#coachlearninginsport Moving from ‘No … But’ to ‘If … Then’ and on to ‘Yes … And’

I was struck by the introductory paragraph in an Esko Kilpi discussion of pattern recognition.

Esko argued:

The way we want to make sense of the world around us often has to do with causality. The question we ask is what caused “something” to happen. There is a variable, the “it,” that happened, that is now to be explained. In scientific study this variable is regarded as dependent. An independent variable, or variables, that cause it are then sought. This is also the if-then model of management. (My emphasis).

He followed up with this paragraph:

Emergence is often understood as things which just happen and there is nothing we can do about it. But emergence means the exact opposite. The patterns that emerge do so precisely because of what everybody is doing, and not doing. It is what many, many local interactions produce. This is in effect what self-organization means. Each of us is forming plans and making decisions about our next steps all the time. “What each of us does affects others and what they do affects each of us.”

By good fortune, I had an opportunity to talk with a colleague about Esko’s post and my interest in using creative, actionable insights to help with ‘If … Then’ game playing opportunities. My colleague has had a long career in the theatre.

We started talking about improvisation and the opportunities for ‘Yes … And‘ relationships.

‘Yes’ is an acceptance of another’s contribution, ‘And’ is our creative response to it. I take this to be at the heart of of Esko’s discussion of the self-organisation of local interactions.

Mark Upton provides a fascinating example of this self-organisation in his discussion of playfulness.

I take the ‘No … But’ part of the title to be characteristic of an instruction where behaviour is constrained. Perhaps it is the start of our teaching and coaching journeys where we feel obliged to share content and prescription.

I am meeting a group of rugby union coaches this weekend and I hope to raise ‘Yes … And’ ideas with them. I think I might start with this sentence:

The patterns that emerge do so precisely because of what everybody is doing, and not doing.

… particularly the ‘not doing’ part. And then use this segment of play from forty-three years ago to trigger conversation.

Photo Credit

Improvise (Andrew, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

#coachlearninginsport: knowing ourselves



Many, many years ago, I was introduced to ‘epistemology‘ and ‘ontology‘ in a political philosophy class at the University of York. I was enchanted by the words and their potential to help me think about second order questions.

Subsequently, I was enchanted by the ‘sociology of knowledge‘ and ‘personal construct psychology‘.

Three reading this week have brought back memories of these enchantments and have prompted me to think about knowing ourselves in coach learning environments.


Epistemic Cultures and Machineries of Knowledge Construction

The first prompt came from a 2007 paper written by Karin Cetina.

Karin proposes that a knowledge society:

is not simply a society of more knowledge and technology and of the economic and social consequences of these factors. It is also a society permeated with knowledge settings, the whole sets of arrangements, processes and principles that serve knowledge and unfold with its articulation. Epistemic cultures are the cultures of knowledge settings. (2007:361ff)

Her paper took my breath away as it articulated many of the ideas I had explored through my enchantments.

The notion of an epistemic culture captures “interiorised processes of knowledge creation”. It refers to:

those sets of practices, arrangements and mechanisms bound together by necessity, affinity and historical coincidence which, in a given area of professional expertise, make up how we know what we know. (2007:363)

Epistemic cultures are “cultures of creating and warranting knowledge”.

The sentence that stopped me in my tracks was “the focus in an epistemic culture approach is on the construction of the machineries of knowledge construction” (2007:363). (My emphasis).

Anne Edwards points out that Karin’s focus on machineries “directs attention from simply what experts know to how they know and how they build knowledge” (2010:9).


The second prompt came from a recommendation from a PhD student, Jo Gibson.

Jo suggested I look at a paper on the nursing profession that explored public image, self-concept and professional identity (Yvonne ten Hoeve, Gerard Jansen and Petrie Roodbol, 2014). It is a meta-review of the literature.

Yvonne, Gerard and Petrie observe:

Worldwide, nurses have developed themselves into professionals with a great deal of knowledge, as witnessed by the development of nursing protocols and guidelines. Despite these developments towards professionalization, previous studies on this subject have shown that nurses are not given due recognition for the skills they have (2014:296)

They propose “there is a strong need for a discussion on the image, the self-concept and the professional identity of nurses in a global context” (2014:297). They define self-concept as “the way we think about ourselves” (2014:303).

The paper explores how nurses might change public perceptions of their role by challenging stereotypical expectations of behaviour.


Connecting the Dots

The third prompt came from Esko Kilpi. His Medium post was a perfect synapse between the first-order review of nursing and Karin’s second-order epistemic culture discussion.

In his discussion of connecting within organisations, Esko points out “The cognitive opportunity of connecting lies in the fact that as we don’t all select the same things, we don’t all miss the same things”.

He asserts:

When we see information as a power plant that has the ability to organize, we realize the power of diversity and openness across boundaries. When information is transparent, people can organize effectively around changes, customers and purposes.

He adds:

What we have still not understood is that people need to have access to information streams that no one could predict they would want to know about. Even they themselves did not know they needed it — before they needed it. Thus information architectures can never be fully planned in advance.


We need a community of people who willingly participate and provide their insights to address increasingly interdependent issues. Collaboration is necessary because one person no longer has the answer. Answers reside in the interaction, between the different views to reality, between all of us.


Knowing Ourselves

Karin’s paper disturbed me in the best possible way. My readings in the philosophy of science had encouraged me to think about the fabrication of knowledge (in the sense of making). My sociological background has moved me to think about the social construction of knowledge.

Eski’s invitation to connect the dots resonates powerfully with my desire to connect those involved in coach learning and to do so openly to engage in reflections in and on practice.

I have shared Yvonne, Gerard and Petrie’s paper as a diligent attempt to discuss self-concept in a profession. If we are to do the same in coach learning, I think we must address how the knowledge we draw upon is constructed.

I do think ‘epistemology’, ‘ontology’, ‘sociology of knowledge’ and ‘personal construct psychology’ have a place in our lexicon. I hope that in making such concepts explicit we can engage in profound conversations about who we are and how we know ourselves.

Photo Credits

Keith Lyons (CC BY 4.0)


#UCSIA15 A family meeting

IMG_1695We had a delightful family day in Braidwood on Christmas Day.

There was joy, excitement, relief and contentment.

I hope that this is the atmosphere that pervades #UCSIA15 when it comes online on 23 February … and that a modest open online course might bring together a dispersed family interested in sport informatics and analytics.

I do live in a small town in rural New South Wales. My hopes for #UCSIA15 are prompted by the real sense of community in my town of 1200 people. I think it is a caring and sharing place with lots of time and opportunities for conviviality. I believe these characteristics do scale to open courses that celebrate playfulness and altruism.

BRDWe have limited access to high speed broadband in the town. As a result everyone engages with the digital world with an equal mixture of patience and frustration. I think part of my fascination with open asynchronous resources is based upon seven years of living in a rural community whilst pursuing a connectivist approach to sharing and cooperating.

Two posts over the Christmas period have encouraged me to reflect on my interest in sharing as a family. Both come from the Medium blogging platform.

Esko Kilpi wrote eloquently about Advanced Work on 22 December. He argued that:

The architecture of work is metaphorically still a picture of walls defining who is employed and inside and who is unemployed and outside. Who is included and who is excluded. Who “we” are and who “they” are. This way of thinking was acceptable in repetitive work where it was relatively easy to define what needed to be done and by whom as a definition of the quantity of labor and quality of capabilities.

In creative, knowledge based work it is increasingly difficult to know the best mix of people, capabilities and tasks in advance. Interdependence between peers involves, almost by default, crossing boundaries. The walls seem to be in the wrong position or in the way, making work harder to do. What, then, is the use of the organizational theatre when it is literally impossible to define the organization before we actually do something?

He suggested that:

The focal point in tomorrow’s organizing is not the organizational entity one belongs to, or the manager one reports to, but the reason that brings people together. What purposes, activities and tasks unite us? What is the cause of group formation? The architecture of work is a live social graph of networked interdependence and accountability.

Esko proposed that this is the time for Advanced work and our opportunity is “to see action within human relationships supported by our relationship with technological intelligence”.

IMG_0629I am hopeful that #UCSIA15 demonstrates this Advanced work through self-organising networks of people interested in, and passionate about, informatics and analytics.

The second post that encouraged my thinking was written by Ben Werdmuller on 27 December. I thought Ben’s post was an excellent discussion of personal and digital identity.

Ben observed that during a social gathering of friends he had not seen for some time:

Someone whose opinion matters a lot to me, and who knows me better than almost everyone, said that they kind of wanted to throttle my social media persona. It felt like a marketing campaign, and it so clearly wasn’t me.

This encouraged Ben to reflect and write about personal identity. He noted:

I don’t think it’s right to say that everyone on social media is motivated to promote themselves. We want to make friends; we want to find love; we want to learn from each others’ experiences. We crave real, deep, human connections that have nothing to do with our professional development or selling our wares. (Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it.) We want to share our feelings, our desires, the things that make us people, and not to get a “like” or to build followers or to make a buck, but to be alive.

He concluded that “I use the Internet to reach out to far-away people who mean so much to me. I hope they see some of me in the reflection”.

I am hopeful that the modesty of #UCSIA15 and the desired to connect with near- and far-away people does create the family feeling we experience during festivities.