NOW is evident.

Wednesday at 19:45 · LikeUnlike

D. C. Padhi: It was like liberation. Reincarnation instead. Gratefully indebted to you.

Wednesday at 20:04 · Like


ST = Systems Thinking

DT = Design Thinking

Lessons Learned:

1. Learning takes place through interactions. So, it takes two to a tango. Learning takes place through intense concentration and reflection in the numerous small pauses during the exchange. It has an advantage over face to face discussion since we can think and 'speak' without being forced to respond quickly. This deliberate act of slowing down of the mind triggers the 'reflective' capacity of the brain – vital for learning anything deeply. I term this as 'micro-meditative' state that facilitates deep and effective learning. This is precisely the advantage of learning through social media over other forms of learning where we are generally rushed into a response. Moreover, one can always check back the train of thoughts and revise it if required. This reinforces learning many times over.  

2. So, typically a double-loop learning takes during a dialogue (through reflection of each others mind brought into a dialogue) and a triple-loop learning takes place upon further personal reflection on a discussion thread. This automatically initiates higher level of learning which is highly improbable through traditional modes of learning. Note that it is always a 'one on one' interaction never 'one to many'. In Bengal there is a saying about effective learning  — "One creates confusion; Two create Learning: Three create chaos: Four create a market"

3. Dialogues create Learning stories. It is similar to life creating and participating in creating as an on-going process.

4. Collaborative learning or social learning moves from document centric to more people centric. Hence it is like learning from nature or life. 

5. Time, space, age no longer pose as constraints to learning as seen in traditional modes of teaching and learning.

6. Feedback is instantaneous through the use of the 'like' buttons. This greatly encourages the conversations to proceed smoothly.

7. The paradigm shifts from 'Need to Know' to 'Need to Share'. Sustainable organic growth of ideas, thoughts and actions in the real world.

8. Effective Learning takes time and effort since the brain has to rewire itself through neuro-plasticity. This is easily possible through social media learning since the expansive interactions happen over a long period of time and not condensed into smaller time frames as evident in other traditional modes of learning. This is greatly aided by the stories that continuously unfold through such open dialogues. It helps in changing the neuron wiring of the brain more effectively than anything else — leading to higher long term effectiveness.   

9. Next paradigm shift: Ask questions to "those you know" to "those who know that they don't know". This opens up a wider choice for learning to select people to ask from rather than being restricted to a few whom he/she probably knows in say the workplace. The learning environment expands.

10. Learning is the sole responsibility of the learner. Much depends on the attitude of the learner on what and how much a learner decides to take home from an engagement and how much a learner decides to 'share'. More 'sharing' leads to more learning. 

11. The learners merge to develop a collective consciousness. This is a latent power of social learning. As of today, information and knowledge are free and easily available. What is unavailable is understanding, which can be effectively harnessed through social learning by accommodating different perspectives and bouncing ideas off each other. Fortunately, Learning is no longer a lonely affair.

12. Much of effective learning happens like a story unfolding with its natural twist and turns, building on each others ideas leading to understanding, wisdom and instant realization. That makes Social Learning fun and interesting.

13. The only requirement to participate in such learning processes is the courage to engage and imagination to continue. The attitude of 'contribution' is the key. 

14. Who is the mentor and who is the mentee? Who gives? Who takes? Who gains? Who loses? No one No Thing










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