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chairman, Learning and Performance Institute @DonaldHTaylor

Donald H Taylor O

ne evening last December, I was one of a group of Online Educa conference attendees

heading to Berlin’s Tegel airport. A full taxi was taking us on our first step back home to Switzerland, Denmark and England, and I was wedged in the middle of the back seat. We passed a store. Te colleague to my left said, casually, “Tat’s a Danish chain.” “Oh no,” replied the colleague

to my right. “It’s German. Tey expanded into Denmark recently.” “No, no. Tey’re based in Copen-

hagen,” insisted the person to my left. It was a good-natured argument, but with an intensity the subject didn’t merit. With each side convinced it was right, the debate showed no signs of stopping. I decided to intervene. “Excuse me,” I said, trying to

muster some decorum, jammed up against the two of them (it wasn’t a large taxi). “You know only one of you can be right.” Tey each nodded enthusiastically. “Would you agree that, therefore, one of you must be wrong?” “Sure!” Tey chorused,

each sure it was the other. “Would you accept that you

yourself might be wrong?” Te response to this was some unenthusiastic mumbling. Yes, they

Don explores being right and wrong, and working together

that the loser would stand the other lunch sometime soon, and that once the result was announced they would shake hands and say no more about it. Tese were bright people, with

post-graduate degrees, doing impor- tant jobs. Why would they so rapidly take such entrenched sides? For one, simple reason. Tey were human. When we believe something to be

true, it becomes difficult, almost impossible, to conceive that we might be wrong. Tat’s the nature of belief. Sometimes, though, we are wrong and we just have to accept it. In the 1980s, I believed the brain’s left

hemisphere was its centre of creativity. Tat made sense, given Roger Sperry’s Nobel prize-winning split brain experiments. Later, when we developed a more sophisticated appreciation of the brain, it became clear this was wrong. I had to – reluctantly, it is true – give up this belief. I don’t remember whether the

How many of us could so easily accept being shown our own mistakes?

accepted that they might be wrong, but in principle only. Tey had, over the short time of their argument, become fiercely wedded to their positions. I was tempted to resort to Oliver

Cromwell’s famous imprecation: “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” Instead, I turned to Google. I suggested that while I searched for the answer, they each agree two things:

store turned out to be Danish or German. I do remember that each party stuck to the deal. Te winner did not crow. Te loser accepted defeat and agreed to buy lunch. Teir mature resolution of the issue made me wonder – how many of us could so easily accept being shown our own mistakes? How many of us could resist the easy pride of victory? And then: how much past progress in L&D might have been delayed by our very human difficulty in resolving arguments? How much faster and wider might we improve the scope of our work if we could explore truly contentious matters such as learning styles equably, agree, and then move on, together?

Donald H Taylor blogs at

| may 2017 | 5

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