A Learning “State”
Continuing the discussion on governance and some principles that it is informed by, the last post on consultation leads to a key attribute that should characterize effective governance. We know that human society is diverse, that its dynamics are becoming increasingly complex and interdependent, and therefore, that structures and organizational models must evolve in order to serve the needs of humanity. It is crucial, then, that governance be approached in a mode of learning.
Previous posts have already discussed a culture of learning, and it is extremely important in the context of government. Collective decisions made by institutions are always limited by the best insights available at the moment and by the individuals involved. The limited factors seem to be 1) number of individuals, and 2) insights of individuals. In order to make better and better decisions, all the plans and policies need to be tested against reality, within a social context or the community. This will involve a large portion of people and generate immense insights. Over time, decisions are refined as knowledge is advanced. It is helpful to, again, use the analogy of a path of learning – and to view decisions as points of this path. Institutions, just like individuals, can periodically reflect on decisions in light of experience, consult on them, adjust, create new policies, and test them. Without adopting a humble posture of learning, any structure of governance will become obsolete and useless as quickly as social change. And how fast is society changing?
Relevant to a learning mode within the context of governance is the idea that unity facilitates learning. Current structural models of opposition and protest sabotage learning efforts. If interest groups or factions are constantly competing and fighting against each other’s decisions and policies, then any attempt to learn from action is undermined. (Not to mention all the energy dissipated in power struggles that could be used towards learning from action). To properly implement policy within a mode of learning – action, reflection, consultation, and revision – requires a degree of unity to then scientifically and reasonably analyze the results of any plan without being biased by efforts to undermine it. Otherwise, nothing looks like it works – and no strength can be built upon.
How do we foster a spirit of unity to enable social structures to operate in a learning mode?
What are other characteristics required for governance to adopt a culture of learning?
Do you see examples of organizations which learn?