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Monthly Archives: January 2011

In his 1991 article (http://pds8.egloos.com/pds/200805/20/87/chris_argyris_learning.pdf) Chris Argyris the professor at Harvard Business School writes about how to approach and solve problems in a company setting. His target is not an ordinary set of workers in a company, but he raises the stick way higher and discusses a case where “professionals” face a failure at work. Basically, professionals are a group of smart and highly educated staff who are used to operate a “single loop” sort of job meaning that they are told what to do and they do their job accordingly, using the most elaborate skills. Now the first thing that pops out here, is because of the fact that they just know how to do it, they always expect a non stop improvement and this in fact is not the reality behind any procedure in life. Therefore, he raises that issue as the first obstacle to their improvement, ironically.

The second major theme, from where Argyris tends to fiddle with the psychology of behavior through the end of his essay, is how to actually deal with a problem. I think there’s always a hierarchy of stages in what I call “heuristics” or problem-solving or troubleshooting. In the first place, you want to know if there exists a problem at all. This is kind of the same question as “Which problem are we wanting to solve?”. Secondly, we wish to know WHERE lies the cause to that problem. Back to the article, exactly at this point the professionals blamed the failure all upon either the clients or their managers than thinking introspectively. That said, Argyris encourages his readers to think from inside out. “Defensive Thinking” is what stops you right there from moving onward. Whereas being self-critical in a positive and meaningful way coupled with “openness” is the key virtue to being able to detect the reason things might go wrong. This perhaps is because once you broaden your horizons, you have both the courage and the genius to always see the other side of the coin as well.

Finally, how to discuss a problem within a group is also an interesting thing to think about. There are certain behaviors that should be avoided in discussing an issue in a meeting with managers and other employees. Parallel conversations and defensive reasoning are counter-productive. While transparency and honesty are encouraged by Argyris. With all the respect, even the manager could be performance-evaluated and criticized in the same context. One of the very significant messages about this article is that, once you read it you start to believe that this is not merely applicable to business but everyone could benefit from the change of behavior in their personal lives. The change he is addressing as “learning how to learn”.