(C) Copyright 2011, Erik Johansson All rights reserved


To paraphrase Albert Einstein, we cannot solve the problems we face at the same level where they were created.

Or, to quote the renowned statistician and management philosopher Dr. W. Edwards Deming,

A system cannot understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside.

Many esteemed thinkers have expressed the realization that big picture challenges—war, poverty and mental illness, to name three—require solutions from another level.

I suggest that to generate such big picture solutions we need big picture learning.

To engage in this level of learning and problem solving, learners do not require advanced university degrees, nor do they need to hold high-level positions in business or government.

Learners simply need an interest, an open mind, some ability to absorb new ideas, and a willingness to apply effort.

The purpose of this series is to explore some of the thinking that supports such ‘big learning’.

In the previous post I defined big picture learning as…

…that which enables us to interpret and effectively manage the most persistent and difficult problems in our lives, individually and collectively.

Many of us have resigned ourselves to ignore or simply endure difficult problems, and the suffering they bring, because we do not believe they can be solved.

Yet with effort and application, big picture learning will provide the tools to reduce and eventually eliminate these seemingly intractable personal, organizational, and global problems.

We can only accomplish this aim if many of us examine, modify and adopt a new view of the world and our place in it. Big picture learning is not just for a select few. It is for everybody.

To create a platform for big picture learning within you organization, it may be helpful to adopt a mind of scientific inquiry.

You may recall studying the scientific method  at some point. What I will lay out over the next several posts is a set of hypotheses that attempt to explain observed phenomena, and to use these hypotheses as the basis for big picture learning.

These hypotheses may one day form the basis of a general theory for positive change in the human condition. It will hopefully serve as a blueprint for further inquiry, thought and research.

You do not have to accept any of these hypotheses, and as I said in the previous post, I welcome constructive suggestions, comments and questions.

I am hoping, with your help, that we can shape a new curriculum, and a new paradigm for positive change.

This new curriculum will feature several elements, each containing one or more central hypotheses. Among the topics:

  • Preparing for big picture learning
  • Constructing a theoretical world view
  • A view of leaders as servants
  • Systems thinking
  • Understanding variation
  • Understanding psychology
  • Understanding cause and effect
  • The wheel of life
  • A view of self and others
  • A view of phenomena in general
  • Contemplating life purpose and meaning

I look forward to discussion! Please see our next post: contemplating the benefits of big picture learning.