Quality that emerges in action

by Lilia Efimova on 5 January 2004

I know that I’m not going to catch up with all interesting posts from Internet-cafe, but I’m still trying :)

John Moore (and long chain of others) point to a quote from Art & fear:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pound of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one – to get an A. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

John adds a connection with the book Changing Conversations in Organisations by Patricia Shaw.

This is such a fantastic book I can’t do it justice here, but essentially Shaw discusses

(moving from a) thought-before-action, design-before-implementation, systematic, instrumental logic of organizing, towards a paradoxical kind of logic in which we see ourselves as participatingin the self-organizing emergence of meaningful activity from within our disorderly open-ended responsiveness to one another

Shaw is talking about how we talk to each other, the story is about making pots; they’re both about recognising that it is misleading to think we can entirely separate thinking from doing – an insight that may trouble a great many management thinkers.

At the same time Martin Dugage writes about smart people driving out action linking to Why Can’t We Get Anything Done?

All those provoke many ideas for my thinking on learning vs. doing and would provide an interesting angle to look at the actionable sense story, but I guess I’m not writing on it now :)

Archived version of this entry is available at http://blog.mathemagenic.com/2004/01/05.html#a893; comments are here.

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