A Shocking Learning Deficit

Chris Argyris wrote this back in 1991

Any company that aspires to succeed in the tougher business environment of the 1990s must first resolve a basic dilemma: success in the marketplace increasingly depends on learning, yet most people don’t know how to learn. What’s more, those members of the organization that many assume to be the best at learning are, in fact, not very good at it. I am talking about the well-educated, high-powered, high-commitment professionals who occupy key leadership positions in the modern corporation.

Chris points out a rather astounding deficit. People who are generally considered  to be “the best and brightest” and in fact not well equipped to do what is required for success.

And the problem is worse than that. Chris goes on

Most companies not only have tremendous difficulty addressing this learning dilemma; they aren’t even aware that it exists. The reason: they misunderstand what learning is and how to bring it about.

There are two deficits

  • defining learning as just “problem solving”. Doing so focuses on an external issue and obscures internal learning that is needed. Not just to solve the problem at hand, but lean about how one can improve at solving problems
  • improving learning is not just a problem of a lack of motivation. Learners must learn how to think.

As a result, firms get into a rut — unable to learn how to do things better, even if the competition demands it.

Very interesting stuff.

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