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Transformative Learning and Internet Businesses


Transformative Learning and Internet Businesses
We fear to know the fearsome and unsavory aspects of ourselves, but we fear even more to know the godlike in ourselves”.Abraham Maslow
Tags: Transformative Learning, Transformative Learning and Internet Business, Abraham Maslow, Attraction Marketing, Branded Leaders, Self-Actualization.
This article explores the meaning of Transformative Learning and whether it has any connection with Internet businesses with its use of attraction marketing and branded leader etc. 

In 1990 the word Transformative Learning was played around by people in the academic world , not certain of the its significance. Jack Mezirow, a well known adult educator, appears to have been the first to try and make coherent sense of this interesting area in the early 1990s. He wrote the first  definitive work followed closely in 1995 Patricia Canton book on the topic. These  spawned a whole new area of research and study in the area.  While still controversial and spurned by the more traditional U.S. universities, transformative learning is obviously not going away and a number of leading universities have Centers of Transformative Learning. Of course, the phenomenon of what we now call transformative learning has been around as long as people have been learning. It is just that as far as we know it was never identified as a potential important element of learning.
Transformative Learning first came to my attention in 1995 when I was Dean of Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria. I invited Patricia Canton to give a talk to us about transformative learning as it appeared to me we were experiencing what was transformative learning among a group of our students.  Under my care at the time were all the part-time degree courses for those people who worked during regular course hours or they had families and simply could not study full time. In my case,  the majority of these adult learners were women who had not had the opportunity to attend university in there youth and who now felt they could  because the children were in school,  and/or the family had more disposable income. Not always however, as many of the women were single parents and simple needed to upgrade themselves to get a better job.
Something interesting happened to many of these women during the learning process. In a word, they became “liberated” . Learning opened a whole new world of opportunity for them. As they learned, they started to see themselves in a different light and saw what in fact they had the potential to do. They grew in every conceivable manner: spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially. They became more assertive, more confident, ready to confront challenges which  before they wouldn’t touch. Often they challenged the old family habits at home or in the work place where often they had been the “hewers of wood and drawers of waters” . Often these women eventually acquired more senior positions and went on to get graduate degrees. Others found new spouses: ones more able to deal with intelligent,,emancipated women. Yes, it disrupted families, but that was the price one paid to become your own person. You make decisions based on your own reality and not always by putting your spouse and children before you as you used to. Often, if the family could grow as well, they all matured and were able to change and adapt.
That in effect is what transformative leaning is all about from my experience. Here is a more learned description from the Centre of Transformative Learning at the Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
“Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions. It is a shift of consciousness that dramatically and permanently alters our way of being in the world.
This shift includes our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations and our relationships with other humans and with the natural world. It also involves our understanding of power relations in interlocking structures of class, race and gender, our body awareness, our visions of alternative approaches to living, and our sense of possibilities for social justice, peace and personal joy.
In sum, transformative learning makes us understand the world in a different way, changing the way we experience it and the way we act in our day-to-day lives. Transformative learning has an individual and a collective dimension, and includes both individual and social transformation.”
Now what has this to do if anything with Internet Businesses? This is what I have observed. When new members join a particular internet business, unless they are already experienced, they grope around for a while and some never get beyond this stage. While others as they go through the learning curve, suddenly see the possibility of what they can do with this business: Regardless of what there mindset was initially, they come to the realization that:
·         If anything is going to happen they have to do it themselves. Don’t expect someone to bring you the “silver bullet”;
·         If they are going to do it they might as well be happy than sad;
·         If they are going to do it they might as well help others along the way
Their success in these activities soon bring about greater confidence in themselves and they see themselves as a force for good; a force to be reckoned with ( a branded leader?)  and for the first time they start to feel really good about themselves and the world at large . The benefits are obvious
·         They attract others to themselves and so become leaders of sorts for their individual groups;
·         They start to see life in a different light
·         Their whole scope of interest widens. They find people more interesting and the events occurring around them exciting;
·         They become kinder, more empathetic, not just to their own kind but to other ethnic groups who before they barely acknowledged.
This is what I understand to be “experiencing a deep, structural shift in basic premises of thought, feelings, and actions.” Isn’t this Transformative Learning? Yes, they have learned a lot of informational knowledge and skill but beyond that they have unwittingly become transformed onto a higher plain by loving life more and thinking on a different level. Abraham Maslow, the great existential psychologist, called THIS  a state “self-actualization”. I believe transformative learning brings you into this realm of being.
As for “Attraction Marketing” and the “branded leader” etc. Are these simply other names for these phenomena which have been identified by others in other disciplines? But because those who gave us these terms either wanted to put their own stamp on these observations for Internet Businesses and/ or because they were unaware of other disciplines and their attempts to deal with these issues , we get new and possibly more apt terminology. Never mind! I do believe there is an over lap in Transformative Learning and the level the truly successful Internet business people reach.
This article is explorative as I don’t think any one else has endeavored to make the connection. I believe it is worth further study and an ideal area for Business Schools who I don’t think spend a whole lot of time and effort on the Internet businesses.
Michael Brooke Ph.D. LLB. Is a professional adult educator who has worked in most aspects of adult education including research, administration, teaching, authoring, curriculum development, distance education for thirty years. He is now retired in Victoria BC with other interests including Internet Businesses and other recreational pursuits. 
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