Industrial versus Agricultural Models of Development

In his TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson explains the difference between industrial versus agricultural models of education: In industrial models, education is goal oriented and outcomes are measured against the goal. In agricultural models, education is nurtured based and outcomes are not necessarily known in advance. When you plant a seed and water it, you are not controlling how the plant develops and grows, you are simply providing the nurture that allows its natural growth to unfold. This model can be applied to all human development and therefore to therapy which is a form of development.

There has been much emphasis recently on having goals, having timelines for goals, and so on. Goals can be useful for concrete, definable tasks, but they are way too limiting for developmental processes. In the course of a lifetime, a person moves through many opportunities and choices, and with each bend in the road, new directions become visible. With ongoing encouragement, resources, and sustaining relationships, human development takes courses we can only appreciate and understand as we go.

Part of the task of allowing development to unfold naturally is the need to trust the organic process of growth itself. Without support, organisms cannot grow to their optimum manifestation, but at the same time, with nurture, we can rest assured that nature wants to move in directions of growth. In other words, each organism contains within itself the natural tendency to move toward its optimal expression given sufficient resources. This holds true for people and their minds as well.

The trick is, we have to do our best to create an environment that promotes that growth, make resources available, and provide encouraging and supportive relationships in order to facilitate the best possible developmental process, while, at the same time, relinquishing our need to control its outcome. When we are in the position of nurturer–parent, teacher, physician, therapist–all of our knowledge, experience and empathic understanding is called upon, and we still need to let go and allow the natural process to work. It is at once a trick of engagement and humility that requires a continued re-dedication.

About norasblog

I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in downtown Chicago.
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2 Responses to Industrial versus Agricultural Models of Development

  1. Peg Syverson says:

    One problem is that most people set goals that are too narrow and often even off the mark for what is possible, given the right kind of nurture and connection. So they come into therapy hoping to be less anxious or depressed or angry or stressed, when the real developmental process is entirely transformational, opening up into lives that are unimaginable until they are lived into. You have a seed, but you don’t know what it is the seed OF. Or you have a handful of unmarked seeds and you can’t tell which ones will sprout, and whether one will show up as a tomato or a rose or a Japanese maple. Most people do not realize the therapeutic process as cultivation, rather than mechanical repair. Rain and good soil don’t “do anything” but they are necessary for the health and well-being of a growing plant all the same. This is not to imply that good therapists are passive, by the way! It is a process of energetic, mindful care with someone professionally trained and committed to your well-being and development.

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