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disqourse. White paper No. 01
Technology, didactics, content:
The triad of discourse learning
Technology
Discourse
didactics Content
disqourse.
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disqourse White paper No. 01
A wide variety of learning formats, methods and technologies exists. And they all have their
usefulness. An annual ranking compiled by EdTech expert Jane Hart, for example, regularly ranks
300 of the digital top tools for learning. In 2021, YouTube, Zoom, Google Search, Microsoft Teams
and PowerPoint came out first in that ranking. What this small sample illustrates well is that not all
so-called learning technologies are alike: These technologies offer rather diverse sets of benefits.
Not all learning technologies are designed specifically for learning, either: Taking another look
at the top tools list, for instance, one cannot help but noticing that the first 16 places are occupied
by all sorts of general web and software products – from Canva to Wikipedia. It is only on the
17th place that the first pure-play learning application (Google Classroom) appears. Needless
to say that not all great learning technology is digital in nature. But what makes learning
technology, or method, truly effective, in the context of organizational learning?
The learning technology market is a remarkably technology-driven one.
Most of the so-called trends in Learning & Development (L&D) are ex-
clusively technology-driven: Video conferencing or virtual reality are just
but two examples. The predominance of technology orientation in L&D is
probably rooted in the fact that the learning technology (EdTech) market
is still young and relatively immature. Which makes the focus on code,
chips, bits and bytes somewhat understandable. But that fixation on tech-
nology also comes at a price. In markets like this, the old adage applies
that not all innovation is also progress.
Most learning technologies target individual trans-
mission of knowledge. That’s like putting blinkers on
In learning and development within organizations, a particularly import-
ant place has been given to individual learning, or, more precisely, to the
individual transmission or assimilation of knowledge. There are several
reasons for this. Most of us are familiar with the concepts of transmis-
sion and acquisition of knowledge applied in school, during trainings or
throughout our studies. In addition, individual knowledge has always mat-
tered in organizations – and it will always do so. In fact, at least in com-
plicated contexts, problem-solving requires knowledge, above all. When
we talk about expertise and know-how in the context of organizations,
this is usually what we are referring to: The acquisition of knowledge that
enables the solution of known and complicated problems. Standards and
processes, compliance matters or safety certifications are examples of do-
mains in which knowledge works perfectly well.
In the context of collaboration, however, and especially when it comes
by Silke Hermann und Niels Pflaeging. January 2022
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disqourse White paper No. 01
The difference between knowledge and mastery,
the complicated and the complex
Knowledge
Suitable for solving
complicated, recurring problems.
Is the foundation of rules,
processes, standards,
automation, digitalization
Can be acquired
through individual
absorption of information
or cramming
Based on an illustration from Complexitools by Silke Hermann & Niels Pflaeging, Follett Publishing, forthcoming 2022
Mastery
Needed for solving complex,
new problems.
Always requires people with ideas.
Often requires communication
and project-like collaboration
Conducive
interaction
patterns
Shared
insight
Complicated problems Complex problems
Here, knowledge or
acquisition of knowledge alone
are not enough: In addition,
discourse learning is required!
Here, learning technologies
that focus on the
transfer of knowledge
are sufficient!
Can only be acquired through
(disciplined) practicing,
or problem-related doing.
Presupposes knowledge
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disqourse White paper No. 01
to value creation that requires the division of labor within organizations,
complex challenges prevail. Here, it is necessary to provide learning op-
portunities and formats that go beyond the mere conveying of knowledge.
In addition to the transmission of knowledge, learning offerings must en-
able the emergence of a shared understanding of complex challenges and
their solutions, and foster collaborative patterns. Such effects on team
constellations and organizations can only be produced by learning for-
mats based on social interaction. Through the discourse between actors,
such formats allow the development of shared vision and new models
of actions. In other words, in complex contexts, not only knowledge, but
also mastery is needed (see illustration on the previous page).
Knowledge combined with mastery is good. But in
an organizational context, even that is not enough
Individual mastery, or the ability to solve new problems through supply
of ideas is not quite enough, though. In order to solve complex problems
at work, it is often necessary to perform together, in project-like ways of
working: Intense communication and collaboration between experts and
between people with mastery is needed. The kind of collaboration that
is required for problem-solving in complexity is increasingly interdisci-
plinary, and requires diverse backgrounds, qualifications and masteries.
Complex problems, thus, can usually only be solved in earnest collabo-
ration.
However, it is precisely this type of collaboration and cooperation that is
not highly practiced in most organizations. Where project approaches to
work and the quality of communication are poorly developed, the focus is
often on treating symptoms and on mere activism. What is needed here
are “alternative“ learning offerings, beyond pure technology. An example
of such offerings are the large-group methods, which were developed be-
tween the 1970s to 1990s, in particular OpenSpace Technology, World-
Café or FutureSearch, made impressive contributions in this respect, and
popularized revolutionary forms of discourse – practically without any
need for digital technology. However, these formats are not easily applied
regularly or continuously. And they are not easily scalable for very large,
geographically distributed groups. In addition, the content dimension is
all too easily sidelined in these methods, especially if the aspects of volun-
teerism, urgency on the side of participants, and precise choice of topics
are not sufficiently taken into account when preparing such formats.
Learning opportunities in complex contexts should generally be based
on networked, dense social interaction and active debate, as allowed by
OpenSpace and WorldCafé formats. However, voluntary reflection and
debate among peers needs to be practiced – just like everything else.
Which means that one-off discussion events are not enough to achieve
the goal: it takes repetition, rhythm, and iterative method in order to de-
velop a shared understanding, as well as interaction patterns conducive
to complex problem solving.
Discourse learning requires no less than
a triad of technology, didactics and content
In this white paper, we explain why a high impact of organizational learn-
ing on organizational action and development can only be expected if
the technology, the learning method (didactics) and the content (subject
matter) are combined. The aim of this triptych is to bridge the gaps be-
tween knowledge, mastery, intuition and application by coupling them
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disqourse White paper No. 01
The triad of discourse learning
with learning tool categories.
disqourse integrates technology,
discourse didactics and content
in a unique fashion
Technology
Discourse
didactics
Content
disqourse.
Web conferencing
Learning analytics Gamification
Knowledge
Management
platforms
Learning
Management
systems
Tests
& diagnostics
eLearning platforms,
online courses, MOOCs
Consumer
learning apps
Interaction
apps
Online learning tools
(e.g.white boards,
workflow tools)
Facilitation
techniques
Peer learning,
e.g. Communities of Practice,
WOL, Lean Coffee, meetups
Trainings,
seminars
Development
programs
Books, articles,
blogs, videos,
podcasts
Content
curation
Large group methods
like OpenSpace,
BarCamps, WorldCafé
Explanatory videos
lecture videos
Promotes
flexible access,
scalability, time
& cost efficiency
Promotes curiosity,
knowledge building,
credibility, sustainability
of learning
Promotes effectiveness,
commitment, joy in learning,
networked learning,
pattern change
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disqourse White paper No. 01
very closely. Thus allowing organizational learning to develop much high-
er impact, and to develop impact much faster (see illustration on page 5).
We define didactics as science and practice of learning, which includes
theories of learning and the methodological approaches to support it. As
such, didactics are not preoccupied with problems of teachers alone, but
with the context of learning and the internal processes of learners. Didac-
tics are concerned with the content of learning (the what), the method of
learning (the how) and the context of learning, which includes its histor-
ical, cultural and social justifications (the why).
One-sided focus on technology
as a problem in organizational learning
We already spoke at the beginning about the prevailing focus on technol-
ogy, even the love of technology in the EdTech market. The dangers of a
one-sided technological orientation in the field of Learning and Develop-
ment are obvious: Without a coherent didactic concept, the effect even of
the best technology, the most refined hardware or software solution will
always remain a dead letter. The impact of technology will be restricted
to the level of entertainment or of single events. Corresponding tools will
quickly lose their credibility and their appeal to learners. The promise of
efficiency that digital technology (however powerful) brings, can never
be fulfilled without marrying the tech to coherent didactics.
To illustrate this problem, let‘s consider the example of browser-based
Learning Management Systems (LMS) for a moment. Although the cor-
responding web-based technologies have been pretty widespread since
the late 1990s and even though LMS today make up the largest share of
the learning technology market, the effectiveness of these systems is still a
matter of some controversial debate. The distinction between technology,
didactics, and content allows to shed light on the problem: Learner pro-
filing, learner gap analysis, training and course management, certification
and badges do not by themselves make for an attractive and welcoming
learning environment. To date, typical LMS seem to be more steeped in
the idea of learner control and tracking than in the idea of maximizing
learning and impact. Their design appear to cater less to the needs of
learners than to those of learning managers, sadly.
The blind spots of digital learning technologies are not limited to didac-
tics, or learning method. Without consistent content, even attractive
technology often leads to user frustration and, consequently, to a lack of
credibility among tech customers and learners alike. A good example are
on-line interaction tools like Kahoot or Mentimeter. Both are designed to
spice up encounters on-line and off-line, and to potentially add fun and
educational value to events, ranging from workshops and keynotes. And
while the use of these applications is as intuitive as one might wish for,
producing a link between such gamification tools and the desired learn-
ing content and outcome is far from trivial.
Moreover, the overemphasis on technologies such as gamification (often
misunderstood as a didactic tool) assumes that learners must be con-
stantly stimulated, teased and motivated to engage in learning. Gamifica-
tion technique employs stimuli that have nothing to do with the content:
Such approaches wrongly assume that learners are not interested in either
learning or content, for their own sake. At the same time, stimulus-based
technology attempts to condition learners. All of which is a far cry from
notion of self-determination, human motivation and development.
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disqourse White paper No. 01
One-sided focus on didactics as a problem
in organizational learning
As we have discussed, didactics refers to pedagogical or learning con-
cepts and methods. But not any question at the end of a long list of bul-
let points deserves to be called didactics. Almost all didactic elements
used in corporate learning today have been borrowed from the didactics
of classical educational institutions – i.e. school and university. This ex-
plains the predominance of formats such as seminars, trainings and lead-
ership programs, right up to the madness of today’s MBAs and ongoing
professional education, which are highly influenced by the pedagogy of
schooling.
More often then not, these traditional learning formats are characterized
by a strong emphasis on classroom instruction, sometimes supplement-
ed by testing, grading, and assessment. An example from the education
system illustrates the problem: the school concept of the class year, sup-
planted to professional environments, means that similar people from the
same field, backgrounds, or hierarchical levels should always be grouped
together to learn.
In such a conventional logic, forming more mixed, and therefore more
diverse learning groups would not be advisable. On the contrary, the
concepts of scientific, Student-Centered Learning or Dialogic Learning
(promoted by education pioneers like Montessori, Dewey and Piaget)
have long advocated that the differences between learners are a valuable
resource, and of direct use in the process of learning with-each-other-
for-each-other: Here, diversity is considered into an integral component
of didactics.
So far, the corresponding principles of such Student-Centered Learning
and pedagogy have not yet made their way into corporate learning. Nor
have the principles of such pedagogy been incorporated into the design
of most EdTech products. Yet, cross-group, cross-functional and hierar-
chy-spanning learning interventions are pretty easy to achieve. You just
have to want it. A rarely appreciated benefit of cross-hierarchical learning
groups: The experience of the other (including managers) as ‘someone
normal who is also learning.‘ If the learning process takes place together,
then it is possible to witness each other‘s moments of understanding – to
experience that moment when the other person clicks.
In the Montessori Method, now a powerful international pedagogical
movement in many countries, not only are mixed-age classrooms a stan-
dard, but also trans-disciplinary learning and Learning through Teaching.
Modern approaches to discourse learning, such as disqourse, make use of
the same didactic concepts. Moreover, if one takes the principle of learn-
ing-with-each-other-for-each-other to its logical conclusion, one inevi-
tably stumbles upon learning formats in which intense, discourse-based
peer learning renders teaching by experts and coaching by teachers com-
pletely superfluous. We will discuss the related approaches in more detail,
later in this paper.
The art of establishing peer-to-peer, social learning is first and foremost
to make carefully prepared and welcoming learning environments avail-
able to learners. Such learning environments should not only open up a
space of resonance between learners temporarily (as achieved in Open-
Space meetings, for example). They should also combine temporary spac-
es for dialog in a more permanent fashion, as well as employ technologies
and contents in a way that, on the one hand, potentially sustains learning
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disqourse White paper No. 01
and, on the other hand, integrates it as closely as possible to the learners‘
professional reality and daily work.
In order to achieve this, most organizations will have to overcome a few
practical obstacles. For example, access to learning opportunities is often
seen as an integral part of career mechanisms. In these cases, learning
formats are thus by no means used exclusively for producing learning
itself – they are also a means to career development. This greatly reduces
the options to create high-impact didactics, learning formats and content
design.
One-sided focus on content
as a problem in organizational learning
Organizational learning today focuses on classic concepts of initial and
continuing education – and is often strongly inclined towards the ideal
of knowledge transfer. The corresponding formats take up a lot of space.
Additional content is often largely absent, and ignored, such as topics
related to the development of the organization and of cooperation itself.
Overall, “pure content“ applied in the context of organizational learning
lacks a networking effect, on the one hand, and a link to its application, on
the other. Content that is not embedded in coherent didactics lacks the
dimension of practical application, or at least potential application within
one‘s own reality. Content that’s decoupled of didactics will only in rare
cases successfully bridge the void between knowledge and its application.
The original form of pure content, the non-fiction, specialist book fea-
tures a unique characteristic: It is capable of reconciling high content
density with a high degree of specialization. This may sound trivial. But it
is not. Because even after having read a hundred or so specialized books
in a certain trade, fatigue does not necessarily set in – at least not among
passionate readers. The effectiveness of newer content presentation for-
mats wears off pretty quickly, by contrast. An example: Explanatory vid-
eos. Even well-produced series of explanatory clips lose their appeal, after
a while. The surprise, or even bliss, that most of us felt when we first
watched the RSA animation video based on Dan Pink‘s talk about Drive
on Youtube, back in 2010, can never be repeated. At least by the third
or fifth viewing of videos of the same kind, boredom, even rejection, set
in. Afterwards, the content presented can neither be remembered, nor
applied. That does not mean that explanatory videos or other bite-sized
formats are bad. The problem is that they are merely sideshow content.
RSA-style animations or visualizations are a far cry from being didac-
tic. Generally speaking, contents that are presented, heavily visualized,
or curated in audio/video formats lack the mystery, and the element of
discovery by the learners that is useful for lasting memorization or learn-
ing. Not enough effort is required by the learners to decipher meaning,
while too much is explained to them. Only a combination of content and
didactics allows learning without explanation. The expansion of didac-
tics to discourse didactics allows for collegial decoding of the content in a
discussion. This way, all learners can effectively become teachers.
Four concepts of discourse didactics – for highest
impact, combined with minimal use of resources
The unique feature of disqourse is the intimate combination of technolo-
gy, didactics and content. The disqourse approach to learning combines
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disqourse White paper No. 01
conceptual reflection and dialogue, personal insight and thoughtful appli-
cation to real-world, practical problems within groups of peer learners.
This goes far beyond the individual imparting of knowledge.
We do not understand the word problem as hinting at something nega-
tive, though. We define the term problem merely as a phenomenon that
cannot be ignored. Problems matter. They need to be tackled. There is
usually a lot of talk in organizations. But not always with each other.
Or around specific content or actually problems. Often, we do not talk
about problems, but about symptoms of problems. It is not the quantity
of conversation that is the lacking, but its quality. Because, for ambiguous
interrelations and complexity to be understood, more than just talk is
needed. What is necessary is focused, disciplined conversation: Without
this, nothing works in complexity! Without enduring actual conflict and
discussion, new and collective insight or knowledge will rarely emerge, if
not by chance. But without actively building shared understanding, no
relevant action, no intentional action for change will ever result.
Discourse learning promotes exchange that is focused on topics, or re-
al-world problems, in a way that the production of insight and new knowl-
edge is quick and effortless. Even within larger teams or large groups. Dis-
qourse is designed to encourage positive and meaningful application of
conceptual insight, or practical theory in one‘s own domain and organi-
zation. Always in a constructive way. While preserving the most precious
resource that organizations possess: Our time.
In the following sections, we will discuss key concepts of discourse learn-
ing that are particularly characteristic of disqourse. Each of the four con-
cepts, taken in isolation, would not be very effective. It is their combina-
tion, and the coherence between them, that makes the difference.
Concept 1. Small-group-based –
in diverse groups of four, five or six
If the didactic framework is sound, then self-organized, social learning in
small groups can do without seminar rooms, without experts or knowl-
edgeable facilitators. Dialog and critical discussion are best exercised
in the protected space of the small, intimate group. Ideally, small group
learning requires something that is abundantly available in organizations:
colleagues. And enough of them, so that many different points of view
can meet. Enough to allow everyone to express themselves regularly, or
to speak up. For it is also by speaking up for oneself that one can acquire
new insight.
The heart of discourse learning is the intense discussion between learners
in a small group, intensified by the setting, or the contextual framework.
Each disqourse session generates such socially dense conversation among
learners. The disqourse methodology provides both content and the set-
ting for the discourse to happen. In each session, listening, questioning,
and sharing are integral to the work of learning together – with-each-
other-for-each-other.
For high-quality discussion within a group to emerge, reliably, a balance
between the provision of conceptual input and the joint handling of re-
flective tasks is paramount. Within groups of learners, everyone gets
along best when these groups are small enough (so that no one can lean
back or isolate themselves), and also are large enough (so that different
characters and masteries are sitting at the table). In short, a small, diverse
and undisturbed group of four, five or six colleagues is the perfect learn-
ing accelerator, in pretty much every way imaginable.
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disqourse White paper No. 01
The discourse didactics of disqourse.
Rhythmic, self-organized,
small group-based, invitation-based
Cycle
The smallest unit of learning in disqourse –
5 individual sessions make up a Cycle
of 7,5 hours total duration
Invitation by the sponsor:
Her/his invitation can
be accepted or declined
Sessions
90 minutes each. During each session,
a new module from the disqourse
module catalog is being worked upon
Session 1
Session 2 Session 3 Session 4
Session 5
After finishing a Cycle,
the Circle can either
dissolve, or undertake
another Cycle together
This illustration is inspired by LearningCircles by Red42, a free-to-use open source social technology by Silke Hermann & Niels Pflaeging,
published under the CC-BY-SA-4.0 license from Creative Commons, which can be found here: www.redforty2.com/learningcircles
Supervision: Assures the quality
of both Sessions and Cycles
Circle
A group of learners consisting of 4, 5
or 6 people who undertake a joint Cycle
of learning. Circles can be ‘highly diverse‘
Weaving effect: Acquired learn-
ing emanates between Circles
and into the organization
Pattern analysis: Allows for
systematic identification
of impact and further
developmental potential
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disqourse White paper No. 01
Concept 2. Rhythmized –
through Sessions, Cycles and content design
Any discourse didactics requires rhythm – it must groove. In other words,
it has to be iterative, ongoing, pacing, varied, energetic, motley, pulsing,
cadenced, patterned, structured. In short: Discourse didactics is the exact
opposite of large, costly, isolated learning events. For learners, the rhyth-
mics of discourse learning create a sense of reliability, clarity and sus-
tainability throughout the learning experience. In disqourse, specifically,
rhythmics are achieved through a variety of concepts: through iterative,
time-controlled learning sessions and cycles, as well as through the design
of flow within the individual learning sessions.
Perhaps the most striking concept of rhythm in disqourse is the time-box-
ing of the individual learning sessions. Each session in Disqourse encom-
passes a specific unit of time: 90 minutes. Reliably. Learning in 90-minute
units is familiar to all of us. For good reason, it is a time span that is com-
mon in school and elsewhere. On the one hand, a duration of 90 minutes
is long enough to cover something new in sufficient depth. On the other
hand, it is short enough for learners to be able to maintain focus and be
concentrate continuously. 90 minutes also allows enough time in every
session for a beginning, a middle and an end.
One level above that, there is another rhythmic concept: In disqourse,
five sessions of learning form a Cycle. A sequence of five sessions provides
enough time for learners to establish and grow trusting relationships
among them. The duration is short enough so that learners can make
commitments to a Cycle, ahead of the first session, without much risk.
Five sessions provide enough time for a beginning, a middle and an end.
The prepared learning environment provides for intensity to emerge in
every session. Within the different disqourse modules, additional rhyth-
mic concepts are embedded. Conceptual information (or practical the-
ory, as we often call it) is introduced in short sequences, comparable in
length to scenes in a movie. This information is immediately reflected
upon by learners, in the light of their work and shared problems. Then the
next short input is presented, followed by yet another interaction. And so
on. All “scenes“ of a disqourse session are time-boxed. Thus, pacing, pulse
and iteration are produced within all sessions, too. Through the pacing,
learning during sessions becomes intensified, time passes quickly, just
like in a good movie, or during an intense conversation among friends.
Concept 3. Invitation-based –
the prerequisite for voluntariness and engagement
Wanting to learn is a personal decision. Someone who does not wish to
learn cannot be effectively forced by others to do so – and we should nev-
er even attempt to do any such thing. Indeed, any exercising of coercion
will only hinder the desire to learn in others.
Put differently: A high level of commitment from people is always a result
from their ability to act freely: to make decisions for themselves. Volun-
tary action is attractive – being commanded or coerced is not. For the
reality of discourse didactics, this means that all corresponding learning
formats must be 100% invitation-based and voluntary – instead of being
imposed, as it is often the case with corporate development programs,
seminars or trainings. In discourse didactics, therefore, the participation
of an individual person must never, ever be compulsory: The invitation to
participate in such formats can either be accepted or declined. Declining
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disqourse White paper No. 01
the invitation must be possible without punishment and without negative
consequences.
The invitation itself must be positive and attractive to all those invited.
And only authentic invitation (one which provides the two options of
accepting or declining it) can be perceived as such – without being mis-
taken for a hidden instruction. The invitation to practice joint organiza-
tional development with everyone, which disqourse offers, additionally
reinforces the relevance and attractiveness of such a learning offer.
Concept 4. Authorized by a Sponsor –
opening the space for learning & impact
The invitation to participate in disqourse is always sent by a person to
whom we refer to a sponsor. The invitation by the sponsor makes it clear
who is authorizing the learning offer, and for whom. It is also made clear
in the written invitation that the acceptance of this offer to get involved
in discourse learning is expressly desired.
With the invitation to participate in discourse learning, another kind of
authorization of learners is connected. Because by (voluntarily) accept-
ing the invitation, learners are not only authorized to learn for their own
personal gain, but also to draw conclusions from what they have learned
and apply what it for value-creation with their own organization. This
authorization of learners to act is by no means merely nice to have. It is
essential, if the learning that is produced is to have an impact on the or-
ganization and be effective.
Consider this: Without this kind of authorization, learners would con-
stantly have to wonder, throughout the learning process: Am I actually
allowed to apply this new insight or that piece of learning – or should I
better ignore it in my daily work, continuing in the same way as before,
even though I now know better? The authorization of learners by a spon-
sor with sufficient formal and legal authority to employ the learning is
therefore a prerequisite for producing a resonating space between learn-
ing and development. For a bridging between the discourse learning and
organizational impact.
Discourse learning: Perfect for all problems
where dynamics and social interaction matter
Organizational learning should focus on content that helps individuals,
teams, and organizations to successfully organize the work of today and
tomorrow. There are many good offerings around for building founda-
tional knowledge of collaboration and communication. Discourse learn-
ing in disqourse therefore targets challenges for which there have been
few suitable offerings so far: It focuses on topics that imperatively require
debate and discussion.
There are topics of knowledge that can easily be acquired alone, and even
practiced alone. We are deliberately excluding such topics from disqourse.
The themes of disqourse sessions, its learning materials, or modules are
instead geared towards inviting argument and difference, that require
classification, that contain a certain level of ambiguity, and that may pro-
voke some disagreement. Topics, in short, that can only be turned action-
able and relevant through reflexion within a practical context, or through
contextualizing and practicing together. In other words: complex topics
require learning formats that enable appropriately high levels of complex
interaction.
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disqourse White paper No. 01
But what exactly are complex topics? By this we mean all subject areas that
matter in contexts of interaction and social dynamics. disqourse modules
are supposed to convey content that is intimately related to complexity in
work and value creation, and that allows for reflective practice in dealing
with complexity – while employing practical theory.
The topic of self-organization is a great example of this. Self-organization
can only be appropriately and credibly classified, reflected upon and prac-
ticed within learning formats that also uphold self-organizing principles.
In this sense, disqourse offers a practical learning environment in which
self-organization can be constructively understood, supported, consoli-
dated and deepened. The self-organized way of learning during disqourse
sessions is reflected in the content of every single session, which in turn
is always applicable to promote the highest levels of self-organization in
the work environment.
Discourse learning: Can we bridge the gap between
edtech innovation mania and actual L&D progress?
How else could we do this much, much better? – This question should be
the primary concern of learning platforms designers. Instead of: What
cool, new digital technologies have we not yet used in our platform? We
firmly believe that organizational learning is not about implementing
technologically new or flashy solutions. Rather, it is about promoting
perceptible progress in social interactions and in the collaboration be-
tween people within organizations and work. As we have outlined in this
white paper, such progress can only be achieved through a combination
of technology, didactics and content. And not through any of these three
elements alone.
Discourse learning, in particular, must always be geared towards pro-
moting social intelligence. The technology we employ must, above all,
serve to increase this social intelligence quickly and cheaply. Therefore,
if possible, without causing additional travel activity; without requiring
external experts; without laborious and costly design of learning spaces.
All of this, in the shortest possible time and as much integrated into the
learners‘ work context as possible. The disqourse learning platform pro-
vides an ideal framework for achieving this.
***
Silke Hermann is a highly accomplished entrepreneur and leadership
expert. She is founder of Red42, a company based in Wiesbaden/Ger-
many. And a founder/director at disqourse, a cloud-based, B2B platform
provider that enables enterprise-wide growth, learning and development
for all. Disqourse was founded in 2021 and is headquartered in Zagreb,
Croatia. Previously, Silke was a partner and managing director of Insights
Group Germany. Together with Niels Pflaeging, she developed several
organizational open source approaches, including OpenSpace Beta and
Cell Structure Design. She is the author of several influential business
books. Contact: silke.hermann@disqourse.com
Niels Pflaeging is a leadership philosopher and entrepreneur. He is also
one of the most prolific European experts on organizational leadership
and transformation. Since 2003, Niels achieved international recognition
as a speaker and author, with ten published books to date. He speaks four
languages fluently. Together with Silke Hermann, Niels developed a series
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disqourse White paper No. 01
of powerful organizational approaches, which include Org Physics and
Change-as-Flipping. Among his best-selling books is the internationally
acclaimed Organize for Complexity. Niels’ 2nd book, Leading with Flex-
ible Targets, was awarded the German Business Book Award, in 2006.
He is managing director of Red42 and investor at disqourse. Contact:
niels.pflaeging@redforty2.com
***
This white paper is dedicated to the memory of
Jay Cross (*1944 – †2015),
champion of the cause of informal learning in business settings,
a friend and “comrade-in-arms” during his later days.
Silke Hermann, disqourse founder,
and Niels Pflaeging, investor at disqourse
disqourse. White paper No. 01
THE AGILITY PROVIDER
disqourse d.o.o.
Svetice 36
10000 Zagreb, Croatia
start@disqourse.com
www.disqourse.com
Tel. +385 1 4647 478
Find all disqourse white papers here.

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Technology, didactics, content: The triad of discourse learning

  • 1. disqourse. White paper No. 01 Technology, didactics, content: The triad of discourse learning Technology Discourse didactics Content disqourse.
  • 2. 2 disqourse White paper No. 01 A wide variety of learning formats, methods and technologies exists. And they all have their usefulness. An annual ranking compiled by EdTech expert Jane Hart, for example, regularly ranks 300 of the digital top tools for learning. In 2021, YouTube, Zoom, Google Search, Microsoft Teams and PowerPoint came out first in that ranking. What this small sample illustrates well is that not all so-called learning technologies are alike: These technologies offer rather diverse sets of benefits. Not all learning technologies are designed specifically for learning, either: Taking another look at the top tools list, for instance, one cannot help but noticing that the first 16 places are occupied by all sorts of general web and software products – from Canva to Wikipedia. It is only on the 17th place that the first pure-play learning application (Google Classroom) appears. Needless to say that not all great learning technology is digital in nature. But what makes learning technology, or method, truly effective, in the context of organizational learning? The learning technology market is a remarkably technology-driven one. Most of the so-called trends in Learning & Development (L&D) are ex- clusively technology-driven: Video conferencing or virtual reality are just but two examples. The predominance of technology orientation in L&D is probably rooted in the fact that the learning technology (EdTech) market is still young and relatively immature. Which makes the focus on code, chips, bits and bytes somewhat understandable. But that fixation on tech- nology also comes at a price. In markets like this, the old adage applies that not all innovation is also progress. Most learning technologies target individual trans- mission of knowledge. That’s like putting blinkers on In learning and development within organizations, a particularly import- ant place has been given to individual learning, or, more precisely, to the individual transmission or assimilation of knowledge. There are several reasons for this. Most of us are familiar with the concepts of transmis- sion and acquisition of knowledge applied in school, during trainings or throughout our studies. In addition, individual knowledge has always mat- tered in organizations – and it will always do so. In fact, at least in com- plicated contexts, problem-solving requires knowledge, above all. When we talk about expertise and know-how in the context of organizations, this is usually what we are referring to: The acquisition of knowledge that enables the solution of known and complicated problems. Standards and processes, compliance matters or safety certifications are examples of do- mains in which knowledge works perfectly well. In the context of collaboration, however, and especially when it comes by Silke Hermann und Niels Pflaeging. January 2022
  • 3. 3 disqourse White paper No. 01 The difference between knowledge and mastery, the complicated and the complex Knowledge Suitable for solving complicated, recurring problems. Is the foundation of rules, processes, standards, automation, digitalization Can be acquired through individual absorption of information or cramming Based on an illustration from Complexitools by Silke Hermann & Niels Pflaeging, Follett Publishing, forthcoming 2022 Mastery Needed for solving complex, new problems. Always requires people with ideas. Often requires communication and project-like collaboration Conducive interaction patterns Shared insight Complicated problems Complex problems Here, knowledge or acquisition of knowledge alone are not enough: In addition, discourse learning is required! Here, learning technologies that focus on the transfer of knowledge are sufficient! Can only be acquired through (disciplined) practicing, or problem-related doing. Presupposes knowledge
  • 4. 4 disqourse White paper No. 01 to value creation that requires the division of labor within organizations, complex challenges prevail. Here, it is necessary to provide learning op- portunities and formats that go beyond the mere conveying of knowledge. In addition to the transmission of knowledge, learning offerings must en- able the emergence of a shared understanding of complex challenges and their solutions, and foster collaborative patterns. Such effects on team constellations and organizations can only be produced by learning for- mats based on social interaction. Through the discourse between actors, such formats allow the development of shared vision and new models of actions. In other words, in complex contexts, not only knowledge, but also mastery is needed (see illustration on the previous page). Knowledge combined with mastery is good. But in an organizational context, even that is not enough Individual mastery, or the ability to solve new problems through supply of ideas is not quite enough, though. In order to solve complex problems at work, it is often necessary to perform together, in project-like ways of working: Intense communication and collaboration between experts and between people with mastery is needed. The kind of collaboration that is required for problem-solving in complexity is increasingly interdisci- plinary, and requires diverse backgrounds, qualifications and masteries. Complex problems, thus, can usually only be solved in earnest collabo- ration. However, it is precisely this type of collaboration and cooperation that is not highly practiced in most organizations. Where project approaches to work and the quality of communication are poorly developed, the focus is often on treating symptoms and on mere activism. What is needed here are “alternative“ learning offerings, beyond pure technology. An example of such offerings are the large-group methods, which were developed be- tween the 1970s to 1990s, in particular OpenSpace Technology, World- Café or FutureSearch, made impressive contributions in this respect, and popularized revolutionary forms of discourse – practically without any need for digital technology. However, these formats are not easily applied regularly or continuously. And they are not easily scalable for very large, geographically distributed groups. In addition, the content dimension is all too easily sidelined in these methods, especially if the aspects of volun- teerism, urgency on the side of participants, and precise choice of topics are not sufficiently taken into account when preparing such formats. Learning opportunities in complex contexts should generally be based on networked, dense social interaction and active debate, as allowed by OpenSpace and WorldCafé formats. However, voluntary reflection and debate among peers needs to be practiced – just like everything else. Which means that one-off discussion events are not enough to achieve the goal: it takes repetition, rhythm, and iterative method in order to de- velop a shared understanding, as well as interaction patterns conducive to complex problem solving. Discourse learning requires no less than a triad of technology, didactics and content In this white paper, we explain why a high impact of organizational learn- ing on organizational action and development can only be expected if the technology, the learning method (didactics) and the content (subject matter) are combined. The aim of this triptych is to bridge the gaps be- tween knowledge, mastery, intuition and application by coupling them
  • 5. 5 disqourse White paper No. 01 The triad of discourse learning with learning tool categories. disqourse integrates technology, discourse didactics and content in a unique fashion Technology Discourse didactics Content disqourse. Web conferencing Learning analytics Gamification Knowledge Management platforms Learning Management systems Tests & diagnostics eLearning platforms, online courses, MOOCs Consumer learning apps Interaction apps Online learning tools (e.g.white boards, workflow tools) Facilitation techniques Peer learning, e.g. Communities of Practice, WOL, Lean Coffee, meetups Trainings, seminars Development programs Books, articles, blogs, videos, podcasts Content curation Large group methods like OpenSpace, BarCamps, WorldCafé Explanatory videos lecture videos Promotes flexible access, scalability, time & cost efficiency Promotes curiosity, knowledge building, credibility, sustainability of learning Promotes effectiveness, commitment, joy in learning, networked learning, pattern change
  • 6. 6 disqourse White paper No. 01 very closely. Thus allowing organizational learning to develop much high- er impact, and to develop impact much faster (see illustration on page 5). We define didactics as science and practice of learning, which includes theories of learning and the methodological approaches to support it. As such, didactics are not preoccupied with problems of teachers alone, but with the context of learning and the internal processes of learners. Didac- tics are concerned with the content of learning (the what), the method of learning (the how) and the context of learning, which includes its histor- ical, cultural and social justifications (the why). One-sided focus on technology as a problem in organizational learning We already spoke at the beginning about the prevailing focus on technol- ogy, even the love of technology in the EdTech market. The dangers of a one-sided technological orientation in the field of Learning and Develop- ment are obvious: Without a coherent didactic concept, the effect even of the best technology, the most refined hardware or software solution will always remain a dead letter. The impact of technology will be restricted to the level of entertainment or of single events. Corresponding tools will quickly lose their credibility and their appeal to learners. The promise of efficiency that digital technology (however powerful) brings, can never be fulfilled without marrying the tech to coherent didactics. To illustrate this problem, let‘s consider the example of browser-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) for a moment. Although the cor- responding web-based technologies have been pretty widespread since the late 1990s and even though LMS today make up the largest share of the learning technology market, the effectiveness of these systems is still a matter of some controversial debate. The distinction between technology, didactics, and content allows to shed light on the problem: Learner pro- filing, learner gap analysis, training and course management, certification and badges do not by themselves make for an attractive and welcoming learning environment. To date, typical LMS seem to be more steeped in the idea of learner control and tracking than in the idea of maximizing learning and impact. Their design appear to cater less to the needs of learners than to those of learning managers, sadly. The blind spots of digital learning technologies are not limited to didac- tics, or learning method. Without consistent content, even attractive technology often leads to user frustration and, consequently, to a lack of credibility among tech customers and learners alike. A good example are on-line interaction tools like Kahoot or Mentimeter. Both are designed to spice up encounters on-line and off-line, and to potentially add fun and educational value to events, ranging from workshops and keynotes. And while the use of these applications is as intuitive as one might wish for, producing a link between such gamification tools and the desired learn- ing content and outcome is far from trivial. Moreover, the overemphasis on technologies such as gamification (often misunderstood as a didactic tool) assumes that learners must be con- stantly stimulated, teased and motivated to engage in learning. Gamifica- tion technique employs stimuli that have nothing to do with the content: Such approaches wrongly assume that learners are not interested in either learning or content, for their own sake. At the same time, stimulus-based technology attempts to condition learners. All of which is a far cry from notion of self-determination, human motivation and development.
  • 7. 7 disqourse White paper No. 01 One-sided focus on didactics as a problem in organizational learning As we have discussed, didactics refers to pedagogical or learning con- cepts and methods. But not any question at the end of a long list of bul- let points deserves to be called didactics. Almost all didactic elements used in corporate learning today have been borrowed from the didactics of classical educational institutions – i.e. school and university. This ex- plains the predominance of formats such as seminars, trainings and lead- ership programs, right up to the madness of today’s MBAs and ongoing professional education, which are highly influenced by the pedagogy of schooling. More often then not, these traditional learning formats are characterized by a strong emphasis on classroom instruction, sometimes supplement- ed by testing, grading, and assessment. An example from the education system illustrates the problem: the school concept of the class year, sup- planted to professional environments, means that similar people from the same field, backgrounds, or hierarchical levels should always be grouped together to learn. In such a conventional logic, forming more mixed, and therefore more diverse learning groups would not be advisable. On the contrary, the concepts of scientific, Student-Centered Learning or Dialogic Learning (promoted by education pioneers like Montessori, Dewey and Piaget) have long advocated that the differences between learners are a valuable resource, and of direct use in the process of learning with-each-other- for-each-other: Here, diversity is considered into an integral component of didactics. So far, the corresponding principles of such Student-Centered Learning and pedagogy have not yet made their way into corporate learning. Nor have the principles of such pedagogy been incorporated into the design of most EdTech products. Yet, cross-group, cross-functional and hierar- chy-spanning learning interventions are pretty easy to achieve. You just have to want it. A rarely appreciated benefit of cross-hierarchical learning groups: The experience of the other (including managers) as ‘someone normal who is also learning.‘ If the learning process takes place together, then it is possible to witness each other‘s moments of understanding – to experience that moment when the other person clicks. In the Montessori Method, now a powerful international pedagogical movement in many countries, not only are mixed-age classrooms a stan- dard, but also trans-disciplinary learning and Learning through Teaching. Modern approaches to discourse learning, such as disqourse, make use of the same didactic concepts. Moreover, if one takes the principle of learn- ing-with-each-other-for-each-other to its logical conclusion, one inevi- tably stumbles upon learning formats in which intense, discourse-based peer learning renders teaching by experts and coaching by teachers com- pletely superfluous. We will discuss the related approaches in more detail, later in this paper. The art of establishing peer-to-peer, social learning is first and foremost to make carefully prepared and welcoming learning environments avail- able to learners. Such learning environments should not only open up a space of resonance between learners temporarily (as achieved in Open- Space meetings, for example). They should also combine temporary spac- es for dialog in a more permanent fashion, as well as employ technologies and contents in a way that, on the one hand, potentially sustains learning
  • 8. 8 disqourse White paper No. 01 and, on the other hand, integrates it as closely as possible to the learners‘ professional reality and daily work. In order to achieve this, most organizations will have to overcome a few practical obstacles. For example, access to learning opportunities is often seen as an integral part of career mechanisms. In these cases, learning formats are thus by no means used exclusively for producing learning itself – they are also a means to career development. This greatly reduces the options to create high-impact didactics, learning formats and content design. One-sided focus on content as a problem in organizational learning Organizational learning today focuses on classic concepts of initial and continuing education – and is often strongly inclined towards the ideal of knowledge transfer. The corresponding formats take up a lot of space. Additional content is often largely absent, and ignored, such as topics related to the development of the organization and of cooperation itself. Overall, “pure content“ applied in the context of organizational learning lacks a networking effect, on the one hand, and a link to its application, on the other. Content that is not embedded in coherent didactics lacks the dimension of practical application, or at least potential application within one‘s own reality. Content that’s decoupled of didactics will only in rare cases successfully bridge the void between knowledge and its application. The original form of pure content, the non-fiction, specialist book fea- tures a unique characteristic: It is capable of reconciling high content density with a high degree of specialization. This may sound trivial. But it is not. Because even after having read a hundred or so specialized books in a certain trade, fatigue does not necessarily set in – at least not among passionate readers. The effectiveness of newer content presentation for- mats wears off pretty quickly, by contrast. An example: Explanatory vid- eos. Even well-produced series of explanatory clips lose their appeal, after a while. The surprise, or even bliss, that most of us felt when we first watched the RSA animation video based on Dan Pink‘s talk about Drive on Youtube, back in 2010, can never be repeated. At least by the third or fifth viewing of videos of the same kind, boredom, even rejection, set in. Afterwards, the content presented can neither be remembered, nor applied. That does not mean that explanatory videos or other bite-sized formats are bad. The problem is that they are merely sideshow content. RSA-style animations or visualizations are a far cry from being didac- tic. Generally speaking, contents that are presented, heavily visualized, or curated in audio/video formats lack the mystery, and the element of discovery by the learners that is useful for lasting memorization or learn- ing. Not enough effort is required by the learners to decipher meaning, while too much is explained to them. Only a combination of content and didactics allows learning without explanation. The expansion of didac- tics to discourse didactics allows for collegial decoding of the content in a discussion. This way, all learners can effectively become teachers. Four concepts of discourse didactics – for highest impact, combined with minimal use of resources The unique feature of disqourse is the intimate combination of technolo- gy, didactics and content. The disqourse approach to learning combines
  • 9. 9 disqourse White paper No. 01 conceptual reflection and dialogue, personal insight and thoughtful appli- cation to real-world, practical problems within groups of peer learners. This goes far beyond the individual imparting of knowledge. We do not understand the word problem as hinting at something nega- tive, though. We define the term problem merely as a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Problems matter. They need to be tackled. There is usually a lot of talk in organizations. But not always with each other. Or around specific content or actually problems. Often, we do not talk about problems, but about symptoms of problems. It is not the quantity of conversation that is the lacking, but its quality. Because, for ambiguous interrelations and complexity to be understood, more than just talk is needed. What is necessary is focused, disciplined conversation: Without this, nothing works in complexity! Without enduring actual conflict and discussion, new and collective insight or knowledge will rarely emerge, if not by chance. But without actively building shared understanding, no relevant action, no intentional action for change will ever result. Discourse learning promotes exchange that is focused on topics, or re- al-world problems, in a way that the production of insight and new knowl- edge is quick and effortless. Even within larger teams or large groups. Dis- qourse is designed to encourage positive and meaningful application of conceptual insight, or practical theory in one‘s own domain and organi- zation. Always in a constructive way. While preserving the most precious resource that organizations possess: Our time. In the following sections, we will discuss key concepts of discourse learn- ing that are particularly characteristic of disqourse. Each of the four con- cepts, taken in isolation, would not be very effective. It is their combina- tion, and the coherence between them, that makes the difference. Concept 1. Small-group-based – in diverse groups of four, five or six If the didactic framework is sound, then self-organized, social learning in small groups can do without seminar rooms, without experts or knowl- edgeable facilitators. Dialog and critical discussion are best exercised in the protected space of the small, intimate group. Ideally, small group learning requires something that is abundantly available in organizations: colleagues. And enough of them, so that many different points of view can meet. Enough to allow everyone to express themselves regularly, or to speak up. For it is also by speaking up for oneself that one can acquire new insight. The heart of discourse learning is the intense discussion between learners in a small group, intensified by the setting, or the contextual framework. Each disqourse session generates such socially dense conversation among learners. The disqourse methodology provides both content and the set- ting for the discourse to happen. In each session, listening, questioning, and sharing are integral to the work of learning together – with-each- other-for-each-other. For high-quality discussion within a group to emerge, reliably, a balance between the provision of conceptual input and the joint handling of re- flective tasks is paramount. Within groups of learners, everyone gets along best when these groups are small enough (so that no one can lean back or isolate themselves), and also are large enough (so that different characters and masteries are sitting at the table). In short, a small, diverse and undisturbed group of four, five or six colleagues is the perfect learn- ing accelerator, in pretty much every way imaginable.
  • 10. 10 disqourse White paper No. 01 The discourse didactics of disqourse. Rhythmic, self-organized, small group-based, invitation-based Cycle The smallest unit of learning in disqourse – 5 individual sessions make up a Cycle of 7,5 hours total duration Invitation by the sponsor: Her/his invitation can be accepted or declined Sessions 90 minutes each. During each session, a new module from the disqourse module catalog is being worked upon Session 1 Session 2 Session 3 Session 4 Session 5 After finishing a Cycle, the Circle can either dissolve, or undertake another Cycle together This illustration is inspired by LearningCircles by Red42, a free-to-use open source social technology by Silke Hermann & Niels Pflaeging, published under the CC-BY-SA-4.0 license from Creative Commons, which can be found here: www.redforty2.com/learningcircles Supervision: Assures the quality of both Sessions and Cycles Circle A group of learners consisting of 4, 5 or 6 people who undertake a joint Cycle of learning. Circles can be ‘highly diverse‘ Weaving effect: Acquired learn- ing emanates between Circles and into the organization Pattern analysis: Allows for systematic identification of impact and further developmental potential
  • 11. 11 disqourse White paper No. 01 Concept 2. Rhythmized – through Sessions, Cycles and content design Any discourse didactics requires rhythm – it must groove. In other words, it has to be iterative, ongoing, pacing, varied, energetic, motley, pulsing, cadenced, patterned, structured. In short: Discourse didactics is the exact opposite of large, costly, isolated learning events. For learners, the rhyth- mics of discourse learning create a sense of reliability, clarity and sus- tainability throughout the learning experience. In disqourse, specifically, rhythmics are achieved through a variety of concepts: through iterative, time-controlled learning sessions and cycles, as well as through the design of flow within the individual learning sessions. Perhaps the most striking concept of rhythm in disqourse is the time-box- ing of the individual learning sessions. Each session in Disqourse encom- passes a specific unit of time: 90 minutes. Reliably. Learning in 90-minute units is familiar to all of us. For good reason, it is a time span that is com- mon in school and elsewhere. On the one hand, a duration of 90 minutes is long enough to cover something new in sufficient depth. On the other hand, it is short enough for learners to be able to maintain focus and be concentrate continuously. 90 minutes also allows enough time in every session for a beginning, a middle and an end. One level above that, there is another rhythmic concept: In disqourse, five sessions of learning form a Cycle. A sequence of five sessions provides enough time for learners to establish and grow trusting relationships among them. The duration is short enough so that learners can make commitments to a Cycle, ahead of the first session, without much risk. Five sessions provide enough time for a beginning, a middle and an end. The prepared learning environment provides for intensity to emerge in every session. Within the different disqourse modules, additional rhyth- mic concepts are embedded. Conceptual information (or practical the- ory, as we often call it) is introduced in short sequences, comparable in length to scenes in a movie. This information is immediately reflected upon by learners, in the light of their work and shared problems. Then the next short input is presented, followed by yet another interaction. And so on. All “scenes“ of a disqourse session are time-boxed. Thus, pacing, pulse and iteration are produced within all sessions, too. Through the pacing, learning during sessions becomes intensified, time passes quickly, just like in a good movie, or during an intense conversation among friends. Concept 3. Invitation-based – the prerequisite for voluntariness and engagement Wanting to learn is a personal decision. Someone who does not wish to learn cannot be effectively forced by others to do so – and we should nev- er even attempt to do any such thing. Indeed, any exercising of coercion will only hinder the desire to learn in others. Put differently: A high level of commitment from people is always a result from their ability to act freely: to make decisions for themselves. Volun- tary action is attractive – being commanded or coerced is not. For the reality of discourse didactics, this means that all corresponding learning formats must be 100% invitation-based and voluntary – instead of being imposed, as it is often the case with corporate development programs, seminars or trainings. In discourse didactics, therefore, the participation of an individual person must never, ever be compulsory: The invitation to participate in such formats can either be accepted or declined. Declining
  • 12. 12 disqourse White paper No. 01 the invitation must be possible without punishment and without negative consequences. The invitation itself must be positive and attractive to all those invited. And only authentic invitation (one which provides the two options of accepting or declining it) can be perceived as such – without being mis- taken for a hidden instruction. The invitation to practice joint organiza- tional development with everyone, which disqourse offers, additionally reinforces the relevance and attractiveness of such a learning offer. Concept 4. Authorized by a Sponsor – opening the space for learning & impact The invitation to participate in disqourse is always sent by a person to whom we refer to a sponsor. The invitation by the sponsor makes it clear who is authorizing the learning offer, and for whom. It is also made clear in the written invitation that the acceptance of this offer to get involved in discourse learning is expressly desired. With the invitation to participate in discourse learning, another kind of authorization of learners is connected. Because by (voluntarily) accept- ing the invitation, learners are not only authorized to learn for their own personal gain, but also to draw conclusions from what they have learned and apply what it for value-creation with their own organization. This authorization of learners to act is by no means merely nice to have. It is essential, if the learning that is produced is to have an impact on the or- ganization and be effective. Consider this: Without this kind of authorization, learners would con- stantly have to wonder, throughout the learning process: Am I actually allowed to apply this new insight or that piece of learning – or should I better ignore it in my daily work, continuing in the same way as before, even though I now know better? The authorization of learners by a spon- sor with sufficient formal and legal authority to employ the learning is therefore a prerequisite for producing a resonating space between learn- ing and development. For a bridging between the discourse learning and organizational impact. Discourse learning: Perfect for all problems where dynamics and social interaction matter Organizational learning should focus on content that helps individuals, teams, and organizations to successfully organize the work of today and tomorrow. There are many good offerings around for building founda- tional knowledge of collaboration and communication. Discourse learn- ing in disqourse therefore targets challenges for which there have been few suitable offerings so far: It focuses on topics that imperatively require debate and discussion. There are topics of knowledge that can easily be acquired alone, and even practiced alone. We are deliberately excluding such topics from disqourse. The themes of disqourse sessions, its learning materials, or modules are instead geared towards inviting argument and difference, that require classification, that contain a certain level of ambiguity, and that may pro- voke some disagreement. Topics, in short, that can only be turned action- able and relevant through reflexion within a practical context, or through contextualizing and practicing together. In other words: complex topics require learning formats that enable appropriately high levels of complex interaction.
  • 13. 13 disqourse White paper No. 01 But what exactly are complex topics? By this we mean all subject areas that matter in contexts of interaction and social dynamics. disqourse modules are supposed to convey content that is intimately related to complexity in work and value creation, and that allows for reflective practice in dealing with complexity – while employing practical theory. The topic of self-organization is a great example of this. Self-organization can only be appropriately and credibly classified, reflected upon and prac- ticed within learning formats that also uphold self-organizing principles. In this sense, disqourse offers a practical learning environment in which self-organization can be constructively understood, supported, consoli- dated and deepened. The self-organized way of learning during disqourse sessions is reflected in the content of every single session, which in turn is always applicable to promote the highest levels of self-organization in the work environment. Discourse learning: Can we bridge the gap between edtech innovation mania and actual L&D progress? How else could we do this much, much better? – This question should be the primary concern of learning platforms designers. Instead of: What cool, new digital technologies have we not yet used in our platform? We firmly believe that organizational learning is not about implementing technologically new or flashy solutions. Rather, it is about promoting perceptible progress in social interactions and in the collaboration be- tween people within organizations and work. As we have outlined in this white paper, such progress can only be achieved through a combination of technology, didactics and content. And not through any of these three elements alone. Discourse learning, in particular, must always be geared towards pro- moting social intelligence. The technology we employ must, above all, serve to increase this social intelligence quickly and cheaply. Therefore, if possible, without causing additional travel activity; without requiring external experts; without laborious and costly design of learning spaces. All of this, in the shortest possible time and as much integrated into the learners‘ work context as possible. The disqourse learning platform pro- vides an ideal framework for achieving this. *** Silke Hermann is a highly accomplished entrepreneur and leadership expert. She is founder of Red42, a company based in Wiesbaden/Ger- many. And a founder/director at disqourse, a cloud-based, B2B platform provider that enables enterprise-wide growth, learning and development for all. Disqourse was founded in 2021 and is headquartered in Zagreb, Croatia. Previously, Silke was a partner and managing director of Insights Group Germany. Together with Niels Pflaeging, she developed several organizational open source approaches, including OpenSpace Beta and Cell Structure Design. She is the author of several influential business books. Contact: silke.hermann@disqourse.com Niels Pflaeging is a leadership philosopher and entrepreneur. He is also one of the most prolific European experts on organizational leadership and transformation. Since 2003, Niels achieved international recognition as a speaker and author, with ten published books to date. He speaks four languages fluently. Together with Silke Hermann, Niels developed a series
  • 14. 14 disqourse White paper No. 01 of powerful organizational approaches, which include Org Physics and Change-as-Flipping. Among his best-selling books is the internationally acclaimed Organize for Complexity. Niels’ 2nd book, Leading with Flex- ible Targets, was awarded the German Business Book Award, in 2006. He is managing director of Red42 and investor at disqourse. Contact: niels.pflaeging@redforty2.com *** This white paper is dedicated to the memory of Jay Cross (*1944 – †2015), champion of the cause of informal learning in business settings, a friend and “comrade-in-arms” during his later days. Silke Hermann, disqourse founder, and Niels Pflaeging, investor at disqourse
  • 15. disqourse. White paper No. 01 THE AGILITY PROVIDER disqourse d.o.o. Svetice 36 10000 Zagreb, Croatia start@disqourse.com www.disqourse.com Tel. +385 1 4647 478 Find all disqourse white papers here.