It is better to know how to learn than to know (Dr. Seuss). Learning is difficult; most schools don’t encourage internal learning, i.e., learning about one’s self. As pointed out in Argyris’ article Teaching Smart People How to Learn. “Most people don’t know how to learn” (Argyris, 1991, p. 4). This is partly due to defensive reasoning; many people try to shift the blame onto others before themselves. Perhaps because they are afraid of being reprimanded or aren’t secure in their situation; this is easily seen when workers are unsure of job security, demonstrating how many people are not ready to learn (Thompson, 2012, Sept 23). The current focus in most schools is placed on the memorization and analyzing of external data. To get a good grade you must prove that you can understand the material, but what is this understanding other than parroting information back in an improved format? This promotes not true understanding, but only the ability to reiterate. Throughout high school I was able to achieve good grades based off the two previously mentioned skills, but was unable to learn about myself. Upon graduating I was not sure what I wanted to do, I’d learned how to memorize and regurgitate material but I had not learned how I felt about each course I’d undertaken. This ability to reflect (or inability in my case) was not fully appreciated until this course. I’ll admit I first underestimated Management 300, from the initial solo practice in Mikes Bikes right through to the final rollover (Thompson, 2012, July 22). The whole experience with the simulation and the course has been about the concepts of learning, reflection and growth, which will be the focus of this work. Specifically my growth in regards to pushing myself, the improvement from my goals, the increases in confidence from group work with regards to speaking up and accounting, as well as the appreciation for my own skills as operations director. Reflecting upon my increased abilities and confidence, demonstrating what I can now do that I could not do before.
I signed up for this course in order to push myself out of my comfort zone, but found that I underestimated not only the class, but also my own abilities. “Learning is conceived of as a four-stage cycle. Immediate concrete experience is the basis for observation and reflection. These observations are assimilated into a theory from which new implications for action can be deduced. These implications or hypotheses then serve as guides in acting to create new experiences” (Kolb, 1976, p. 21). When I first began playing Solo Mike all those weeks ago, to say I became frustrated would be an understatement (Thompson, 2012, July 22). I was so stressed and confused. It seemed to be such an easy goal, just gaining a SHV of $25 in five rollovers or less. Yet I kept encountering the bad dog and my SHV kept dropping no matter what I did. Through perseverance and tenacity though I was able to accomplish this goal. “By focusing on performing for someone else’s approval, corporations create the very conditions that predestine them to mediocre performance. Over the long run, superior performance depends on superior learning” (Senge, 1990, p. 511). Stepping back to simplicity led me to recognize the ease of the game. I was getting so wrapped up in performing and getting to that point of a SHV of $25 that I began to just start placing any numbers into the simulation to get there but not looking at what they meant; not looking at the reality of my actions. I stopped at one point and just thought why? I came to the conclusion to try focusing on what I knew and to look at those details and keep it simple. After all the solution must be easy, this is only the first assessment of the semester. Thank goodness it finally worked, I was so relieved, I was just so proud at that point that I quit. I was confident that I knew how to use the simulation well enough and was relieved to have learned a new skill in being able to reflect from experience.
By comparing my goals and action I am able to see not only room for further improvement but areas that I have already been able to grow and learn in. The first day of class we were asked to write down a goal for the semester, this was to be used further down the track to evaluate our growth and whether we had in fact kept to it, but as with my New Year’s Resolutions this goal was forgotten almost immediately after it was thought of. Using my past actions as a guide I deduced how I could best be inspired by a goal, I am going to be successful in this course by working hard and doing the readings. All of them. As well as actively participating in group-work to get the best mark (Thompson, 2012, September 09). But this guide disappoints me now, as I was vague in this first goal, saying that I would be successful by ‘working hard’. This is not clear as to how I would achieve this, nor did it inspire me. When revisiting this goal in Week 6 I decided to set myself a new goal; one that would be more focused and easier to measure success against. But this goal was shaped not only by my own recognition of my lack of focus in the first goal but of my team members’ evaluations of my actions in class and in meetings. Realizing I needed to be consciously aware of how I present myself and act in the meetings I set out to rewrite my goal, learning from this experience and improving myself. By managing my time more wisely, I will be able to complete all the assessments and readings on time, and to the best of my ability. I will also work hard to be louder and more outspoken in group meetings so that we can all come out feeling that we were successful, and be successful in the simulation (Thompson, 2012, September 09). Reading this now I again wish I had set more explicit goals for myself, for example: speaking up without being asked for an opinion, as opposed to just asking myself to be louder. But I will say this, I have grown more comfortable with speaking up, and this has carried into other courses and projects. "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them,” (Albert Einstein, 1946, p. 13).
Not only inspired by goals but also feedback from team members I was able to grow in the sense that I was not only more confident in speaking up within meetings but also outside of these. I was honest in my evaluations and hoped that others had done the same, as giving conservative feedback (being overly positive) is unhelpful (Periperl, 2001, p. 143). I made sure to give critiques of each member in my group as no one is perfect and there was room for improvement in all of us. This led me to go in with an open mind instead of being defensive over the evaluations, because if one person had the guts to tell me that I needed improvement then I knew it was true. The evaluations given to me were fair with my main critiques having to do with being louder and more outspoken (Thompson, 2012, September 09). This touched on the initial goal I set, which was to actively participate in group-work. This feedback from both my group members and myself allowed for my learning and growing to really begin. Knowing that my group members wanted me to speak up I was able to change my actions to not only better suit the group but to better suit myself, speaking up made me not only more involved but allowed for my views to be heard something that had been almost neglected until that point. While at the beginning of this course this may have seemed to be too much of a challenge I can now see that I am able to rise to the occasion. After feedback I pushed myself into areas I was not always most comfortable, for example: speaking up. I never wanted to hurt someone’s feelings or cause tension in a group, but seeing that others wanted me to be more vocal allowed for me to embrace it. And this helped all of us, I was able to be heard and give my ideas and no one was offended or angry with me. The group respected my opinions and this helped me realize that I need to speak up and not just in this project. Inspiring confidence in myself. This learning, fostered through feedback both externally and internally has aided my growth over the course of this semester and contributed to my learning over this course. Coupled with my desire to not get defensive I hope will mean that I am learning as a ‘smart person’ does (Argyris, 1991).
As well as the simulation, I’ve been able to grow from learning many other aspects over the course of the semester. Speaking up was never my strong suit growing up, and upon entering university as a business student I discovered I could add Accounting to that list. Upon trying Accounting for the first time I knew we would not be friends, I couldn’t understand how math could be ruined by something so annoying, needless to say I did not pass that course my first try. As I watched my GPA drop I realized I need to buck up and get past my dislike and at least try to pass the course. I pushed myself into accounting again and while I still disliked it I was able to memorize enough information to warrant passing the course. In the group project our CFO was neither an accounting nor finance major and had very little knowledge on the subject. Upon realizing this we set out as a group to pool our skills and work together. When a subject came up that one of us didn’t know we hoped that another could fill the void, and if no one could we would work together to learn. Most courses don’t try to involve other aspects, but in the business world we must all be able to liaise with other departments and sectors not our own and by gaining more knowledge of finances I will be advantaged in this aspect. Moore defines learning as a purposeful, and deliberate activity, using knowledge a learner must want to learn in order to grow (Moore, 1973, p. 662). Armed with this view I was inspired to actually learn about the ratios and how all these numbers truly interact in a business setting. Evaluating my knowledge from 101 to now I see vast improvements. I can now understand Debt to Equity ratios, how liabilities affect business net worth, and how to read many of the financial statements that I could not make heads or tails of before, like Cashflow, Income and the Balance Sheet (Smartsims International Limited, 2011). I can even see how companies can alter numbers like EPS to make themselves look like a better investment. This shows my appreciation for accounting and will help me make better investment decisions in my own life. The newfound understanding of Accounting has given me an increase in confidence, believing that I can achieve what I set out to do. Just as with speaking up, I am now more confident in these abilities.
The course being so heavily based on a simulation allowed for me to explore new areas of business that had previously been unfamiliar. Making decisions as a team allowed me to see what it was I really loved about business. Not just improving my abilities but also proving that I am already good at many different things. Discovering that my own actions tended towards certain directions, in Solo Mike I noticed that I don’t normally go out of the box and that there are some things that I’m not comfortable with no matter what, for example: risk. But as a team member this was shared, when we pooled our knowledge the game became a lot less risky and we became one giant capability. While there are many circumstances that make groups a less powerful tool for learning (group think, overdependence on a leader, over-commitment to goals or too risky/conservative action) (Adams et al, 2004, p. 334), we were able to move past our failures and grow together. By taking something that I wasn’t comfortable with and pushing me to step out of this comfort zone this allowed me to grow and learn; one of my reasons for taking this class in the first place. I also decided I wouldn’t like to be part of design and product development, even as I learned about the simulation and our group worked together to make specific products it is still something I am just not creative enough for or something I really care for. But I think Operations was a good location for me, I liked the linkage with all the different divisions. The need to work with R&D to build capacity, and working with HR so that employee numbers matched factory and production size, and consulting the CFO in order to control spending. Through this communication I was also able to discover not only what I like but also what I don’t like - and would rather hire someone else to do. As much as I am so happy that I finally understand some financial ratios and how to read many of the statements I am still certain that I would not wish to be involved in that area at all. I am happy for the knowledge, as it will help it liaising with departments in my future but not a place I see as a future for myself. Growing in my abilities but also being able to realize where I best belong, this course has taught me much about myself.
When I started the course I was of the belief that university existed to provide instruction, now I’m of the persuasion that universities exist to produce learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995, p. 13). From the outset of Management 300 the assessments have been about learning, which was reflected in the goal of solo practice in Mikes Bikes: to not only introduce the simulation but also the concepts of learning and reflection, dealing with the notions of action and reflection (Thompson, 2012, July 22), reflection as learning is a way to greatly improve actions and experiences in the future (Daudelin, 1996). But this was not the only area that I was able to learn and grow from. My group pushing me through feedback (touching on my own goals to be more outspoken) led to greater confidence in myself. Working together so closely for so long also led to many more learnings, Accounting, a subject I once dreaded is slightly less of a mystery now. I have also been able to see where I best fit in the whole simulation and in the business world more generally. I like communication but do not care for product design and the creativity involved. While I once thought school was primarily for instruction and the memorization and repetition of this ‘knowledge’, I now can see that true knowledge and learning comes from action, reflection and within. So while “most people don’t know how to learn” (Argyris, 1991, p. 4), I am proud to say that I have grown over the course of this semester and appreciate all that I have learned that goes above the simple reiteration of theory. I now have a better understanding of myself and will be able to continue to learn as a consequence of the increased abilities and confidence this course has provided me. I am now able to do much more than I could before.
Dr. Seuss (n.d) Retrieved on October 14, 2012 from: http://www.edgalaxy.com/journal/2012/4/21/30-dr-seuss-quotes-to-inspire-your- students.html
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