January 22, 2011

“Teaching Smart People How to Learn” by Chris Argyris

Posted in BADM 720 tagged , at 5:57 pm by Sarah

This first reading, in a nutshell, explains that the typical business professional is a highly educated person who has had very little exposure to failure or criticism, and does not know how to react to the feelings that they bring up.  The author argues that these people use defensive reasoning to remove blame from themselves, thus depriving themselves of the chance to learn from the experience.  I found this article very interesting, not only because I am fascinated by human behavior, but also because it was very easy for me to see how I might carry this knowledge over to my own work experience and help myself become a more desirable employee.

While reading, I found myself constantly thinking about experiences I have had at work.  In order to be more productive, as the author suggests, I started trying to think objectively about my role in those episodes and how I could learn from them.  This is difficult because it’s uncomfortable to dwell on my own mistakes, but if I want to improve, it has to be done.  I do feel, however, that my experience as a musician makes this a bit easier.  As a student learning to write and perform music, I was constantly exposed to constructive criticism from teachers and classmates.  In order to grow as a musician, I had to consider these suggestions, try them out in practice, and then turn improvements into part of the routine.

My only concern with trying to carry this openness over into my current job is the author’s suggestion that this kind of change within an organization has to start at the top and filter down.  I can only guess at whether the managers above me have been exposed to this author’s thinking; however, if I want to take these ideas to heart and really improve myself, I can’t wait for their permission.  I have gotten to know my immediate supervisor well enough that I think he will appreciate my willingness to learn and my ability to handle constructive criticism, even if it takes him a while to get comfortable with the idea of not needing to coddle me.

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