Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Individual and Organizational Learning: A Developmental Perspective on Gilsdorf, Rymer and ABC

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

Individual and Organizational Learning: A Developmental Perspective on Gilsdorf, Rymer and ABC

Article excerpt

For the past two years, the opening plenary session at the Association of Business Communication's (ABC's) annual convention has included presentations from both the Outstanding Teacher Awardee and the Outstanding Researcher Awardee. The purpose for including both presentations in the opening session is to draw attention to the synergies between teaching and research--a synergy that I believe is critical for ABC's growth and development.

In their presentations (this issue), the outstanding teacher awardee, Jenny Gilsdorf, and the outstanding researcher awardee, Jone Rymer, offer us poignant stories about their personal and professional growth. I believe, however, that these narratives not only tell us about two scholars' developmental journeys, but also mirror a developmental journey of our own Association. Their journeys exemplify a process of generative learning that is core to both individual and organizational transformation.

The purpose of my presentation there and present paper is to provide an integrating framework for exploring the linkages between the ideas put forth by Gilsdorf and Rymer. To develop this framework, I will use a psychodynamics perspective to examine the connections among individual development, an organization's developmental process, learning, teaching and research.

Individual Journeys

Combined, Jenny Gilsdorf and Jone Rymer have taught and conducted research for more than 45 years. Both of their narratives provide illustrations of the developmental tasks they have faced as teachers and researchers, their coping strategies and their subsequent generative learnings (Senge, 1990a).

Jenny Gilsdorf tells a personal story not only about her students and the changes in her students' use of the English language, but also tells us about the changes that have happened to her. Jenny's move from "English" to EnglishES" was not just about the addition of the two letters "e" and "s"; it was a transformational experience for Jenny. Jenny's move to a rich intercultural environment at California State University-Los Angeles, combined with the globalization of business, catapulted her into a new teaching situation where her assumptions about the English language and about the teaching of business communication have been challenged. Through a continual learning process, Jenny's worldview has evolved and changed which, in turn, has altered her approach to teaching in the classroom.

Likewise, Jone tells us of a co-mentoring journey in which she, too, has developed both personally and professionally. During her 25-year journey, Jone has learned to collaborate with others and has developed a keen sense of give and take. Her epiphany of "only connect" is one that is deeply personal and has allowed her to successfully traverse the developmental tasks of teaching, publication, and tenure.

Personal Growth and Career Development

Extant research has shown that development is not just a childhood phenomenon (Freud, 1917; Piaget, 1972) but continues throughout adult life in relatively predictable phases (Gould, 1972; Levinson, 1978; Nuegarten, 1968). Sheehy (1976) and others claim that these phases involve developmental tasks that are set before us at different stages of our lives. These tasks include both personal and professional dilemmas such as marriage, rearing children, divorce, aging, job hunting, or promotion within a chosen career. Ideally, an individual works through these tasks developmentally leading to self-insight, wisdom, competence, ego strength, adaptation and/or personal integrity.

According to scholars who study adult development (Bee, 1996; Havighurst, 1979; Neugarten, 1968), we are confronted with a succession of internal and external changes, which converge and require adaptation. In an adult's life, internal changes might include an illness, aging, or various psychological needs. …

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