The human condition

As part of the Modern Learning Leader Programme, the first webinar is all about “The Human Condition”, with Emotion at Work expert Phil Willcox.

What is “The Human Condition”?

Other than understanding the actual words, I’m not sure what that means. Obviously, the place to start is Google!

I thought I might start with an overview of some quotes that have been curated on the topic, including:

“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
― Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

“Our behaviour is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

“Humanity is lost because people have abandoned using their conscience as their compass.”
― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

So it looks like the focus is on us as people, individuals, team members and, ultimately, leaders. It’s about how we investigate, communicate, come to conclusions, make decisions, take people on a journey with us…

Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

The human condition is “the characteristics, key events, and situations which compose the essentials of human existence, such as birth, growth, emotionality, aspiration, conflict, and mortality.”

This is a very broad topic which has been and continues to be pondered and analysed from many perspectives, including those of religion, philosophy, history, art, literature, anthropology, psychology, and biology.

As a literary term, “the human condition” is typically used in the context of ambiguous subjects such as the meaning of life or moral concerns.

The most fundamental element of us is our humanity, for all of us. However, looking even just at that Wikipedia introduction, that can encompass so many things – where I am in my life and career journey, my gender and health, my religion, or lack of, what philosophies or values drive me, what I read, how I see other people from my perspective and so much more.

It must also, therefore, be about how we relate with other humans, either those that mesh well with our perspectives, or those that don’t. Perhaps especially those that don’t, as there are always challenges in life and some we don’t have an easy choice about walking away.

The human condition and learning

In his PGCE documentation ‘Different perspectives on evaluating lessons and developing as teachers‘ Richard Denny’s opening line is “education is a fundamental aspect of the human condition.”

Without development and education, over thousands of years, we wouldn’t be the humans we are now, and in the society we are now. As well as then the huge focus on the jobs that we do in learning and development.

Part of the pre-work is a TEDx video shared by Phil:

One aspect I especially liked from this was about public understanding, that people generally think of it as “a blank slate” and as communicators we can make things that make sense to us and drop it into them. The speaker states that “it’s neither correct, nor is it productive. We have to understand that culture always complicates our jobs as communicators”.

We have to take culture into account in our L&D roles – both the geographic culture of the country and specific location we are in, the make up of the people within it, and that of the industry and the organisation itself.

You can read my other Modern Learning Leader blog posts

  1. What is a Modern Learning Leader?
  2. The human condition
  3. The human condition – faces and social learning
  4. Instructional design – reminder notes
  5. What sUX about L&D design?

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