August 31, 2009

Teaching Smart People How to Learn

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:33 pm by ctennert

Yes, Chris Argyris, defensive reasoning is as widespread as you believe.  The theory that “smart” people experience the most resistance in the workplace when it comes to learning is a very interesting one. 

Professionals and aspiring professionals work so hard their entire lives for the things they achieve, or want to achieve, so much that there exists extreme pressure for greatness that does not end after the extensive schooling and impressive achievements in the workplace.  Created is a battle within the mind to always be the best, therefore creating a difficult environment to implement change, ie. learning.  Call it foolish pride, or simply the fear of not being good enough; it is clear that teaching established professionals for these reasons would be a challenge.  Cue defensive reasoning now. 

Management reserves the right to hire and fire whomever they please, but not without explanation.  Workplace education should always maintain the trickle-down effect:  “Change has to start at the top because otherwise defensive senior managers are likely to disown any transformation in reasoning patterns coming from below.”  We all have “master programs” we operate off of daily, whether we are cognisant of them or not, manager or non-manager, and in professional as well as personal life.  Middle managers all the way up to CEOs have the responsibility to be constantly learning, adapting, improving and motivating themselves as well as their staff in order to maintain a smart, innovative company.  If they are not setting examples and learning themselves, their staff will surely follow suit, pulling down the expectation levels of the group, moving more and more towards conformity.

“Learning to reason productively can be emotional- even painful.  But the payoff is great.”  The example conversation between a manager and his/her three professionals when trouble-shooting an issue with a client at the end of this article is much appreciated.  However, each organization is going to communicate differently, and the fact that people are consistently inconsistent in their reactions, reasoning, etc. is an issue also.  Truly, the most efficient way to learn, is by making mistakes.

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