Blog Post

Learning By Doing: Guest Blog with David Lilley

by | 25 Nov, 2022 | Blog, Collaborators, Collaboratory Podcast, Resources

In a recent episode of Collaboratory, we heard from a range of collaborative practitioners, including three main guests, David Lilley, Johanna De Ruyter and Callie Doyle Scott, who discussed the most important skills and capabilities for facilitating co-creative processes. 

Systems thinking was a key concept which David explained during the episode, so we invited him to write a blog post which further explores his perspectives on systems and learning by doing.

David Lilley

In my interview I mentioned two things that have become increasingly important to me in recent years. First, I’m becoming more systemic in my orientation to the world, and second, I’m (more consciously) learning by doing. Let me explain.

Systems thinking seems to be trendy at the moment. Everyone wants to change ‘the’ system. But to me system thinking is about our orientation to the world, not trying to change one specific policy or organisation.

The core of systems thinking is that everything is connected. This is depicted with humorous effect in a discussion about the ‘Blanket Truth’ in the film I Heart Huckabees. Basically, nearly all systems are comprised of subsystems, and they are connected to a myriad of other systems and subsystems. To avoid this becoming confusing, burdensome, and impossible to navigate, it is helpful to consider three core concepts simultaneously.

  1. Interrelationships: No issue we seek to tackle can be dealt with effectively on its own basis. For example, the issue of unemployment is not simply about a lack of jobs, or a mismatch of skills, or a lack of motivation, or any other single thing. It is about relationships between individuals, employers, economic conditions, public policy, and more.
  2. Perspectives: Different people see the same situation differently. We cannot adequately understand or respond to issues unless we bring different perspectives together.
  3. Boundaries: While everything is interconnected, our understanding and our influence is limited. We therefore need to put boundaries around the systems we seek to intervene in, to make our task manageable. The key issue here is that we do this ethically, which necessitates working with others, most importantly those who are affected by the issue we seek to tackle.

If we take interrelationships, perspectives, and boundaries seriously, we quickly realise that every situation we encounter will be unique. We can’t rely on theory, or models, or processes to get us through. We need to become adept at working in context, in messy situations that involve psychology and politics as much as subject matter expertise.

How do we do this? By continually combining ideas, practice, and reflection, ideally in conjunction with a coach or community of practice, not least to stop us getting stuck inside our own heads! Here are three short videos I have found helpful:

About Communities of Practice

Learning by doing

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To hear more from David Lilley, and other featured collaborative practitioners, on which skills and capabilities are most important for facilitating co-creative processes and building generative relationships, be sure to check out the episode of Collaboratory, “Skills for Co-Creative Relationships”.