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Session O - Pre-Conference Session
Discussing the Undiscussable:
Overcoming the Defensive Routines in the Workplace

Presented by Micah Fierstein

Description: This workshop is designed to allow participants develop skills for “Discussing the Undiscussable.”  Topics include the following:

1) We will gain initial exposure to a foundational skill set of organizational learning tools: Left Hand Column, Ladder of Inference, Advocacy and Inquiry

2) We will explore and examine defensive routines: the conditions and embarrassment of threat, being in control, bypass tactics and covering up.  These defensive routines create learning blind spots that limit learning on both the personal and organization level.  The unintended consequences of defensive routines are hiding the most challenging issues and the deterioration of relationships.  These behaviors are detrimental to the heath and success of the organization and individuals engaged in the work.

3) We will explore and practice strategic interventions, engaging differences and key thought enablers that create the conditions for discussing the undiscussable.

4) We will discuss how you might “stay on this path of learning” (2007, Noonan, p.viii)

Target Audience: This workshop is designed for those who:

  • desire to engage in conversation about challenging issues
  • are frustrated that the most important issues to often don’t get discussed  and want to break this pattern
  • believe that talking about difficult issues is necessary and vital  

Organization Issues: Learning blind spots inadvertently hurt the organization’s and team’s ability to address critical events, questions, capabilities, opportunities and problems.   Building ones capacity to discuss and examine the “elephants in the room” (discussing the undiscussable) brings thinking, learning and action to new level.  A level that increases both individual and organizational ability to create “the result that they truly desire” (Senge, 1994).

Objectives: Upon completion of the workshop, the participants will see, feel and understand new ways of engaging in difficult conversations.   

Resources and Acknowledgement:  This workshop is based on the work of Chris Argyris and Donald Schon.  Key ideas and exercises are based on William R. Noonan's book Discussing the Undiscussable, published by Jossey-Bass in 2007

Friday, April 20th

6 hours (9:00-12:00pm and 1:15-4:15pm)

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne - 6633 Canoga Avenue, Canoga Park

Workshop Cost: None

Workshop Handouts: Available for download at this link.

Micah Fierstein
Biography: Micah Fierstein is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alaska - Anchorage. He has been helping transforming the learning cultures of schools and classrooms for 31 years.  He founded the Change Institute in 1994 to provide educators coaching and access to leading edge organizational learning tools. Micah is a contributor to: Schools that Learn: Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares about Education.  He has presented in national and international conferences such as the Society of Organizatonal Learning's Global Forum in Austria and Finland, The National Council on Staff Development, The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, The International Systems Dynamics Society and The Shambhala Institute for Authentic Leadership. 

Micah is a member of the Society of Organizational Learning.  His background includes elementary school teaching, elementary and secondary administration, and university teaching.  Micah received his Masters degree in Education from Harvard University and his Doctorate from Oregon State University.

Website: www.changeinstitute.org

Contact: Micah can be reached by e-mail at Fmicahfierstein@gmail.com for additional information about this Pre-Conference session.

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/pub/micah-fierstein/9/74/8ba