Week seven and the grind continues and advertising wars and overly optimistic predictions have struck us again. Our team really pulled together this week with everyone not being scared to completely open to challenge the underlying assumption in which people are basing their decisions (or at least it seemed that way, I guess I wouldn’t know if things were actually being repressed). Decisions were being made more collectively and more intelligently (more data driven) which is something I feel is important.
I feel the issue that I (and we as a team) must address (this is absolutely critical to our survival) is Argyris’s (1991) idea of building our learning process. He talks about ‘smart’ individuals being blind to opportunities to learn by their previous levels of success and cultures that encourage (or enforce) excellence (at all times) which leave failure and a non-option. For me I am terrified of my potentially tunnel vision approach to decision making and the idea that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. I feel that my confidence in my own ability (my ego) combined with limited number of ‘failures’ may be massively preventing me from learning how to learn. I am concerned with the potential that I actually know nothing, I’m awful at Mikes Bikes and that my underlying assumptions are wrong.
Argyris’s (1991) article resonated with me on a deep level. Looking back on my past journal entries I see how I completely embody his description of how the studies learning-incapable analysts see “their self-esteem as being intimately tied up with behaving consistently and performing effectively”. I see myself heavily in exerts like these, including “behind this high aspiration for success is an equally high fear of failure” and ‘‘I must not only do a good job; I must also be the best”. This is both highly concerning and enlightening, and despite the discomfort and potential realization of my incompetence, I feel a lot better of for having read this paper.
I now see how this must be combined effectively with Synnott’s (2013) concept of the double learning loop. I need to not only take the feedback from the result of the simulation and further define how my assumptions affect our outcomes, I must be willing to take those results and redefine (and challenge) the core assumptions of how I understand the simulation. This double learning loop looks to constantly test and refine the way in which we understand our own improvement process, as opposed to just running with what we think works. I feel that layering Argyris’ and Synnotts’ theories bring an essential balance to light. To improve I must manage the balance of being able to dissect my thinking process to understand at the flaws in how I work as well as my influence on how our team reaches decision. With this I must be able to avoid defensively challenging alternatives to my core assumptions of how I work, how I rationalize decisions, how I contribute in our team and most importantly how good I actually am.
So speaking of balance, lets do some reflecting shall we? Righto, lets go.
This problem of understanding how I understand myself seems to be a largely intangible one. So although I should now be ‘aware’ of this need to balance, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy. In fact, I feel changing this will be sufficiently hard.
There’s a slight weight off my shoulders in thinking that I’m not actually as good as I like to think I am. I know this is probably true with most of the things I do, and as an optimist I feel that this is a slight advantage at times, but I should be conscious to keep my ego in check, as it can definitely be detrimental to my ability to break out of my ‘tunnel vision’ process of making decisions. I realize that the discomfort of attempting to become self aware and challenging your assumptions is something that I should definitely embrace. And just like putting up with anything uncomfortable that you eventually get better at, the discomfort is temporary (it may last a minute or a day) but the regret and opportunity cost of not reinventing my underlying assumption can be significant and not temporary.
I don’t think that there is any active step that I can take towards this improvement. Synnott (2013) talked about the concept of the double loop as “a heuristic device for understanding the power of reflection”, and I plan to use it exactly like that. Not as a things that I should suddenly have an action to take, but merely as something to be highly aware of as I reflect on results and how I go about attributing those results to my actions.
Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Reflections, 4(2), 4-15
Synnott, M. (2013). Reflection and double loop learning- The case of HS2. Teaching Public Administration, 31(1)