Acknowledging diversity

PM Schrijnen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientific


At the Delft University of Technology, the faculty of civil engineering stands next to the faculty of architecture. Some 40 years ago, an architectural company designed the two buildings. Civil engineering shows the raw materials of its construction: concrete, brick, steel and wood. Architecture has a lighter tone, with more attention to the finishing of walls and ceilings. When studying at Architecture, I took such differences for granted. Of course I belonged to the culture of my own faculty and more or less looked down on the civil engineers. Right now I am teaching at civil engineering. My students appear to have the same kind of stance towards the architects. In the working life of these professions, the quality of their collaboration has a major impact on the functioning of both transport systems and land use systems. Again and again, the mental models both professions hold over each other hamper collaboration, without them being aware of this. We are not well equipped for collaboration, for the open exchange of knowledge, values, intuitions or aspirations. Real openness is scary. Our mental models hold us back from such openness. We are trapped in this ambivalence. Many challenges thus remain unanswered, even if most of us are willing to meet them. This article addresses the theme of acknowledging diversity, as a challenge for education and a challenge for professional life. The article is based on an ongoing action research project on the collaboration between urban planners and transport engineers. The article gives the first outcomes of a round of interviews with students from both trades, exploring their mental models, on the way they work and learn in teams. The article uses Otto Scharmer¿s Theory U as a framework for research [1]. The models that the theory provides might be very helpful to explore the models that students and professionals hold, as well as helpful in acknowledging the variety of perspectives. The models might also be supportive in learning to deal with this diversity. The interviews explore the mental models or narratives the students hold over their work and over the relations between both professions. In due time, based on these interviews, suggestions will be done for the renewal of the education curricula, and for the design of project start ups for the collaboration between engineers and planners. Keywords Theory U, diversity, mental models, collaboration, leadership.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 3rd SoL Global Forum
EditorsE Leigh, PM Schrijnen
Place of PublicationCambridge, Mass.
PublisherSociety for Organizational Learning
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)0-9742390-7-0
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Event3rd SoL GlobalForum, Bridging the Gulf, Learning accross Organizations, Sectors and Cultures - Cambridge, Mass.
Duration: 13 Apr 200817 Apr 2008

Publication series

PublisherSociety for Organizational Learning


Conference3rd SoL GlobalForum, Bridging the Gulf, Learning accross Organizations, Sectors and Cultures


  • Civiele techniek
  • conference contrib. refereed
  • Conf.proc. > 3 pag

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