Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ignorance is bliss

Tonight I’m going out with George and Gill, some old MBA buddies. When I did the course I learnt but two things. Most interestingly, I found out that structured training is not as good as learning through shared experience. The principle being that those who can’t do; teach, and extrapolating that further, those who teach, probably teach things you shouldn’t do. This is born out in research; structured training is, by definition, sanitised and often promulgates outdated practice.

So, in short, people who have mastered bad practice are simply passing on bad practice badly. This is often legitimised by hackneyed theory straight out of the Idiots Guide to Management Bullshit.

On Tuesday, we had a meeting which was supposed to be answering a fairly fundamental question – why do we put so much effort into producing something which has no obvious benefit. It was, instead, hijacked by a facilitator hell-bent on ignoring the issue at hand. Instead he put us through as many mind and consciousness expanding exercises as the time permitted.

It’s very much in vogue to punctuate any group meeting with a series of exercises that take you ‘outside the box’ and get the left and right side of your brain working in tandem. First we did some collective self reflection. Where on Tuckman's model of team performance did we think we were? Tuckman invented four stages in team building – which are something like Forming, Norming, Yawning and pawning your awning – the point at which team performance collapses to such an extent that is becomes necessary to liquidate equity that may exist in any light weight canvas structure (including small marquees and bivouacs).

Following this, we indulged in some individual reflection, having to write on post-it notes (obviously) how we thought we were seen and, on a different colour, how we would like to be viewed. My temptation was to write “Likes to eat cheese” and “Likes to eat chips”. I bottled out, which was a shame, given my Chief Exec put “Change agent who doesn’t listen” and “Change agent who does listen, but ignores you anyway”.

Then we had lunch, then we discussed for the briefest possible time, the question at hand. Then we had coffee. That out the way, we did some more collective reflection (same exercise, to see whether things had changed – they hadn’t) followed by some more individual reflection (why our preferred and real perceptions were different – probably down to my relationship with my dad or something). Then we went home with the central question unanswered.

The second thing I learnt in my MBA? Don’t eat the canteen’s Cornish pasties.


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