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Why reflection is vital to learning and growth

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Throughout my life, I have heard the age-old saying that “experience is the best teacher”. Through my coaching of leaders and my own life experience, though, I have come to believe that this popular adage is not true. So, for my work and in own my life, I have adapted it. I say that experience is the best teacher only if reflection sits alongside it.  Learning is not about doing; learning is about reflecting on doing. In order to develop and grow, people must learn to process their experience in ways that allow them to understand its significance and its lessons. Otherwise, experience is merely experience, not yet learning. Reflecting on experience—and not experience itself—is the … Continue reading

Reflecting about reflection

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This week, a quick thought on a subject I have been meaning to write about for some time. About 6 months ago, I read an article in the Financial Times entitled “Scheduling time to think at work is a brainless idea”. It was an opinion piece by columnist Lucy Kellaway, concerning a suggestion by AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong that employees dedicate 10 percent of their time at work to “thinking”. Ms. Kellaway opines that the idea is silly. One should not think 10 percent of the time on the job, she says, but rather 100 percent of the time. As she states: “If it is deemed highly desirable to spend 10 per … Continue reading

What should a corporation or organization stand for?

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Rereading David Packard’s radical views from the 1940s about what a corporation should be caused me to reflect on how much all this has changed in our time, and how far the business world has come.  By way of reminder, we wrote on June 11 about Packard’s frustration with the narrow perspective of his fellow business leaders. His was indeed a rare voice in the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps even an early proponent of what we have come to call corporate social responsibility.   Packard argued on various occasions with Stanford professor Paul Holden, one of the most respected management thinkers of the 1940s. Holden espoused the philosophy, prevalent among academics and … Continue reading

Truth versus authenticity in organizational storytelling

authenticity, John's reflections, leadership Leave a comment

Writing about Hewlett-Packard these past weeks, I was reminded of research I did on corporate stories of identity when I was a doctoral student in England. One of my most interesting findings at that time had to do with the role of truth and that of authenticity in organizational storytelling.  Here is the distinction I have come to make: In companies with strong cultures and institutional narratives that support them, authenticity is far more important than truth. For definitional purposes, I call a story “authentic” if it is representative of the organization’s values, and consistent with the behavior of the individuals portrayed. It is true if the facts are correct, if … Continue reading

Radical management in the early days at HP

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Irish playwright and Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw wrote that “all great truths begin as blasphemies.” Such was certainly the case with the management ideas of Bill Hewlett and David Packard back in the 1930s and 40s. How blasphemous were their ideas at the time? Looking back on the company’s early years, David Packard wrote or spoke about a number of occasions where he was publicly ridiculed for his views on management. To his credit, though, he would never waver from his principles. One example of negative public reaction to Packard came in 1942. That year, at age 29, he attended a conference on wartime production, led by Stanford professor … Continue reading

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