A university education is basically obsolete by the time we receive it. Daudelin (1996) puts this nicely by explaining that business environments are so dynamic that by the time they are understood and can be taught, new and possibly more pressing challenges have immersed. Lucky for Daudelin, I believe that her article is still relevant. If I am to succeed as a manager, now and in the future, I have to learn as I go because every-day challenges are the most accessible and practical sources of learning. Mintzberg (as cited in Daudelin, 1996) and Kolb (1976) agree that managers emphasise action over reflection – doing over thinking. Put that way, it makes sense why managers can repeatedly make silly decisions. They aren’t learning from their past experiences to guide the future ones. But the trend has already begun… HP, GM and Motorola are some of the big names that engage in Action-Reflection Learning (ARL) where they actively encourage and engage with reflective activities to evaluate situations and plan for the future, leading to innovations that have direct effects on business profitability and the satisfaction of the workers. Even my simple sales job at Whitcoulls has reflection built into the general business practices in the form of 360 degree reviews and customer input processes like their selection of the Top 100 books. If only head office was more supportive of (or paid any attention at all to) the ideas that we come up with in our performance evaluations then this type of reflection wouldn’t be a complete waste. And that has been my issue with “professional” reflection in the past. There has been no four stage, no ACTION! I come up with the problem, where it stems from and even think of possible solutions but no active experimentation occurs. Woah! I think it’s my fault. Breakthrough! It’s my fault. After all, reflection is introspection: making personal connections (Daudelin, 1996). In future I will have actually executed my ideas.
My final semester, with assistance from this course and others, promises to help me break through the learning barrier once and for all (Nentl & Zietlow, 2008). I can push towards the higher levels learning in Bloom’s Taxonomy (as cited in Nentl & Zietlow, 2008) where learning is dynamic and useful knowledge is acquired. The MikesBikes simulation will hopefully be complex enough to help us all build on the experiences and theories we have stored deep in our brains from our time at university. In this first week the other courses I am enrolled in have proven to be very traditional and structured based of huge amounts of essays relying on secondary research. But I shouldn’t dismiss these courses invalid to my new-found desire to learn AND execute. I think Bloom’s model is far too simplified but provides an adequate starting point in my own evaluation of which level I have reached in the four years at university. Nentl & Zietlow (2008) show that conducting a little bit of extra work using Herrick’s criteria can help me to reach Bloom’s higher orders. Something to keep in mind. This ties in with Kolb’s (1976) assertion that good managers are defined by their ability to learn because we will deal with situations in a consistent manner based on our individual learning styles. Using Kolb’s (1976) Learning Styles Inventory (LSI) to understand my strengths as a learner, it was surprising to realise that I most value feeling (concrete experience) and watching (reflective observation). I sat down for a while to contemplate how I ended up in a business major when generally people who prefer doing (active experimentation) over watching (reflective observation) are managers. They are action-oriented and excel at adapting to the now. They are perfect for the changing environments that we hear about at the start of every bloody class. I sat there thinking for a good 20 minutes and decided to be optimistic. My interest in people and culture could be an exceptional asset as a Human Resource Manager. More thought is needed here because I still wonder about Kolb’s (1976) idea that my chosen field should be shaping my learning style, and yet after four years… maybe it hasn’t.
So WOW! Week one and without even having touched the simulation, I have a lot swirling around in my mind. To clarify: although we are given some opportunities to reflect, the responsibility is a personal one, action is an essential step in learning, learning makes great managers and I’m an outlier in the business discipline in terms of my learning style. Hopefully by next week I have some of these rather personal and internalised dilemmas resolved.
Daudelin, M. W. (1996). Learning from experience through reflection. Organizational Dynamics, 24(3), 36--48
Kolb, D. A. (1976). Management and the learning process. California Management Review, 8(3), 21--31
Nentl, N., & Zietlow, R. (2008). Using bloom's taxonomy to teach critical thinking skills to business students. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 15(1-2), 159--172.