Learning and Limits

A formalisation of how we can think about the various orientations of learning as doing / reflection etc.


Define an axis that describes a continuum of decreasing abrtraction. From pure theory (e.g. Heidegger) to pure action (e.g. drinking tea). Our opportunity to learn and how we learn is different at each of these poles. We learn from our theory base through reflection and synthetic thought. It is a powerful lense through which to see the world and we are satisfied when we find coherence to the thoughts and ideas we come up with. These are thoughts about the world, our organisation and ourselves that precede and shape action. Action however allows these thoughts and their implications to be tested in the world. Gathering facts is action on our continuum. Forming theories about what they mean is theory. Learning is a continuous interplay between these two poles.


Define an axis that describes a continuum of increasing separation between you / your team and the world around you. From the world acting on you (as a passive receiver of feedback) to you acting on the world (as an insensitive actor ). Both of these extremes are frequent and legitimate occurances. Of course, most of life tends to fall in between the sociopathic and the hysterical.

An Inside-Out view describes your role as primarily an actor, acting on the world given your current understanding of your context. This might mean making theories about the world or equally, acting directly in the world. An Outside-in view is where feedback or external stimulus occurs. The world we find ourselves in reacts to our actions or shapes the guiding assumptions we use when we think about it.


Following our friend Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, there are three kinds of knowledge: Episteme - knowing of. The kind iof knowledge you might have about maths. Techne - knowing how. The kind of knowledge related to how to build something. Phronesis - knowing why. The kind of knowledge related to making trade-offs, deciding between similar alternatives etc. Practical knowledge.

The cycle that exists, enriching episteme into technae into phronesis is a cycle we want to emulate too. This practical knowledge that we create then further refines the next cycle. The creation of a cycle of continually enriched learning produces four kinds of interaction with the world around us.

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