Structured + Unstructured Learning, Vertical + Horizontal Learning, Shu-Ha-Ri (守破離)

I use three mental models to describe my pedagogy (theory and practice of education):

Structured + Unstructured Learning

  • Lecturing, teaching, textbook learning fall into the realm of structured learning.
  • Coaching, mentoring, parental conversations are examples of unstructured learning.
  • Then in between, we have hybrid and blended learning which is everything else, or more correctly everything — learning is seldom completely structured or unstructured. Training, facilitation, workshops, practicing, debating, playing and work itself are good examples of hybrid and blended learnings.

Vertical + Horizontal Learning

  • Consider vertical learning as learning done in a planned, formal setting with a teacher or instructor. These can be class room sessions, workshops, group and individual training sessions, tutoring, and self study.
  • Horizontal learning is everything informal and social. From meeting up your buddy at the library to study together, having casual conversations in the cafeteria, over coffee or wine, to heated debates in the workplace over approach A or B, horizontal learning is everyday. (Agile tribes and Scrum teams are organizational setups for taking advantage of the horizontal learning characteristics of the modern networked knowledge worker.)

Shu-Ha-Ri (守破離)

Working with me can sometimes be confusing because on one end you’ll see I have a blatant disregard to methodology, mixing this and that and everything, and on the other hand being a disciplinarian on learning and practicing the basics according to theory. (For example I only do classic Scrum and have little tolerance to “scrummy” (“We have our original version of scrum” — that’s not Scrum), while on the other hand promote Design Thinking + Scrum).

The best explanation I can give to this duality is Shu-Ha-Ri:

  • Shu (守): Follow the basics.
  • Ha (破): Only after you’ve learned and can practice the basics, permit yourself to digress, experiment. Go get yourself lost and confused.
  • Ri (離): Transcend to a higher level of learning. Continue your path towards mastery, your mastery.

I learned photography in the days of black and white film and darkroom printing. The beauty lies in the gray zone. Between hard and soft, formal and informal, logic and emotions, lies our world. Therefore I teach, train, facilitate and coach. This is my pedagogy.



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Takeshi Yoshida

Chief Coach, Agile Organization Development ( — we are a tribe of change, transformation, innovation experts