Thursday, January 17, 2008


Learning is the process of acquiring knowledge. How does this happen? There are of course the generally accepted processes of appropriating existing knowledge through absorbing already codified knowledge by reading or being taught in some fashion.

The process that interests me is where something in the ordinary course of events strikes a false note. The normal flow of things is interrupted. Something happens that does not make sense. There is cognitive dissonance - events do not fit into one's mental model of the world. And then, suddenly, there is an insight, a new realisation that offers an explanation for that which made no sense - a wow moment. This is the creation of new knowledge, perhaps often only new to the individual, but sometimes an insight is uncovered that is new to humanity. This is the source of creativity.

Introducing ambiguity into a situation may lead to exactly the process described. This might be a valuable insight for those leading organizations - an enabler for creativity.


Ryan Lanham said...

See also Ryan Lanham's

Ryan Lanham said...

One of the interesting things about human language is its inherent ambiguity. Logical positivists started the effort to clean this up and were eventually followed by analytical philosophers, but Wittgenstein correctly forecast frustration. Now we are starting to realize this frustration may be essential.

Imagine two computers talking to each other. They need (as of now) a clear semantic web so as to minimize discord in their meaning. This facilitates simple interactions but frustrates more complex ones.

We need ambiguity to innovate--I agree. It does introduce dissonance and that entails learning--coping.

How would one facilitate this? Teasing is one means I use with my own children. I answer with absurd contrasts to a right answer when given a straightforward question. My intent is to spark a response of doubt, deeper reflection and so forth. It is always fascinating to try this a first time with adults not used to it. They can be thrown for such a loop!

Comedy is a sort of vein of what I am saying. The evolutionary role of humor may be to introduce absurdity and ambiguity so as to force reconciliation and coping.

Ryan Lanham