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سال ها می گذرد

و من از پنجره بیداری کوچه یاد تو را می نگرم

می بویم …

…و چنان آرامم ، که کسی فکر نکرد

زیر خاکستر آرامش من چه هیاهویی هست…

عاشقی هم دردی است …

و من از لحظه دیدار تو می دانستم ،

که به این درد شبی ، خواهم مرد…

وقتی می آمدی حیات پر میشد از عطر ترنج، حالا رفته ای و فقط رنج ها مانده است

I wish I had read Bob Sutton’s blog post (http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/09/do-you-believe-.html) on Carol S.Dweck’s article (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/psychology/cgi-bin/drupalm/system/files/cdweckpersonalitychanged.pdf) just before I wrote about “Teaching Smart People How to Learn” and it’s because in the first place I want to know where exactly the notion of being smart or “not being smart” comes from. Then, having known the characteristics of the so-called smart class, I can better understand why they would behave in a certain way and how different people with different talents and capabilities can perform efficiently, each their own way.

Here’s a narrowed-down version of what each of the above-mentioned thinkers are talking about: Dweck is concluding based on her research that “beliefs” play a central role in the study of “personality”, while Sutton argues whether or not intelligence is “malleable”. Although the two subjects might seem far apart, interestingly enough they have something in common. Here I categorized four types of statements I could imagine people would say about themselves as follows:

–         We believe we are smart and we can thrive.

–         We believe we are not smart but we can still thrive.

–         We believe we are smart but we cannot thrive.

–         We believe we are not smart and we cannot thrive either.

Then, I was trying to draw a 3 dimensional diagram so I can show, somehow the relationship between the three elements in there which were “belief”, “intelligence” and “improvement”. But later to my surprise, I realized something: What do I want the “intelligence” for?

Of course I didn’t come across that question all of a sudden only from the chart I had on my mind. I actually was thinking more about a real diverse workspace. In such a situation, nobody really wants to know who is smarter than who or who is less smart than others unless the hot topic of the day is “What was your IQ test result?” or something of a kind! Ironically, what I am interested in is to see to what extent “how I believe” can impress “I can/cannot thrive” because practically we want our company to do well or better.

In this categorization there are extremes. I do not desire to develop the happy statement of the first group (the ones that are able to double-loop, back to my earlier blog post) because those are -by nature- very positive already. However, are they as positive as one can be? According to Sutton the answer is NO and that’s exactly where he thinks the less smart can outperform the smarter. This second group are the ones for whom Sutton shows the most appreciation simply because they are flexible-minded to a level that they are open to learn new things hence make things better. The other extreme is NOT the worst case scenario either, though it’s still bad. “We believe we are not smart and we cannot thrive either”. We don’t want that to happen although it exists in the shape of myths that unfortunately our society circulates.

Finally, Sutton wants to draw our attention to the third group. The third statement belongs to people who are smart but single-loop. These are going to have a hard time with improvement because they are not cognitively flexible.

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”.