Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Francis Bacon, C. Otto Scharmer, & the Evolution of Competencies

Since there may be a UU who hasn't yet discovered The Teaching Company, let's start with a shout-out.  The Teaching Company is a purveyor of audio and video recordings of college courses: a great way to fill the gaps in one's knowledge or to challenge one's "knowledge" with new perspectives.

I've been listening to Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 3rd Edition.  Lecture 30 is "Bacon's New Organon and the New Science."  The professor, Alan Charles Kors, tells us that when Francis Bacon (1561-1626) entered Cambridge University all university education was essentially clerical (religious) education.  In The New Organon, Bacon argued for a separation of religion and science (then known as "natural philosophy") and for learning by direct observation and inductive reasoning (from the specific to the general) rather than the study of words (Scriptures) and deductive reasoning (from the general to the specific).

 In "Addressing the Blind Spot of Our Time: An executive summary of the new book by Otto Scharmer Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges," C. Otto Scharmer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims that "we" weren't properly educated for innovation.  (His "we" is engineers, scientists, managers, and economists, but I suspect his claim also applies to ministers and lay leaders.)   He writes about his experiences learning about prototyping from Hans (Nick) Roericht, a design professor at the Berlin Academy of Arts.  Scharmer was impressed with Roericht's design teams producing prototypes in four hours that most managers would not have undertaken without years of analysis.  Scharmer learned:  

The prototype is part of the sensing and discovery process in which we explore the future by doing rather than by thinking and reflecting.  This is such a simple point--but I have found that the innovation processes of many organizations are stalled right there, in the old analytical method of "analysis paralysis."

The division between science and religion isn't as neat as we might assume reading about Bacon's innovation in thinking and education.  Throughout this blog, I have been arguing for applying scientific methods to examining for the ministry.

Scharmer provides an interesting correlative to this purpose.  Rather than limiting ourselves to exhaustive analysis to support inductive reasoning about examining for ministry, it may be more beneficial and expeditious to prototype examining and formational processes first and then start testing the prototypes.  I will provide future posts describing what this might look like.

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