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From delusions to destruction.” Robert Fulford. Canada’s National Post. October 6, 2001.

A CEO Grieves.” George Colony and Fast Company Staff. September 2001.

Don't search for normalcy, just move on.” Leonard Pitts. Miami Herald Columnist. October 4, 2001.

Education without Fear?” Kenneth Guentert. Safe Learning Magazine. January 2001.

 

When we chose Leader Learning as the Fall 2001 topic, we could never have foreseen or anticipated the new meanings associated with this theme. Who could? Yet, in a world that seems to be upside-down, we need leadership—and learning—more than ever. But it’s not clear to anyone I have spoken with how we should proceed. What now?

These past few weeks, I’ve spoken with many of you trying to answer fundamental questions about your purpose and your work. While some have asked broad theoretic questions such as, “What is my role in all of this?” and, “Can my business survive?” more have asked practical questions: “We need to get back to work, but should my company offer training that requires people to get onto planes to learn about something that frankly doesn’t seem all that important anymore?” and, “eLearning seems like a great idea, but if it hasn’t helped my employees before, how can I expect it to work now?”

I’ve responded as best I can to these questions and many more. I know that even when we mentally go back to work, it’s a new type of work. It requires a new type of learning, and we face a new normal (if, in fact, we can describe anything as normal ever again).

I do know that we need to take time to find strength, to create new ways of learning, and to establish new ways of being in this truly different world. That doesn’t mean taking a macho, “I won’t let any of this affect me” stance, denying that fear and safety have a profound effect on how people work and how people learn. Abraham Maslow, nearly 50 years ago, wrote, “Learning can only take place when basic needs have been met.” After decades of research, he had identified those needs as physiological requirements, safety, belongingness, esteem, and in his later writings, needing to know and understand. Maslow also reminded us, “How we emotionally view the world- sets the foundation for learning.” We now emotionally view our world in a very new way.

Now we need to realize and remind others that optimal learning can only take place if people feel they are safe, that their contributions are valued, and that the learning they are pursuing has value in their lives. As you find your new routine, your new pace, don’t ignore your emotions—gut feelings, hunches, and very human fears. As Leonard Pitt’s said, “Normal [is not a] safe spot on the map, a fixed or physical place from which we were snatched, but with sufficient determination, we can return to again.” Not until we work through these changes can we find normal. Until we work through our fears, real learning cannot begin again.

Learning changes who we are and flourishes when we make that change from a place of safety. Of course, we do learn in times of fear, but what we learn in those moments is avoidance, manipulation, and suppression. Because we’re in crisis, we don’ know how to do the right thing, that which is in our best interest, and that creates something better than what we did before.

This issue of Learning in the New Economy Magazine (LiNE Zine) brings forth those themes in fresh and captivating ways. Jim Collins tells us what his newest research has uncovered about how leaders learn. Gil Gordon challenges us to not to let the convenience of technology become the downfall of our personal lives. Mike Useem helps us lead upwards. Jeannine Sandstrom and Lee Smith point out the best practices of Legacy Leaders. Dori Digenti helps us build a learning strategy for leaders. Peter Henschel closely examines the manager’s new work and reviews the conditions for learning. Margo Covington tells us about her day on September 11th and how the learning she’s been doing these past years offers some new ways to work. David MacKenzie asks us to take some slow-motion moments and wonder in order to live leadership now. Bette Price reminds us not to treat learners like dirty dishes. And Andrew Willis addresses what we can all learn from military leadership.

As if working with these authors and tending to these issues hasn’t been enough to keep me occupied these past weeks—after all, I am in search of my rhythm and routine, too—I have also cordoned off time to directly address the questions I have been receiving each day from readers like you. To answer those questions, I first revisited my work on how adults truly learn (that many of you know from my years at Microsoft, Wave, and PeopleSoft). Then I began to work with a small team of educators and business leaders deeply committed to finding models that could be used to help people learn at a distance, with a strong connection to other people, and that would be easy, affordable, and quick to implement. I believe we’ve found an answer. To that end, we are looking for a small number of organizations interested in piloting some of these models this fall, without asking anyone to get on a plane. If you are interested, please contact me directly.

Don’t presume this means I’m no longer looking at the questions. Much of our work going forward—yours and mine—will lead to more conversations about the future of learning in turbulent times. Let’s make those conversations an opportunity to reclaim our lives, our workplaces, and our homes as safe, caring communities of learning.

It’s far too late to be pessimistic, resort to simplistic thinking, or avoid thinking at all. Every one of us has to go beyond just facing our demons, putting on a brave face, or weathering through. We must create space for ourselves and those around us—around our dinner tables and around our world—where we can be supportive compassionate, insightful, and brave people who will be able to look at our challenges—economic uncertainty, travel distress, technology malevolence—and respond with our whole selves. To find what we are to do now, in spite of and because of our fears, we must be strong, we must be reflective, and we must be truthful.

I welcome your thoughts and concerns, insights and reflections on our new world.

With warmest regards and blessings during this difficult time,

Marcia Conner
Editor in Chief, Learning in the New Economy Magazine
marcia@linezine.com

Executive Director, the Learnativity Alliance
www.learnativity.com
October 2001

 

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