This section contains the current 'research' interests of Adaptive Learning. Not necessarily the latest topics but ones which hold promise to further understand organisations and psycho-social dynamics in the workplace.


“What I try to do in the book is to trace the chain of relationships running from elementary particles, fundamental building blocks of matter everywhere in the universe, such as quarks, all the way to complex entities, and in particular complex adaptive system like jaguars.” - Nobel Prize Winner, Murray Gell-Mann from 'The Quark and the Jaguar'

Jaguars are complex adaptive systems (cas) as are human beings and organisations. Understanding complex adaptive systems is essential to really understanding why people and organisations behave as they do.


Without understanding the behaviour of systems we cannot fully comprehend why organisational change is so difficult and prone to failure. Knowledge of Systemic Barriers aids us in working through the real stumbling blocks to Organisational redesign and renewal. The discipline of Systems Thinking, as pioneered by Jay Forrester and later by Peter Senge & friends, has proven to be invaluable to change agents and organisational leaders alike.


Also from the 'stable' of Peter Senge and co-workers such as C. Otto Scharmer, Adam Kahane, Joe Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers and others comes the intriguing concept of "leading from the future as it emerges". Can we develop the skill and the awareness to submerge our egos, suspend judgement and question our most basic assumptions and habits in order to allow something new to come into our lives? Together can we co-generate a new way of thinking and being? Open our hearts and minds to new realities? Here are the beginnings of a discipline which promises, like the Mont Fleur Process, to solve some of the world's toughest problems.


In his book "the Selfish Gene" Richard Dawkins introduced a 'gene' equivalent of a language - the 'meme'. Memes have been described as self-replicating ideas or cultural DNA, beliefs, and actions that like viruses use the human mind as a host and are transmitted from mind to mind. I'm not sure I like the concept of memes being independent and having a 'will' of their own - external to humanity. Clearly, memes are at the centre of yet another concentric system, one which describes human cultures and the persistence of thought-patterns seen over generations. Memes have significance to changing organisational cultures and in the blossoming field of "viral marketing".


Just toying with the edges of these concepts at present, but there appears to be something fundamentally 'true' in the underlying principles which link these topics together. Human beings (life in general) creates order out of chaos (in opposition to the entropic effects of the rest of the universe). I have seen autopoiesis at work. Everything is connected. Trying to control a situation is less likely to succeed than is being authentic and co-creating the conditions where people can achieve "greatness" together. Being in the "zone" (like a jazz band) is more energetic, allows an unfolding, is ultimately more effective than orchestrating a result. These topics interact and intersect with Quantum Mechanics, Buddhism, The New Science (Wheatley), Leadership, Ken Wilber's Model of Everything, Spiral Dynamics, Metaphysics, Consciousness, Spirituality, Ancient Wisdom and some weird stuff that is too far out even for me. After all, everything is connected!


Integral Leadership is a growing framework based on Ken Wilber's AQAL (all quadrants, all lines, all levels) model of human consciousness. The model demands that we take into account not only the inner qualities of the leader - our traits, characteristics, experiences, thinking & feeling, multiple intelligences and mental models and beliefs but also the way we impact and influence others (our followers) through what we say and do (and what we do not say and do), through our behaviours and other somatic devices. Included in this model are the external influences on our leadership - the essential leader/follower relationship and the cultural context in which leader-followership is expressed. Finally the entire leader-follower relationship is embedded in and modified by the systems which exist in the external world.
The Integral Leadership goes further by recognising that Leader/Followership is a dynamic and emergent process which follows a unique set of developmental stages and lines. The model allows leadership learning & development and organisational change practitioners an overriding framework in which to anchor their favourite theories and concepts.
Adaptive Learning was instrumental in convening the first Australian Integral Leadership Summit in February, 2009. Please contact us for further information on this exciting development.


Spiral Dynamics is a whole-world 'cultural' framework devised by Dr Clare W. Graves, late emeritus psychologist at Union College in Schenectady, New York. What he discovered was that beneath the surface values or memes, human behaviour tended oscillate between two forms of action - focus on the individual and focus on the group; independence and interdependence. He called it, "express-self belief / behaviour" and "sacrifice-self belief / behaviour." [Other psychologists have come to the same conclusion. Csikszentmihalyi calls this "differentiation" and "integration"; Val Geist "dispersal modes" & "maintenance modes"; Howard "diversity generators" & "conformity enforcers"; Damsté "adaption & defence".] Grave's research showed that people move from one mode to the next, then back to the other, and on to the next, in an ever increasing and widening spiral of development or levels of biopsychosocial complexity. Graves called these levels "deep-level Value Systems." The Spiral Dynamic model accurately describes the development and maturation of individual and societal thinking.


“We have come to learn that 35 people is about as big as you can get before you cease to care about the people with whom you directly work.” - Andy Law (St. Lukes)

Small World Theory (SWT) was developed by Stanley Milgram in the 60's but has been expanded by Australian Duncan Watts to explain mathematically why networks and connectors form. The importance of SWT to organisational design seems to have been missed by mainstream commentators. It is highly likely that the organisational structures of the future will be based on small (not more than 150) 'family' cells who have a well defined purpose, and cover the entire supply-chain. These autonomous cellular units will be joined to the larger organisation by "connectors" and "mavens" and not by centralised functional services (and perhaps not by an overarching Vision and Values set). A number of highly successful organisations (including W.L. Gore, Semco, St. Lukes and Zara) are already benefiting from the flexibility and mobility of this system. What they lose in efficiency through duplication of effort and function, they make up many fold in agility and effectiveness. Economies of scale are not the advantage they once were.


We know that many Organisational Change interventions fail (around 70%), that the Silver Bullet approach (jumping the latest managerial fad) is a waste of time and many apparently logical HR methods and mechanisms (Leadership competency matrix, Performance Appraisal systems, for example) do not get the expected traction in the long run. This is despite that whatever is tried, seems to work for a while. We are beginning to realise that what is working is part "Hawthorne Effect" and partly because the implementation of new models simply stimulates Dialogue. Dialogue is essential to change, to 'meaning making' within groups. Many extremely successful leadership techniques are based (in part, or wholly) on dialogue. (cf: Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry, Bohm Dialogue, Group Therapy, Action Learning). Understanding the power of people to create shared significance through facilitated dialogue is vital to successful leadership and successful organisations in the 21st century.


“Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. We both have layers! Get it!” - Shrek

People have layers, internally and externally. Externally we have invisible layers of 'protection' or insulation which Gary Zukav (Author of 'The Dancing Wu Li Masters' and the 'Soul' series) refers to as "Earth Suits". Earth Suits are made up of 'stuff' which protects us from being 'hurt' but also stops the world (and ourselves) from seeing who we really are. Our Earth Suit is made up of: our position, status, power, ego, 'professionalism', material goods, coping mechanisms etc. Like Sumo or Fat suits they prevent us from getting too close to each other in an authentic relationship. That's on the outside. Internally we also have layers - layers of belief systems, attitudes, opinions, assumptions, stereotypes, mental models, values, deep values - which define who we are, our real identity. At the core of our being are our personality traits and DNA. The various layers 'communicate' with each other, making up who we are. The outer layers are the most malleable, allowing us to adapt to various situations. The inner core is more difficult to change being built on our most cherished beliefs and values. (cf: P. Helbert Damsté's Concentric Man.) To start on the journey of self-awareness, is to firstly remove the Earth Suit and then explore the inner layers. The concept of 'me' can be flexible, we can change.


Recently, over the past 20 years, psychologists have begun to look at what constitutes a 'healthy' human being, rather than concentrating on neurosis, psychosis and abnormality. What is wellbeing, how do we achieve it in our lives? This is a 'solution centred' rather than 'problem focused' approach. Martin Seligman is the current champion of 'Positive Psychology' building on a body of work by such notables as Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Karen Horney, Viktor Frankl, Rollo May, Carl Jung and so on.


In the last decade what we know of the human mind has been turned on its head (pun intended). The advent of the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) tool has allowed neurologists to "see" the thinking mind at work. What we are learning, what we will learn, will form the basis of New Psychology in the future. We already now know that the human brain is both resilient and incredibly adaptable (plastic). As the Nuns of Mankato show every day, life long learning and physical & mental wellbeing is accessible to us all. We have only just begun to explore what this will all mean to the "Learning Organisation" and the "Knowledge Age".