Design of the Learning Engine

J.  The learning engine (LE) is any system that continually improves on its previous performance.

S. Am I one?

J. You can be one. It involves taking the position that you are one knowing what it means to be one. In the same way if a team, an organisation, or a community decides to be one, it certainly qualifies to be a LE.

S. Besides taking position what more does it involve?

J.  It involves understanding the design of the  LE and using this understanding when the going gets tough.

S. Let us get to know the design in detail

J. Quadrants Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 of the learning engine are analogous to the four wheels of the car and the eye at the centre (self) is the engine.

The four quadrants are also directional.


Q1, North West,

Q4, South West,

Q2, North East, and

Q3, South East)

S. Who is the driver?

J. Us, depending on whoever identifies with the system. Q1 and Q 4 are internal to the observer or the driver/s of the LE.  Q2, Q3 are external to the observer. Q 3 is the physical world.   At the centre, where the four quadrants meet is a lighthouse with nine levels. When you climb to the top you get the eagle’s perspective, see everything, have a map of everything. The level 1 has all the maps, level 2 maps of all the simple machines similar to the clock, level 3 the maps of advanced machines with self-regulation, level 4 the maps of the unicellular world, level 5 that of the world of plants, level 6 that of all the animals, level 7 the maps of the individual  human, level 8 that of the organizational and level 9 that of all accumulated learning, meta- systems – religion, science, philosophy etc

The gap is the waste, unrealised potential, road not travelled, blue ocean space, the domain for Metrics.

A Map of Everything

From the top of the lighthouse, we can see where we were, prior to the climb, at the end of the line going up (or down?) from the level of animals in quadrant SE. Now, one knows the light house position (invariant) and the ship’s position (variant)

The direction for the journey can now be set, the compass function – towards bridging the gap between potential and performance. Had there been no gap we would have had a straight line in quadrant SE, a mirror image of NW. The gap is the waste, unrealised potential, road not travelled, blue ocean space, the domain for Metrics, inputs for course correction, to make sure  that the journey is one of improvement rather than speeding towards disaster.

SW is about learning and renewal, the process, improvement and revision of mental models to maps

Quadrant NW is the external social system, history, barriers to transcend, opportunities which conflicts with SW in terms of the challenges to learning and improvement. There are more  P s —-Position , Process and so on.

Perfection, Problems – every single time is a time of crisis. a crisis of the spirit of the time taking its birth, arising from resisting the perfection in us, not a crisis or a problem but the greatest opportunity of the time

Prophets, Peters. Parrots – Christ‘s vision was the foundation for the church and Peter the institution builder. Sans vision institutions become empty drums. In the age of the common Buddha, vision and action go hand in hand. Pyramids and hierarchies collapse. Parroting, rote learning, helps to pass on accumulated learning but is not sufficient to lead to improvement

Programmers, Parents, Pedagogues, Priests, Politicians – Even children are trained/ programmed to be terrorists- parroting. Why not programming for sustained improvements?  The major programming influences, family, religion, politics groom to conform. It  is for the individual to discern between the chaff and the grain in his journey of improvement.

Progress – Many a measure of progress fail to capture net improvements in realising the unrealised potential of the human. What we might think as progress may not be an improvement as suggested in quadrant SW. We might believe us to be above the level of animals as a class, but when it comes to realising potential we fall below them.

Power, Peace – Aggression begets aggression. Authentic power follows from facilitating others to discover their power, voice, potential, anchoring and connecting to peace within for peace outside.

Process – The focus on events, outcome and results need to go hand in hand with process dimensions. The product is in the process. If output and results do not meet expectations and standards, revisit the process.

Position – Taking a position calls for multiple perspectives, variant and invariants, the lighthouse position vs. the positions that the ship takes on its course.

The core at the centre is the engine and the four quadrants the wheels

The learning engine is capable of continually improving on its own performance against all odds creating invincibility

Continual Renewal

Continual learning is the path to continual renewal.

Nature is in a process of continual renewal but for the ecological footprints from human interventions. It takes more than a year for nature to renew what we consume in a year and some damages are irreparable.

Learning improves our mental models. The frog in the well forms a model of the world. The eagle on the tree has a different model. When the frog is taken out by the eagle and brought back into the well these two merge together to form a map of the world. The world has not changed but the models of the world have changed. We too had a flat earth model in the not too distant past. With better technology and tools these models have given way to maps with increasing precision. Though maps of the physical world have become more precise the mental models that went with them are not easily discarded.

The eagle represents the big picture and frog, the details. Both are connected just as the Hubble telescope sends us pictures from outer space and the femtoscope helps us see the smallest of the small. The eagle represents the global and frog the local which are but different perspectives of the whole. In a connected world – being GLOCAL – is an imperative. So is the imperative of continual learning, leading to continual renewal. We are frogs in the well of nature

Ref: Idealised Design, Russel L. Ackoff

Designer Lives


4 thoughts on “Design of the Learning Engine

  1. Pingback: Juggling with Ps – The Picture of Philosophy « First Discipline

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