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Social Learning and the Knowledge Society Published: Sunday, June 17, 2007 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

As the research clearly states, cultural intelligence includes the components of fresh and actualized knowledge (a historical perspective is more than necessary), profound thinking, and all sorts of skill, involving emotional intelligence.  By no means, this is a linear process, but requires a solid level of knowledge, the acquisitions of new knowledge and alternative perspectives through profound and intellectual thinking (homogeneous group think is a disaster), and the accommodation and assimilation of this knowledge into behavioral skills for effectively influencing policy formulation and implementation, new programs and projects that can produce visible and dramatic results.

As my beloved teacher Albert Bandura instructed me, cultural intelligence is always a matter of learning from social interactions.  Social learning is a very powerful way in which people’s experiences are transferred into knowledge and skills.  Social learning involves attention to the situation, retention of the knowledge gained from the situation, reproduction of the behavioral skills observed, and offering reinforcement (receiving feedback) about the effectiveness of the updated behavior.  Knowledge grows by way of interaction, but it is necessary to create a theory, which then is going to be deployed into concrete situations in order to achieve change and transformation.

Anyone wishing to mastering social learning has to be aware that this is a business of profound observation, paying attention to, and appreciating, critical differences and also behavioral patterns between oneself and others in an organizational and social setting.  This requires a huge passion for activating the imagination and for raising knowledge about the ways in which settings or contexts differ and how they affect behavior.  This is a core proposition of the science of design: if you want to affect behavior, learn to design the adequate setting that facilitates the eliciting of such policy, decision or behavior.  The key implication is that if we are in the business of constructively influencing behavior, we have to think hard about the context of the interaction.  To the extent that the context clearly promotes the desired behavior, we are experiencing a necessary dynamic of legitimacy and/or credibility, which in turn reinforces the behavior or the action taken.

Retaining knowledge (which is a necessary task for any system that wishes to increase its intelligence) also requires the ability to broader skills that can be used for future interactions and in other settings.  Recycling knowledge that has been useful for other contexts is not necessarily a good practice.  Reproduction of the new knowledge means practicing the learned new skills in future interactions.  Reinforcement implies that the more frequently and mindfully behaviors are tried out and are successful, the more quickly the culture intelligence improves.  This is a fundamental characteristic of a real knowledge society.

Profound learning takes time and people and institutions really must be committed to do it.  It has a factual component (books, journals, research pieces and magazines); an analytical component (cases, problems, situations, challenges and tasks); and an experimental component (real world pilot undertakings).  To the extent that social learning takes place, we will move away from the statement of the French sociologist Michelle Crozier, alerting that a bureaucratic society is one that cannot learn from its past mistakes.

Of course, complexity generates great learning opportunities and pressures reality to simplify.


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