Friday, May 02, 2008

Biblical precedents for modern L&D practice

At the Learning & Skills Group conference on Wednesday, I was struck more than once by the Biblical precedent for current wisdom in the field of L&D and knowledge management.

Wells and cisterns
The first instance came during a discussion with Clive Shepherd about the open-handed approach to knowledge: that conflict between the corporate tendency to play your cards close to your chest to keep your competitive edge, and the learning world tendency to share what we know and learn, so that the whole community can benefit.

It brought to mind the issue of cisterns and wells as addressed in the Bible. Cisterns were static stores into which one place water purely for one's own use, whereas wells were dynamic - fed by underground springs. Obviously, the water in the cistern could become stagnant, while the water in the well was always fresh and new.

I can't remember who it was who explained how generosity with knowledge makes good fiscal sense, but the notion sits well with me at a gut level.

Many years ago, I belonged to a network of female professionals in Cape Town. One month our speaker was the most highly qualified female banker in the country at the time, who also happened to be an ordained minister (one of the first women to achieve this, as well). She explained how the Biblical concept of personal tithing made macro-economic sense. It seems the principle holds true for more than just material wealth!

New wine/old winsekins
The next was when Donald Clark was pillorying the use of resources such as Second Life to run traditional classroom teaching events. Why are we forcing old models onto new technology? Why are we pouring new wine into old wineskins? The old wineskins aren't able to cope with it. We should look at the new technology and ask ourselves how we can use it to meet the needs that exist, rather than how we can use it to do what we have always done.

Of course, that portion of Scripture goes on to declare that "no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" Which is where the analogy breaks down for me in respect of L&D... although I know of some who would say that this principle applies to teaching and learning methodologies, too!

Ironically, Dave Snowden used the new wine/old wineskins analogy yesterday, too.

Here endeth the lesson ;0)


Anonymous said...

Its one of my two all time favourite Bible pieces - the other is "Now I see as through a glass darkly" but both only work in the St James version.

Anonymous said...

@dave But those are both brilliant images. For me, they remain breathtaking, even if they aren't in the King James version.

Have you ever encountered Eugene Peterson's transliteration called "The Message"? It is rich in powerful language and imagery more familiar to the modern metaphor. Very clever.

Anonymous said...

"Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are real, and use the freshness of creation avidly."
(Wisdom 2:6)

"On a good day enjoy good things, and on an evil day, consider."
(Ecclesiastes 7:14)

"If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?"
(Pirkei Avot [Sayings of the Fathers] 1:14)

Anonymous said...

@dave ferguson The middle one is familiar ground for me. The other two unknown, but most apt! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You should just use the parallel passages in Matthew 9:17 or Mark 2:23 instead of the version in Luke. Luke's the only one who includes the bit about preferring to drink the old wine. :)

Anonymous said...

@Christy You make a good point, but ah, I like wine. Especially well matured wine. I used to have a fridge magnet that said "I like to cook with wine... sometimes I even put it in the food" but I gave it to someone who deserved it even more than I did!

I'm hoping that the wedding feast of the Lamb will boast some of that wine that was served at the wedding in Cana.

Anonymous said...

Karyn, I was fortunate enough while at the (Jesuit) U. of Detroit to take courses from Rabbi Haym Halevy Donin.

You'd be surprised how little we learned about Hillel, much less the Talmud, at St. Brigid's.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Karyn but I don't like Peterson's translation at all. King James (apologies for earlier typo) version is poetry from the richest period in the English language

Anonymous said...

@Dave F erm... no I wouldn't

@Dave S Fair enough

Anonymous said...

Just one word' beautiful!'