Adult Cognitive Development

The Wisdom Lab is built and delivered with the primary and explicit aim to grow and expand the mental models of the executives. The learner is challenged to consciously and voluntarily confront their existing hard-fought assumptions and beliefs and find the courage to hold the anxiety while they reflect on their choices.

What is Adult Cognitive Development (ACD)?

A Four Level model is used to explain ACD, with ACD being the Level 4 of people learning and development.  ACD takes place all the time, even at low levels, and mostly unconsciously throughout functional adult life.  Jean Piaget refers to ACD as ongoing mental maturation.  Another way to understand ACD is the ongoing growth and expansion in the way adults interact with the world and make sense and meaning of their lives.

The emphasis is on adult because children “fill up the cup”, while adults think the “cup is always full” and they must take something out before they will put something in.  This is the common idea we hear of “unlearning”.

How are the levels described?

Level 1 – Can be described as conventional education, being the linear accumulation of facts and concepts.  Education can change the way we see the world, yet this is unconscious.
Level 2 – Can be described as knowing how to complete a task or an action.  Knowledge is combined with action and practice establishes competency and possibly, ultimately, mastery.
Level 3 – Can be described as experiential learning where simulations or representations of reality are used to provide the learner with knowledge and context, and the whole experience generates learning.
Level 4 – Is present in all other levels passively and relatively unconsciously. All other levels are conflict averse. No active conflict is introduced into the learner’s thinking.  However, in truth, people fight to make up their minds on an idea and they fight to keep this idea and will fight again to keep the next idea and the next idea even as they change ideas.  Level 4 is about a quality tension without the fight.

What is Assimilate and Accommodate?

Jean Piaget describes two different methods of taking in a new idea.  The idea is assimilated if the story is “I already have one of those”, because the difference between the old idea and the new idea has been ignored.  The idea is accommodated if the story is “I don’t have one of those and I want one”.  The difference is accepted.  This takes effort.

What are Adult Development Scales

Adult (Cognitive) Development Scales are tools or models to measure where a person is situated along a linear scale.  There are numerous scales globally and most describe defended or avoidant behaviour to new ideas at one end, and the increasing capacity to embrace complexity and ambiguity the opposite end.  Senior leadership of organisations correlates with individuals who can cope with complexity.  The Wisdom lab all focus at moving learners along the scale.

What is required of an ACD Facilitator?

The ACD facilitator has three roles.  The first is to prepare a relevant disruption story or perspective, second to support the learners safely while they confront the disruption and consider their choices, and finally to ensure the learner consolidates the choice they make so they can succeed in re-establishing their stability with this choice.

ACD facilitation is a sophisticated and highly skilled practice available only to practitioners who themselves can manage their own disruptions, safety, choices and stability.