24 02, 2016

Double-Loop Learning

By |2018-02-18T07:22:41+11:00February 24th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

I would like to expand on my last post which explained why Experts get stuck in single-loop learning (perfecting what they already know) and why they struggle to engage in double-loop learning – questioning their own model of the world. In this post I am going to talk more about double-loop learning and how it can help you to progress your cognitive development and make you more effective as a manager or consultant.


The first caveat when talking about double-loop learning is that whilst you can do it in your head, you can’t do it without doing. Perhaps the best way to describe double-loop learning is as:

Questioning Your Assumptions when – Reflecting on – Observing Yourself – While Doing […]

17 02, 2016

Why Some People Just Need to be Right

By |2018-02-18T07:25:02+11:00February 17th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

We have all come across people who just need to be right. Given that this is not a rare behaviour pattern to encounter, it should be worthwhile asking the question why this happens and what you as, say, the person’s manager, could do about it.

In order to understand what is going on we need to take a little detour into how learning works and how we map our internal reality (our model of the world) onto the external reality (be it ‘objective’ reality or someone else’s subjective reality). Big words, I know, but bear with me.

I have written earlier how reflection is a necessary prerequisite for learning, but in itself a lack of reflection doesn’t go far enough to explain why some people fail to realise that they may be wrong. Reflection happens within the context of your own (constructed) reality, your model of the world. For that reflection to yield […]

10 02, 2016

The Bifurcation of Work

By |2018-02-18T07:26:49+11:00February 10th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Numerous articles have been written recently about the declining middle class and the difference in the salary trends between the top 20% and everyone else. If you haven’t followed the debate, in essence the top 20% have been doing well whilst wages for everyone else are in decline, especially in real terms (after inflation). Part of the reason is that much of the workforce has been globalised, which depresses wages, especially in sectors that can easily be offshored or outsourced. Yet that’s not the full story. There is clearly a whole raft of jobs that cannot be done remotely, yet have fared equally badly in relation to their status and remuneration.

A number of authors have suggested that this trend is not just the result of globalisation and policy settings favouring the top 20% (although both undoubtedly have contributed a lot). Another factor that has come into the equation, especially in the last […]

27 01, 2016

Making The Right Commercial Decisions

By |2018-02-18T07:28:16+11:00January 27th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

In my previous two blogs I discussed how information overload leads to a lack of focus and how we need to persist with asking the important questions to enable better decision making. Yet we still have to talk about the decision making itself. Again, we have seen a marked deterioration in the quality and timeliness of commercial decision making in recent years and this can probably be linked back to the issues of information overload and sticking to the easy questions that I discussed in the two prior posts.

I would like to start exploring this with an example from a relatively small business ($20 million revenue in Australia, but part of a global brand). This business has been in turnaround mode for the last year or so, after a prolonged period of stagnation under a previous management team who neglected the brand and sales channel (which was ignored […]

20 01, 2016

Persisting With The Right Questions

By |2018-02-18T07:29:13+11:00January 20th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Following up from last week’s blog post on reducing noise and having clarity of focus, the second pattern we have noticed a lot more in recent years is that too often managers raise a key issue, don’t get an encouraging or even useful response and then drop the topic and move on.

We saw this again in action late last year when we worked with the senior leadership team of a medium sized business. In response to our prompts, a couple of key issues were raised by individual managers that were obviously known to the group as a whole, but had either been put in the ‘too hard basket’ previously or had been repeatedly drowned out by more immediate concerns which required less time to examine and decide.

Without our repeated intervention the team was not able to stay in the discomfort of having an in-depth discussion of such a key question […]

13 01, 2016

Clarity of Focus

By |2018-02-18T07:30:41+11:00January 13th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

iStock_000015521004SmallHere is something you should try at the end of today, on the way home. Ask yourself: ‘What did I do today?’ and make a list (in your mind will do). Once you have thought about all the emails you read, calls you made, meetings you attended, status updates you received etc., ask yourself another question: ‘What did I achieve today?’ and check how the two relate. At this point many of you may already feel slightly demoralised, but we are not done yet. Take it one step further and follow up with ‘What did I achieve today that was of value to me and the business I work in?’

Hopefully you didn’t end up empty-handed, but we have been observing a worrying trend from […]

22 09, 2015

Why Are Good Leaders So Rare?

By |2018-02-18T07:34:00+11:00September 22nd, 2015|Blog|0 Comments

A common complaint we get from executives and HR managers is the lack of good leaders today. This is curious, given we have had a massive leadership development industry going for over two decades. Perhaps to understand this seeming contradiction, we need to look at what lies underneath those complaints about the lack of great leaders. There are 3 factors that will impact perceptions about the quality of leadership:

  1. Our expectations of leaders have changed vastly. One result of training so many people in what makes good leaders is that this creates higher expectations in those being led. Especially in the area of emotional intelligence and providing quality feedback and coaching to develop employees.
  2. Second we have increased the complexity of the organisations that our leaders are expected to perform in. There is much more information to deal with, it travels faster, goes across traditional silos and demands faster and better decision making with incomplete […]
1 12, 2014

Corporate Zombies

By |2014-12-01T16:11:01+11:00December 1st, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

A lot has been written about the recent surge in popularity of the zombie genre. Since around 2000 there has been an explosion of zombies in video games, movies, books and TV shows. Mostly this resurgence in the genre has been linked to the rising fear of complete societal breakdown – zombies are a great metaphor for an unstoppable plague destroying our way of life. And yet the modern zombie genre goes far beyond that in that they are also a great metaphor for mindless consumerism – zombies have no purpose other than to turn humans into yet more zombies. So they reflect something most people today can relate to – the contradiction of feeling compelled to consume and they vague understanding of how dismal such an existence really is. Especially if you have to work long hours in a job you don’t necessary enjoy to earn the money to consume.

13 11, 2014

How to Make a Team Work

By |2015-01-06T11:01:24+11:00November 13th, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

What does it take to make a team work effectively, to get it to operate as more than the sum of its parts? To answer this question, we need to admit first that without the right conditions a team will operate as less than the sum of its parts – there will be competition, mistrust, lack of commitment, different agendas, freeloading, working at cross-purpose etc. In fact, getting a team to function effectively is probably one of the most difficult challenges for any manager. Why? Because the pre-conditions for effective teamwork are hard to put in place and even harder to sustain in your average corporate bureaucracy.


2 11, 2014

The old order is dying…

By |2014-11-02T09:54:15+11:00November 2nd, 2014|Blog|0 Comments

…yet the new cannot be born. This prescient insight was recorded by Antonio Gramsci in the late 1920s in his prison diaries. He went on to say that ‘in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear’. Whilst Gramsci was talking about the political situation in Europe just before the rise of the Nazis, his quote is getting a lot of airtime recently. It would appear that we are in such an ‘interregnum’ period again, where an established order is in its death throes but no coherent narrative exists for what will replace this order. To me, this doesn’t just apply to neoliberal politics and economics, but also to the way we currently organise work. Over the past 13 years in our coaching business we have witnessed a steady increase of ‘morbid symptoms’ in all sectors of the economy. The broadly accepted model for managing work – the vertically integrated and hierarchical […]

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