Literature/1978/Argyris

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Argyris, Chris and Schön, Donald (1978). Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. New York: Addison-Wesley, 1978. ISBN 0-201-00174-8

Excerpts[edit]

  • An organization is like an organism each of whose cells contains a particular, partial, changing image of itself in relation to the whole. And like such an organism, the organization’s practice stems from those very images. Organization is an artifact of individual ways of representing organization.
  • Hence, our inquiry into organizational learning must concern itself not with static entities called organizations, but with an active process of organizing which is, at root, a cognitive enterprise. Individual members are continually engaged in attempting to know the organization, and to know themselves in the context of the organization. At the same time, their continuing efforts to know and to test their knowledge represent the object of their inquiry. Organizing is reflexive inquiry ....
  • [Members] require external references. There must be public representations of organizational theory-in-use to which individuals can refer. This is the function of organizational maps. These are the shared descriptions of the organization which individuals jointly construct and use to guide their own inquiry ....
  • Organizational theory-in-use, continually constructed through individual inquiry, is encoded in private images and in public maps. These are the media of organizational learning. (pp. 16-17)
  • ... those sorts of organizational inquiry which resolve incompatible organizational norms by setting new priorities and weightings of norms, or by restructuring the norms themselves together with associated strategies and assumptions. (p. 18)

Reviews[edit]

A's
assumptions
about B
B's
behavior
towards A
Q69wb.png
A's
behavior
towards B
B's
assumptions
about A
A mutual self-fulfilling prophecy
based on mistaken attributed
assumptions about motives
(wiki-adapted)
Bob Dick et al
Bob Dick and Tim Dalmau (1999). Values in Action: Applying the Ideas of Argyris and Schön, second edition. Chapel Hill, Qld.: Interchange. online

A person's governing values are typically expressed in an action strategy, which has consequences. Most commonly, the beliefs are assumptions about the other person's motives: unchecked ascriptions of the governing values of her theory-in-use. [c 1] Behind these lies a world view, including a set of social rules governing behavior.

... notice that communication depends upon a very highly developed and practiced set of skills. Notice, too, that like many complex skills, most of it happens outside awareness. As we develop through our very early years, we absorb the complex communication style of those around us.

Michael Argyle and his colleagues (for example, Argyle and others, 1981) would say that we learn a complex set of social rules that we use fairly consistently, but often find hard to express explicitly. We can expect that when we communicate we do not always consciously know what we do. Conditions therefore favor the development of incongruence between theory-in-use and espoused theory. [c 1]

Argyris and Schön suggest that we all have a strong propensity to hold inconsistent thoughts and actions. The links between what we think we are trying to achieve and the way we go about it are often not what we imagine: our espoused theories differ from our theories-in-use. [c 1]

To put it simply, we don't always practice what we preach, however sincerely. The difference between espoused theories and theories-in-use [c 1] applies at the level of national strategies, organizational management strategies, and small group and interpersonal behaviors.

[...]

A core assumption ... is that people seldom reveal their assumptions about each other, especially about motives. When they act on their assumptions, their motives are very often misunderstood. The common result is the mutual self-fulfilling prophecy ... : each person's assumptions are maintained by the other's behavior and support the person's own behavior.

Mark K. Smith
Smith, M. K. (2001) 'Chris Argyris: theories of action, double-loop learning and organizational learning', the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/thinkers/argyris.htm.

Wikimedia[edit]

Chronology[edit]

Comments[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Both look analogous to Language in Thought and Action (1949), hence synonymous to, namely, "theory in thought" and "theory in action". Their "theory of action" (vs. reaction) may stem from "theory of encoding" (vs. decoding), both in communication, as shown on the right.

Notes[edit]

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The shade of the bar looks invariant in isolation but variant in context, in (favor of) sharp contrast with the color gradient background, hence an innate illusion we have to reasonably interpret and overcome as well as the mirage. Such variance appearing seasonably from context to context may not only be the case with our vision but worldview in general in practice indeed, whether a priori or a posteriori. Perhaps no worldview from nowhere, without any point of view or prejudice at all!

Ogden & Richards (1923) said, "All experience ... is either enjoyed or interpreted ... or both, and very little of it escapes some degree of interpretation."

H. G. Wells (1938) said, "The human individual is born now to live in a society for which his fundamental instincts are altogether inadequate."