Entrepreneur V Academic

Mini Reflection.

My biggest self learning point so far, is that I really love writing and i love theory. I absolutely love studying entrepreneurship.

Consequently, I would love to pursue at some point, a career as an academic. An academic within the area of business, entrepreneurship and involving people. Potentially sociology based. I really have enjoyed learning about all the theories of learning, entrepreneurship and team interaction. I could bury my head in books all day and write essays continously.

Comfortable within my own academic introversion.

My love of learning, i’ve realised stems from my love of thinking. Moreover, it is almost impossible to separate learning from thinking, one and the same (Marton and Ramsden 1998).

Marton and Ramsden. (1998) What Does it take to improve learning?, In Improving learning: New perspectives, ed P Ramsden, London: Kogan page.

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Learning is an Emancipation of the mind

Stating
Within week five, the business teams were shuffled around and new teams created. Within our learning in team’s module, we had an immediate task to consider group coaching as a tool and our team’s ability to coach itself. The team did not engage with the task collectively and only three people completed it, with the rest not taking part in the task. Consequently, learning as a team did not occur. In comparison, within week 11 we were asked to complete a financial task utilising a variety of formulas to assess a business and construct a financial spread sheet model in which these formulas would work. All members worked on the task and contributed and at the end of the task, after we’d received feedback, we concluded that as a collective we’d learnt by researching, experimenting, from each other, by actively being involved and through requesting lecture feedback. The question is why did team learning occur in one situation and not in the other?

Deconstruction
Such a question considers learning in broader terms outside of those two incidents and to an extent, considers what have the team learnt and how have the team learnt across the whole module? Winstanley defines learning as “acquisition of knowledge/skill that enables the realisation of something new” within “an active process of developing meaning, transferring knowledge into action and developing competence” (2005:3).

I’m sure by now in my reflections, that my learning preferences and styles have been stated, so there is not much value expounding them again, consequently, it is much more interesting to reflect on our team learning preferences, how we are actually learning and the impact of the learning on each individual learner.
To deconstruct the two tasks, task one involved exploring a theory based concept of team coaching in which the team had no knowledge in. As a collective, the task was supposed to motivate us to research the concept, challenge it, interpret an opinion and apply it within our team, providing a conclusion of whether we are able to coach within the team and to evaluate the value of that. We initially identified there was a knowledge gap surrounding team coaching and around the value of coaching overall. This knowledge gap did not provoke collective engagement in the task and to learn more about team coaching, instead within the team frustration was felt, confusion around the concept and aggravation that another theory based task had been given. The lack of knowledge within the group disengaged the collective and the task was completed by three team members, who are not dwarfed by theory based tasks. As such after the task, there was further disengagement as the team felt they’d learnt nothing and still didn’t understand coaching as a concept and the three who had been engaged in the task had expanded their individual knowledge, but struggled to see the benefit for the team as a whole.

Conversely in the finance task, the team identified the huge knowledge gaps in order to complete the task. This involved areas of finance, calculations, equations, theory and spread-sheets, a cross section of skills in which our team are weakest. However, it was not met with frustration and instead our team took a different approach. By this point, we were able to identify strengths within the team and learning preferences, so strategically we exploited them. Theorists were reading the theory to understand the concepts, pragmatists were breaking down the tasks that needed to be done and setting up mini groups to work on and activists kept the momentum and got on with completing calculations. Moreover, we made sure that the learning was spread around and we used it as an opportunity not to simply complete the task, but to challenge and to understand the concepts. We had members working in groups, with one member weaker in that area so they could observe the stronger member and further their understanding. For each calculation we made sure the whole team knew where it came from and we had a few people completing the calculations and then others checking them, meaning that firstly they were right but also, if things were wrong (and they often were the first time, second, third….) we could work out why and put it right as a collective. Then when it came to the construction of the spread-sheet, as no-one was an expert, each group worked with one person supervising, to place their figures in to replicate the equations and calculate the same answers, to try and coordinate the building of the model. As such, every member had a go at inputting on the spread sheet and understanding how it worked.

Consequently, as a collective, we learnt a lot from this task and we would be able to apply the knowledge onto our own business and create a functional model and understand where the appropriate equations came from and why they are needed; something which as a collective, we could not do before. In fact, due to the feedback we requested from Tony Blackwood, we’d be able to complete the task to a higher standard and more effectively. Furthermore, unlike the coaching task, which was instantly discounted, within the finance task, we actually found out within the group we had more expertise than what we originally thought via experimentation and exploring skills and different members were able to bring their own knowledge and experience into the group. Moreover it wasn’t expertise that pushed us through task, but the symbiotic relationship of learning together and motivating each other, within a safe environment. Consequently we have a group of individuals who all learn in distinct ways and attach different interpretations to information, which when brought together brings an added value to the learning experience. Within this task, it was not the completion of the task that was important, but our motivation to make sure we could all do, practice, understand, experiment and learn within the task.

The value in team learning is that it is no longer a process in which I continuously learn in my own preference. I learnt as an individual far more within the team on the finance task, than I did within the coaching task, which I was able to stick to my learning preferences and comfort zones unchallenged. Within the team, we “interact and transform received information” within the team “actively constructing, modifying and revising it” (Nichol 1997). Consequently, as a collective we attach meaning to it but as an individual (and as a team), we benefit from other members revisions, interpretations and modifications, that are outside our sphere of learning (Nichol 1997). Moreover, as a collective we become far more proficient, at adapting our bank of knowledge to new situations, as it is no longer just the replication of one learner, it becomes a collective reconstruction, in which more innovation, experimentation and value is derived to further push the learning process forward (Gibbs 1981).

Theorising
Learning can be described as a mode of “transformative action” (Moon 1999:116). Consequently, lack of knowledge is not an issue itself where there is the willingness to learn. Moon (1999:116) illustrates the five stages of learning in any situation:
1. Noticing – Identifying gaps in knowledge and enhanced self-awareness.
2. Making sense – ordering ideas and thoughts.
3. Making meaning – New material Assimilated
4. Working with meaning – Guiding further learning, accumulation of ideas and manipulation of knowledge.
5. Transformative learning – Application of knowledge onto new concept, self-motivated.
Considering Moon’s theory as a check list, it can be used to consider if learning, either individually or in our collective team has taken place. This linear progression through learning makes pragmatic sense as in order to learn, you need to acknowledge at some point you don’t know something and need to learn to fill a knowledge gap or that you are actually learning something, in order to apply acquired knowledge in the future. Consequently, this model is dependent on learner engagement with learning, but it can provide a check list to enhance learning self-awareness and an acknowledgement of future knowledge empowerment (Van Grinsven, M and Visser, M. 2011).
Applying this model to our two tasks, within the coaching task whilst our team was able to identify the knowledge gap, only three people engaged and learnt from the activity and collective team learning did not take place, as the team couldn’t make sense of the concept and would not be able to apply the concept in future. Conversely, the finance task, team learning did occur and as a collective we progressed through Moon’s model of learning, with members helping each other make sense and meaning out of the concept, concluding with transformative learning as a collective and on an individual basis.

Consequently, using Moon’s theory of learning, as a model to use diagnostically to assess if collective learning has taken place, it is now necessary to consider why in one task the team engaged and why in the other it refused. Whilst it could be pointed out that a variety of factors could contribute to this including that one task was more business related, the other was heavily theory based and one was more practical and tangible. These conclusions are all true, however I perceive that within the team, there was a shift between how learning was perceived within the group and how the team learning progressed within the five weeks. Learning as a process transformed from not occurring collectively at all and being dismissed, to a symbiotic experience embracing a variety of mediums. It is no longer focused on what the learner, within their isolated personal space, chose to learn and became more about experiential learning and learning through other team members preferences, interactions and learning becomes deeper and more unpredictable in direction and scope (Hills 2001).
Learning is now no longer an “individual self-autonomous experience” (Winstanley 2005: 14) and is much more intertwined with the team and individuals within the team’s learning styles, preferences and approaches to learning. Whilst, I’ve already made the point many times, that my team is full of activists, consequently I consider it of more value to consider other theories, instead of Kolb’s learning cycle (1984) and apply them to our team.

Winstanley et al (2003) states there are four distinctive learning orientations, with learners falling either side of the interpretation of each orientation. As with most models and theories, I find them often simplistic and too involved in the process of labelling, where I consider learning is a fluid process, adaptable to situations. Winstanley’s (2003) theory adds value regardless of its simplistic nature as it explores potential motivations behind learning, an issue that may have been behind the initial discounting of the coaching task and the engagement with the finance task. As such, the key is to identify team motivation for learning and to potentially exploit it in future tasks to try to ensure engagement.

Winstanley et al (2003) theory expounds that a learner can be an:
1. Implementer – Either an experimenter, someone who practices their skills in the open or a concealer, someone who actively hides their skills.
2. Lover of learning, someone with an intrinsic love of learning – Either a seeker, someone who actively seeks out new learning opportunities and reflects on them or a sponge, less active and absorbs from surroundings and others.
3. Badge collector, seeking out a qualification or recognition – Either an earner, someone who works hard to earn a qualification or purchasers, someone who believes they have the right to gain the qualification.
4. Affirmer – Either a validator, an active learner confirming their identity or an observer, passive learning role.
Such a theory provides an interesting frame work when considering the motivations behind learning within our team. Initially in the beginning we had a lot of frustrating disengagement with many members seeking to be taught. As such, the team sought out structured learning sessions with lecturers validating the process and only work which had some element of a contribution was embraced. Consequently, as a unit, no value was seen in what we could learn from each other and tasks that whilst not contributing to our degree, did present a significant learning opportunity which would benefit our business. Applying Winstanely’s theory within the coaching task, collectively the team was displayed itself as a badge collector, advancing the motivation to learn as being about recognition only, and as the task formally wasn’t assessed it was collectively discounted. The finance task also added nothing to our qualification, a part from a learning opportunity, yet learners within the team displayed more of an experimenter, seeker, observer and validator attitude. The difference in behaviour and approach to the task is suggestive that the motivation behind learning was different, with the team advancing the collective learning as a priority above completion of a task that wasn’t assessed.

On an individual level, within both tasks and within my education, I am a seeker, a learner who loves to learn. I seek out knowledge not only because I’m interested in the subject and love to learn (although that is a huge part), but because of “cognitive dissonance”, where my motivation to learn stems from recognising a knowledge gap and acting upon that (Festinger 1957). Whereas, individual members in my team can experience a gap, acknowledge it but have no motivation to fill the gap by learning. Moreover, learning within this module has evidenced to me, I am also a validator; I use learning and knowledge to flesh out my identity. Doing well and working hard is a part of my identity, but I didn’t realise until recently that gaining good marks, beating others (and myself from previous times), is so implicitly important to me and is linked tightly to my self-confidence. Whilst being a seeker makes me learn being a validator makes me highly focused and competitive with the application and interpretation of my knowledge.

However, it isn’t just orientation and preferences that I consider to have significantly altered our attitude towards learning. It’s the progression of group dynamics and attitudes itself; thanks to Belbin, insights and working alongside each other, we have a greater sense of each other and our tasks have forced us as a collective and individually to do things outside of our preferences and to take ownership of our learning (Rogers and Freiberg 1994). Consequently, our team has pushed learning as the goal in tasks, experimenting and supporting each other to learn new things within the team and for the team. This core of support that has developed over the five weeks wasn’t present within week one of our new team for the coaching task; where we approached the coaching task as individuals and faltered; we approached the finance task as a team, exploiting each other and the team in order to learn as a collective. Irrespective of the fact the activity wasn’t “mandatory”; the team’s attitude had changed.

Taking learning within the team and from each other a step further, we can apply O’Connor and Seymour model of competences, by which the learners have unconscious competence, conscious competence, conscious incompetence and unconscious incompetence (1990:27). Applying these broad labels, each team member including myself, will have started the module with a fair idea of what they perceived their competences and incompetence to be. However, team learning challenges these assumptions. Taking the finance task as an example, similarly to the coaching task, the initial assumption was that we don’t know how to collectively do it and no-one has the appropriate skill set. However, within the team we found that we did have competences in certain areas that could be utilised in the task, which we can take forward into another similar task. We also discovered incompetence and gaps in knowledge, which provoked research and reflection pre and post task completion. Moreover, working within the team as a collective and learning, brings to light competences and incompetence that you were unaware of, making unconscious, conscious, which you only can learn from learning with other people (O’Connor and Seymour 1990). These incompetence and competences can be exploited within the group to rectify others incompetence and vice versa. This model of learning is very insular but has a distinctive value as it is people inclusive and is a prompt that team learning is about learning about the team and yourself. It invites feedback as a mode of learn in a non-threatening way, as it becomes all about learning for the team.

Perry ‘s(1999) model takes learning within the team further providing answers for the difference in attitude towards the tasks due to differing attitudes to learning, and further advances my point that learning within the team is no longer autonomous and the group dynamic within learning triumphs. Perry (1999: 198) theory illustrates a hierarchy of learners, in which they progress from tutor dependence to independence becoming more confident and competent. A learner starts at the bottom in “dualism”, believing everything the tutor/teacher says is gospel and seeks out learning opportunities from them; they want to be told things (Perry 1999). The learner then progresses to “relativism”, in which they seek out knowledge, but believe everything they read as fact and they don’t distinguish journal articles as opinions (Perry 1999). Thirdly, the learner move into “commitment”, in which the evaluation takes place and they begin to ask questions and assess a sources validity or motive (Perry 1999). Finally the learner, moves to the top which is “deep learning”, in which a learner strategically asks questions, compares sources and makes their own evidenced judgements out of sought out materials; they can criticise and confidently completely disagree or agree (Perry 1999).

Applying this theory to our team learning, we can consider the team began within dualism within the coaching task, in which a knowledge gap was not filled by the tutor and the team was not confident to collectively fill it themselves, they were waiting to be told the right answer, right opinion or direction to go in. When this didn’t happen, the team disengaged. However, within the coaching task, the team had progressed into relativism, where we exhibited confidence to seek out the knowledge we’d needed, but we did take everything we read as fact and we were unable in the spread sheet model to adapt it into our own interpretation for the task. Hence we ended up with spread sheet that whilst functionally and right, was not quite the right fit for the task. Consequently, Perry’s theory provides an explanation of the change in attitude towards learning, based on growing confidence, psychological safety and the formation of a team (Hills 2001).

On a personal level, I consider I was in between commitment and deep learning. My learning tendencies have been very informed by my upbringing, in which I was encouraged to find things out for myself, question and develop an opinion. My law degree, in which most things I read were highly persuasive, biased, evidenced (no such thing as a balanced argument in law) and had the simply motive of convincing the reader of a legal theory or argument, we were taught to not criticise by looking at reputation of sources and research, but whether we agreed with it and why. This involved reading case law, judgements, opposite sides of the arguments and making a judgement through evidenced and reasoned opinion, with a constructed argument and rebuttal. Consequently, I’m very pragmatic and I struggle to go “on gut feeling”; I’m rational, researched and planned. But this is where, having a team learning culture adds value in our business, as alone I’d be too busy learning, formulating opinions and planning to start the business. As such, having learners within the team at different stages on the hierarchy is essentially a bonus, as I get to be immersed with people who do go on gut feeling, immerse themselves in doing and don’t need to understand a concept before acting. This drives my learning forward and I learn things, I wouldn’t in isolation and puts my learning into action, helping others in the team learn by doing and explaining complex concepts tangibly.

Consequently, team learning enables us to grow, try out new orientations and learning from each other becoming more team and self-aware. As a team of learners, we no longer approach tasks with a “narrow orientation”, only accepting new learning if it relates to what they already know and their “cognitive structure” (Mezirow 1990), as illustrated with the coaching task. As a collective we are now more receptive to foreign concepts and new learning (Mezirow 1990), seeing the finance task as a learning opportunity and engaging. Consequently, the team works through as a collective, where other members can help a narrow orientation learner make sense of the new material and adapting it into their learning preference style. Therefore, variety and differences, learning from each, other becomes the motivator behind team learning (Hills 2001).

Construction
By utilising Moon’s model of learning, to distinguish when learning has taken place and when it hasn’t on an individual level and collectively within our team, we will be able to distinguish when learning has taken place. Moreover, we could incorporate the model into our group reflective practice after a task, to assess the extent knowledge has been acquired.

Many of the learning theories above propose why the team successfully learnt as a collective in the finance task and didn’t within the coaching task. Whilst I’m able to utilise learning theories to reflect on the team and on myself, and conclude different things, my personal reflections here enhance further my self-awareness but it is reflections on the team that advances collective learning as the important ideal and a further step, as evidenced in the second task towards a learning culture. But obviously, as just one member, reflecting and theorising on the tasks, I’ve applied theories from my view point and the value I think they add in explaining the difference. However, each theory has the common thread that the value of team learning is ,learning as a team, in which members are motivated to learn by each other and the learning opportunity itself and that everyone’s need to feel active within the learning process. As such, members equally learn from researching, interactions, feedback, questioning, experimenting and doing, alongside from each other. Consequently, team learning becomes more of a journey, in which personal preferences are counterbalanced and cognitive dissonance is approached undaunted as a formed collective. Therefore, the journey is still on going and as a team, we may be at completely different stages within each model by the end of semester two.

References
Festinger, L. (1957) A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance: Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Gibbs, G. (1981) Teaching Students to learn. Oxford: OUP
Hills, H. 2001. Team-Based Learning, Hampshire: Gower Publishing.
Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Mezirow, J. (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood – A guide to transformative and emancipationary learning. San Franciso: Jossey Bass
Moon, J. (1999) Reflection in Learning and Professional Development. New York: Routledge Falmer.
Nichol, D. (1997) Research on Learning and High Education Teaching, UC OSDA briefing paper 45.
O’Connor, J and Seymour, J. (1990) Introduction to Neuro-Linguistic Programming: the new psychology of personal excellence. London: Harper Collins.
Perry, W. (1999) Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years: a scheme. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Rodgers, C. and Freiberg. H. (1994) Freedom to Learn. 3rd edn. New York: Macmillan College Publishing Company.
Van Grinsven, M. Visser, M. (2011). Empowerment, knowledge conversion and dimensions of organisational learning. The Learning Organisation, 18 (5), 378-391
Winstanley, D et al. (2003) From Learning to Practice. Report of research funded by Imperial College Teaching Research Grants Scheme, Imperial College, London: Tanaka Business School
Winstanley, D. (2005) Personal Effectiveness. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

New year’s resolutions – learning

As it is nearly the beginning of a new year, 2014, it seems timely to make some new year’s resolutions. I’m not a big believer in them essentially as I think they often set one up for failure, but as 2013 was such a transitional and challenging year, coming out of a very difficult 2012, it seems fitting to not only draw a line under it, in terms of personal challenges, but also new academic and learning challenges. Consequently, I have many habits and inefficient learning practices that I know I’m aware of but I have accepted up until now, as part of my process. But if my 2014 year, is truly going to be a year of change, it is important to not let self-awareness automatically become self-acceptance without good reason.

Learning Resolutions

  • I will stop letting my love of research, detail and planning get in the way of action – I’ve noticed that I allow myself to procrastinate under the guise of planning and perfectionism. I am only quick to act, when I have the support and push of a team as a motivator or when I have crisis. Consequently, I will use my team, a group of activists, as a driving force and stop procrastinating.
  • I will be more tactical about my learning with an awareness of when deep learning and surface learning is appropriate – I find everything interesting and I love furthering my knowledge. Sometimes, this is at the expense of whether it is relevant or not. Consequently, when I come to the point of writing an essay or compiling a report, I find I have a silly amount of information and wading through it, takes as long as the actual researching did. I need to be more restrained when researching so as to learn more effectively in order to stop bombarding myself and my team with knowledge.
  • I will take proper time off and do productive things – I’m a real workaholic, between my University and working 20hours a week running events. Consequently, the only real time I take off is when I am either ill or when I’m hung-over. Therefore, I never feel that I have a proper break away from thinking, doing other things I enjoy and this is to the detriment of my learning. Sometimes I have periods when I can’t concentrate but I force myself to sit and work. I also work for extended periods without having breaks, which is equally as unproductive. I want to start running again and to do things I enjoy outside of education and working, which I feel with restore the work life balance I am currently missing.
  • I will stop being distracted by distractions – When I reflect on my working practices through-out the day, I often conclude that what I’ve done in 8hours, I could have done in 5hours. This is usually because I have Facebook on in the background, I answer work/University emails and I text. Consequently, I lose little chunks of time, end up distracted and take a while to get back into what I was thinking about. I need to be really strict with my Facebook usage, take proper breaks away from the computer in which I can check my phone.
  • I will stop writing unrealistic, never ending lists – innovate more– I often set myself unrealistic goals and amounts of work to complete in the week and I feel constantly on the back foot. I not only overwhelm myself but overwhelm others in my team, by listing what we need to achieve. I challenge myself to not constrain myself with lists and plans, but to sit and innovate and discover and try the unexpected.

Where are all the women in the FTSE boardrooms?

The question of why there is a distinct lack of females invading British boardrooms has been a question that many enterprise minded individuals have asked for years (Brown et al 2002). The appointment of BT Group’s Liv Garfield  as the new boss of the water company Severn Trent (Monaghan and Goodley 2013), superficially seems to highlight the change in ethos within business for women. In nearly three years, we’ve seen the business world change from 12.5% of women holding seats in boardrooms of the UK’s largest firms with 21 all male boards and the movement in 2013 to 19% of FTSE boardrooms now being female and only five all male boards (Monaghan and Goodley 2013). This is a huge step forward from 2004 in which only 9.4% of boardrooms were made up of women (Davies 2011).

Consequently, with the appointments of Carolyn McCall at easy Jet, Angela Ahrendts at Burberry and Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco, it could be suggested that women no longer have a barrier stopping them entering the boardroom (Monaghan and Goodley 2013). But the “one in one out” approach and the very slow progression (Monaghan and Goodley 2013), suggests that although corporations have changed their gender biased ways, many women are choosing to opt out of career advancement causing a lack of women in senior positions, slowing the rate of increase of the proportion of women within the boardroom (Davies 2011). This argument is furthered by Germany’s move to impose quotas on the amount of women that have to sit on their boards, as a means of bringing about radical change, ignoring societal reasons behind the pool of women progressing into the boardroom (Monaghan and Goodley 2013). Moreover, such an act undermines the pursuit of performance and quality talent within the business, forcing succession and recruitment choices from a smaller talent pool simply “to make up the numbers” lessens the hard fought battle for female equality within the workplace (Monaghan and Goodley 2013). Promotions should be earned and the business board should be made up of the right people based on their talents, experience, knowledge and competencies; gender to any extent should be irrelevant, consequently introducing quotas only strengthens the gender divide and promotes that women should be considered differently (Morrissey 2013).

Conversely if the make-up of the boardroom is to truly change sustainably and the process is to be sped up, we need to fully understand why women opt out and the factors surrounding their decision process to do so (Morrissey 2013). With very talented, competent women now progressing up to the top ranks of businesses, it could be concluded that corporations are not estopping women directly and that women, if they want to, have the drive and are talented enough to progress at the same speed as their male counterparts; the top floor of corporations are now open to women and advancement is not just possible but achievable (Morrissey 2013). Consequently, If it is not the corporations themselves stopping women progressing up the corporate ladder, then understanding the absence of equal representation within the boardroom, starts with understanding why talented women opt out and who these “lost women” are (Morrissey 2013).

As such, we need to look to the women themselves and look at their career journey and choices. The starting point of any discussion should be one that considers that male and female graduate entry into the workforce, in the UK, is relatively equal and this equality is maintained until senior management level, where women fall away (Davies 2011). The progression from graduate level, into junior management and then middle management is an equally linear timeline for men and women where they progress almost proportionately side by side; the average age of initial entry into senior management is 28years old, which is the same age that shows huge proportions of women opting out at this level or remaining within middle management for a lengthy extended time in their career (Davis 2011). Consequently, the “danger-zone” for women’s career path to stagnate has been identified as the period between 28-40years old; within this period women are less economically active, fail to progress, completely opt out of employment and take several career breaks (Morrissey 2013).

If we assume the corporation remains static and equal with its treatment of men and women, then deductively women are doing something or behaving in a different way to their male counterparts (Davies 2011). As such it is interesting to note that the average age of a first time mother giving birth in the UK is 28.1years old (ONS 2013); the same age the average UK employee sees their career take off into senior management is also the same age women drop out of the workplace indefinitely or temporarily to become first time mothers (Morrissey 2013). Deductively, there is an impasse that leads to the fair conclusion that women do not progress at the same level as their male counterparts because they have children (Morrissey 2013). There are two core strands to this impasse that this article will present, women are absent from our boardrooms because females are presented with the societal pressure that a woman can’t pursue her career and have children and that the corporate system, due to its competitiveness and performance driven ethos, is not designed to accommodate women who wish to continue pursuing their career but desire flexibility and have the added priority of their children.

The crux of the problem, is no longer the soul fault of the male biased, corporate system, which it was decades ago; success and advancement is open to any talented individual, irrespective of gender, who wants to play and commits to the “corporate game” (Morrissey 2013). However, this female empowerment and the freedom to progress up the corporate ladder, falls in direct conflict with the choice to have a child and the societal pressure women feel to prioritise their external family responsibilities above their career (Morrissey 2013).Women are brought up with the reinforced stereotype of the women who leaves her job to have a child or the woman, whose returns to work after having a child, with a change in her priorities (Morrissey 2013). This societal stereotype of the “good mother” who sacrifices her career to concentrate on her children is an accepted stereotype that feeds into our societal child centeredness and is one that is outside the control of the business world.

Women who do choose to go back into their high powered jobs, report feelings of extreme guilt for missing out on their child’s younger years and are perceived as wrongly advancing their career at the expense of the child (Mckinsey & Co 2007).  Any successful women, who has had children and achieved seniority in her career at the same time, is hailed as a rare exception and a superhero women who has achieved the impossible (Mckinsey & Co 2007). Consequently this societal pressure to choose between having a child or further your career, with many women choosing to have children, businesses face a lack of supply of women climbing up the corporate ladder into corporate management, as women tail off pursuing their family agendas; many women make the considered choice not to pursue the top roles and have a family instead (Morrissey 2013). Our society puts pressure on women to make the choice between her career and having a family (Brown et al 2002).

However, it is not just the choice to have children that automatically excludes women from the boardroom, it is the fact that on a practical level it is hard to be a mother who is focused on her child and simultaneously
focused on achieving the corporate heavy weight level, never mind sustain it into the long term; hence many corporate heavy weight women achieve the top level and then chose to opt out to have children, just at a later date (Mckinsey & Co 2007). Corporate progression requires hard work, sacrifice and ambition; the very top of organisations require lengthy hours, focus and for many, the job becomes is their lives; the practicalities of having children does not fit in with this pursuit (Morrissey 2013). Women, who chose to have children, can’t effectively pursue this lifestyle without neglecting and sacrificing the time spent with their children, relying on a strong extended support network and being judged by society, as a mother pursing her career at the expense of her child, regardless of the lifestyle or financial benefits (Morrissey 2013). It is only with the right support network and partner support that women can expect to have children and pursue the corporate dream, a resource that isn’t available to all mothers.

Feminists would advance the question, why should women automatically sacrifice their careers and not the men? Again this is a choice that is open to all families, men are just as entitled to focus on the children and allow their wives to reach for their careers. Such a decision will advance the career of a woman and will rising opt out figures for men (Mckinsey & Co 2007) But whilst this remains a choice and feminists can argue that men “should” do this more, many women once their baby is born, would prefer to be the one to stay home and look after the child, after all they carried it and bonded with it for 9months (Davies 2011). Moreover, women are presented with the societal norm that women should be the ones to play the dominant role in children’s early life; this is a deep rooted norm and societal expectation placed on women (Davies 2011). Furthermore, statutory law remains in favour of women taking extended maternity level and has only recently extended paternity leave for Fathers; the legal system is structure so the woman can take a career break to look after the child, not the man (Davies 2011). Moreover, the unavoidable truth is that, currently within our society, biologically females have children; as such this brings about unavoidable absences from work that men can’t compensate for.

Businesses from the beginning have to be adaptable and respond to the needs of the business. The call for a more flexible, child friendly, corporate working environment, whilst admirable, is unrealistic and uncompetitive economically (Davies 2011). That is not the nature of successful, competitive advantage driven corporate work that requires an extreme commitment to the job, a commitment that women with competing priorities cannot achieve (Davies2011).  A work place that suits mothers is not one that is productivity and profitability focused or one that is built on a lean economically viable structure. As such, these women are more suited to lower level management positions, in which a more flexible work structure can be offered and in which both competing priorities can be satisfied. Moreover, this point is further advanced, with the appearance of women within the public sector and teaching; a working environment that accommodates the working mum (Mckinsey & Co 2007).  Consequently the current corporate model, based on performance and 24hour availability forces women to either choose between their career or to have children, inevitably leading to many women opting out due to their life choice to have a baby (Mckinsey & Co. 2007).

The pursuit of equality within the boardroom, embodies the ideal that all people are treated the same (Morrissey 2013). Many advocate a change in the corporate system, one that allows working mothers to progress (Davies 2011), but encouraging women into the boardroom should not involve a relaxation of the rules and processes within an organisation in favour of women and women with children; this change threatens equality in the workplace and puts an onerous burden onto the organisation within a challenging climate (Morrissey 2013). The corporate model is no longer “male dominated” which many suggests remains an issue (Mckinsey & Co. 2007), the model simply focuses on productivity and profitability with the same opportunities available for all, women make the choice to have children and prioritise them (Morrissey 2013). They can equally chose not to have children and pursue their careers, furthermore they can also have children and pursue their career simultaneously, but inevitably only one can be the top priority (Mckinsey & Co. 2007).  This reality is one of compromise which fails on both counts and one which is a “double burden” of corporate responsibility alongside parental responsibility (Mckinsey & Co. 2007). But the reality of the situation is that women do have a choice and they control their career destination.

Once a woman decides to have a child, this decision has a direct impact on her career advancement speed. In a world where the business never sleeps, the very nature of maternity leave gives a woman a career break, which removes them from the organisation temporarily. These breaks are not taken by men, who remain able to pursue their career uninterrupted. These breaks mean women no longer can keep up to speed with the organisation, they miss out because they are physically not there, this gives men the competitive edge, to advance further through the organisation in a shorter space of time, irrespective of a woman’s competencies or skill sets; the business will not wait for her to return. Moreover, the time away from work gives many women an opportunity to re-evaluate their priorities and consider what is best for the their child/children; often putting a child first means having a job, that fits in with their needs and requirements until they are older, consequently they drop out of the rat race (Mckinsey & Co 2002).

Many theorists have purported other contributory factors to explain the impasse and absence of women within the UK boardrooms. As such, there is a view that women are simply less ambitious than men, they want more to life than their careers and they tend to undervalue their own skill sets (Trevelyan 2008). Arguably it is possible that women undervalue their skills and advance a different set of behaviour traits that make them vulnerable to missing out and being overlooked for progression (Davies 2011). However, such a view undervalues women from the very starting point and views them as shrinking violets that are unaware of their potential and need assistance to be recognised. The stereotype of the overconfident male and the women oblivious of her strengths (Trevelyan 2008) is an outdated sexist, overly simplistic starting point.

Whilst this contributory factor is plausible, it advances that the fault lies with the women, as women remain in control of this factor of their own self-confidence and personal promotion; this is something that can be changed and consequently, efforts should be concentrated on empowering women and introducing strong female corporate stereotypes (Davies 2011). In order, for women to believe they can be strong corporate figures, we need strong female role models across a variety of disciplines and occupations. Not only do we lack a large bank of female role models, but women grow up with the stereotype and societal norm of the typical woman who leaves her job in order to look after her child or a woman that returns to work, with adjusted priorities to provide for the child (Davies 2011). Consequently, female empowering can only take us so far; women within corporations face practical choices and societal pressures that men, do not. They have a choice between continuously advancing their career like the male counterparts or stepping off the corporate wheel temporarily or permanently and having a child (Mckinsey & Co 2002). However, it should be remembered, they have a choice, they chose to have a child and stop focusing on their career.

It remains easy to get caught in the argument surrounding why there is a lack of female board-members within corporations and the difficult social questions it highlights. However, as a society we also need to understand the indisputable value of women within the corporate work place, women should not just be viewed as future mothers, they can also be corporate heavy weights if they chose to be (Davies 2011). Unlike Germany, it should not be about achieving quotas, simply for numbers sake, it should be about fully understanding why we need more women at the highest level of corporations and the benefits they can our businesses offer; their value and their worth.

Lord Davies’s 2011 report highlights a long list of influential reasons, why women are not just invaluable in the work place but a crucial element of the most profitable and productive organisations in existence. A male dominated business environment lacks diversity, a key element to any successful, functioning team (Hills 2001). Women bring a different skill set and one that off sets, a stereotypical, overconfident businessman (Trevelyan 2008). Gender balanced boards are more likely to identify criteria for measuring strategy, monitor its implementation, follow conflict of interest guidelines ensure better communication and focus on additional nonfinancial performance measures, such as employee and customer satisfaction, diversity and corporate social responsibility; the symbiotic nature within the differences between men and women when exploited together are key elements to business performance (Brown et al 2002). Moreover, women enhance performance within corporations when compared to organisations that lack in female representation (McKinsey & Company, 2007).

The merit within the need for both men and women within the boardroom is they both compliment and challenge each other; one gender isn’t better than the other, they are just different (McKinsey & Company, 2007). Moreover, with women making up 6/10 top graduates, 51% of the UK population/consumer, 46% of the economically active workforce and responsible for 70% of household purchasing decisions and holding half of the UK’s wealth (Davies 2011), they are not a demographic that should remain misunderstood, constrained within society and disengaged. As such, their absence in the boardroom and the talent pool gap of women in senior management shouldn’t just be a business concern, but a societal concern. Consequently, the goal shouldn’t be to make it easier for women to progress and treat them differently; it is to understand why women stop progressing up the corporate ladder first and why women prioritise children over their careers, in a way men do not (Morrissey 2013).

Once a true understanding is reached, then businesses can focus on strategically tapping into the under-utilised pool of female talent, opening up the gates into board level by working to change the societal strain on women and to expand the stereotypical female aspiration, beyond having children and giving up their careers, “to remain competitive and respond to rapidly changing expectations and market demands” (Davises 2011). Once females progress into the board room, we should see greater diversity, not only enhancing performance but encouraging a better understanding of the female consumer, with a more effective exploitation of the demographic (Davies 2011).

Consequently, if we accept that women are faced with the choice between their career and children, it must be acknowledged that although this is an undeniable barrier, it also is factually a choice; women chose to have children and to step off the corporate ladder. They have the choice and the same opportunities available to them as their male counterparts before that point (Davies 2011). Focusing just on changing the practices of business, in order to encourage women to not only have children and to advance their career at the same time neglects the societal expectation of women as a good mother; corporate changes need to occur alongside, a change in the society(Davies 2011).

Thus Helena Morrissey, a champion of women in the boardroom, has expanded her 30% campaign, campaigning for 30% of individuals at the top of corporations to be women, into the “opportunity now campaign”, a research study that is focused not on business practices, but on understanding women’s intangible feelings within the workplace and their beliefs around their career and children (Morrissey 2013). Such a study should prove that whilst businesses have embraced equality in how they treat and recruit men and women; societal expectations and the corporate machine rarely allows women to have children and reach the boardroom. Once we understand these pressures, changing the make-up of the board room will involve challenging societal norms. Furthermore, it will require a shift in women’s priorities to value their careers equally or more so, than having children; a process which is out of the control of the corporations (Morrissey 2013).

Brown, D., Brown, D. and Anastasopoulos, V. (2002)’ Women on Boards: Not just the Right Thing . . . But the “Bright” Thing, Report. 341-02: The Conference Board of Canada, Ottawa.

Davies, M. (2011). ‘Women on Boards – Government Report’, Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/31480/11-745-women-on-boards.pdf (Accessed: 23rd November 2013)

Hills, H. 2001. Team-Based Learning, Hampshire: Gower Publishing.

Mckinsey & Co. (2007) ‘Women Matter’ , Available at http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDkQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mckinsey.com%2F~%2Fmedia%2Fmckinsey%2Fdotcom%2Fclient_service%2Forganization%2Fpdfs%2Fwomen_matter_oct2007_english.ashx&ei=pbGUUt-QDMKYyAP0-YDIDw&usg=AFQjCNHpmrgClYnYyWzgX-Tjqym6bBnH2A (Accessed: 26th November 2013)

Monaghan, A and Goodley, S. (2013) ‘Liv Garfield joins small team of women running blue chip businesses’ Available at:http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/nov/18/liv-garfield-bt-severn-trent (Accessed 23rd November 2013)

Morrissey, H. (2013) ‘Finally, let’s hear the truth about our top women’ Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/10454697/Helena-Morrissey-Finally-lets-hear-the-truth-about-our-top-women.html (Accessed 23rd November 2013).

Office of National Statistics. (2013) Live Births As Characterised by Mother. Available at: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_330664.pdf (Accessed: 10th October)

Trevelyan, R. (2008) ‘Optimism, overconfidence and entrepreneurial activity’, Management Decision, (46) 7

Optimising Reflective Practice to use within business

Kolb (1984: p26) refers to learning as experiential learning; a process in which ideas are not just static, but in which elements are formed and reformed through experience. Crucial to this learning process is the tool of reflection; the further on my entrepreneurial journey I travel, the more value I see in reflection as a learning process. Consequently, exploring it and learning more about it formed an instrumental, focal part of my individual learning contract and improving the structure of my reflective writing.

Schon (1983: p241-24) describes reflection as “surfacing, criticising, restructuring and testing intuitive understanding of experienced phenomena”. Hammer and Stanton (1997) expand this referring to its importance and considering refusal to reflect undermines a whole organisation. Consequently, reflection is crucial to my business and success as an entrepreneur, especially during this idea generation and product development stage, when the product/service is being developed from feedback. The difficulty with reflection is that it is a discipline, active and self-directed (Knowles 1984). As such, reflection has to become part of the learning process and has to be taken ownership of; it has to be prompted until it becomes second nature.

As I’ve increased my engagement with the reflection process, through-out the course, I’ve adapted my process, building it into an individualised process, that I can utilise because, essentially I created my version. When I began reflecting, I considered it was an introspective process and involved reflecting in isolation. However, the more I’ve used reflection as a tool, I’ve realised that reflection must be used with an awareness of the internal AND the external; social and political considerations (Reynolds and Vince 2004: p4). Furthermore, I utilise reflection as a method of challenging and questioning myself and the team. Processes and practices, I often take for granted. For example, I often lean towards research and strategic planning tasks, and avoid design and pitching. Reflection as a tool has enabled me to become more aware of my strengths and question exactly why I avoid some tasks. As such, reflection is a personal challenge to question and an opportunity to recognise the need to change.

To take this process further and to develop my efficiency and effectiveness within reflective practice, I wanted to research around reflective models to use within my reflective writing. Reynolds and Vince (2004) describe reflection as a process of “deconstruction” as a means of giving order to chaos. Whilst I consider, the deconstruction element is something I do rather well, challenging myself, I think the moving forward from the learning with an element of coherence could do with some work. I need to make sure I focus equally on the process of reconstruction at the end, so the process is exploited to its fullest potential.

I find the structuring of my reflective writing really challenging, as I want freedom in the process and I find any structure, as potentially limiting and restrictive. However, a structure will force me to pin down my thought process, into an end point that reconstructs at the end of a reflection, with product movement forward that I can enact in the future. In line with my learning contract, I’ve been spending time reading around reflection and looking for a process and structure, that works for me in order to really exploit the “ontological perspective” within reflection (Reynolds and Vince 2004: p35).

The first structure I looked at was the Gibbs (1988) learning cycle;

 

   

gibbs

                 

 

Gibbs 1988

This structure is well known and provides a very clear structure in which reflection on an incident can occur. It was this structure that motivated me to look towards finding a structure that suited my writing style. Whilst Gibbs cycle, encourages set stages of reflection through answering prompted questions, I find it is too rigid and I don’t benefit from this process. I think reflection should send you on a learning journey where you are guided through the reflection, which can end up at a point that is unexpected. I prefer this concept, over and above using questions as prompts and segmenting it.

The next structure I looked at was Schon’s (1983) structure, which depicts a “reflective conversation” (Reynolds and Vince 2004: p242). Schon’s (1983) model follows three steps; framing and reframing a problem or situation, deconstructing the situation and reflecting and finally developing a course of action based on the reflection. Whilst, this structure of reflection provides the flexibility within the process I want, it does not structure the middle process sufficiently. Especially, as I struggle with brevity when I begin to analyse. Moreover, applying Cunliffe (2002) definition of reflection, as something giving “order”, I think there needs an element of a structure that gives directed layers to reflection and something to build a reflective routine around, following distinct stages.

Another structure I looked at was John’s (1995) reflective model. It is one that exploits the view that reflection should be under our conscious control and to an extent objective; i.e. removing the emotional bias (Burgoyne 1992). It goes without saying that reflection can be an emotionally directed activity, which is why I often chose to reflect a while after the event, when emotional feelings have been defused. John’s (1995) structure is useful here, as the reflector engages in a process of reflecting initially internally “looking in” and considering the situation from a completely internal basis. The second stage is “looking out” where the reflector analyses what happened around them. The rest of the model involves a lot of questioning, which again seems quite restrictive, but I highlighted the model, as it reminds the reflector that they need to balance their reflection with internal and external considerations. A good reflection should be balanced with both.

The final model of reflection that I settled on, as the one to take forward as the core basis of my own reflective practice, is one that uses Dewey (1933) model which has four stages; collecting data, reflecting on the data, conceptualising and theorising and finally, translating into new actions and behaviours. For my own writing, I have relabelled the sections of the model which will involve, stating the experience/situation, deconstructing and analysing, making sense of it by applying theory and then reconstructing what I’ve learnt into something I can take forward and apply in the future. Furthermore, my model of reflection will also take the internal and external considerations forward from John’s (1995) model during stage two and four, ensuring a balanced reflection. At these two stages, the internal and external is important, as they heavily influence the deconstruction in terms of objective analysis and during reconstruction, learning must have applicability to yourself and the external environment around you.

My model of reflection (based on Dewey 1933 and Johns 1995)

Stage one

Stating

Stage two (external and internal factors)

Deconstruction

Stage three

Theorising

Stage four (external and internal factors)

Reconstruction

 

Consequently, this structure will now be the basis of my reflective writing. It provides enough of Gibbs (1988) structure, to inform and guide my reflective journey but is not too restrictive or based on answering questions. It takes its primary influence from Dewey’s model, but also embraces elements of Schon’s (1983) reflective conversation and Johns (1995) external and internal considerations.

The Learning Contract

Learning Contract

This week we were asked to complete a learning contract, a commitment to something new and active learning.  McAllister (1996) considers a learning contract crucial when the learning needs to be deeper, active and self directed. In fact the contract becomes not just a written declaration to the world, but a tangible declaration to yourself.

For my learning contract (see below), i’ve followed and will continue to follow Knowles, Holton and Swanson’s (2012), 8 step guide.

Step 1 : Identify learning needs

Step 2: Specify Smart learning objectives

Step 3: Specify strategies and resources you will use.

Step 4: Evidence of accomplishment

Step 5: Specify validation

Step 6: Review contract with coach

Step 7: Carry out contract

Step 8: Evaluate

I’ve compiled my learning contract in line with these steps and I’ve currently submitted my contract for feedback. It is my intention to carry out the contract and then evaluate, at the end, my learning.

My learning contract focuses on three key areas; ability to reflect in a more soundly, effective structured way. I hope this will improve my quality of writing and enhance the reflective process, benefiting the business. Secondly, I want to become more of a risk taker and change my attitude. Within personal challenges and tasks, I’ve become much more able to jump at challenges and take on the impossible. But within a group, I tend to try and stick to the comfortable and what I know. Moreover, I’m more inclined to try and push forward my idea because it makes sense to me, than consider taking forward someone else’s. Consequently, I’m keen to challenge myself and seek out new ways of doing things and being more free, within a group environment. Thirdly, i’d like to improve my ability to communicate verbally. I often over prepare for meetings and have lots of ideas. Therefore, my important points are lost or I launch into a long ramble. I think my communication in this area needs to be improved and it would also enhance my confidence within networking situations, instead of already thinking i’m going to be incoherent.

McAllister (1996) expresses a wide range of reasons why a learning contract can be effective tool; her article focus’ on the idea contracts promote learning autonomy and self reliance (Knowles 1984)). Whilst these are meritous, as an already active, self-reliant learner within business, i don’t intend to use them in the way. I propose to use my learning contract for two functions. Firstly, to stand still, reflect and identify my current knowledge gaps. Identifying these knowledge gaps will not only lead to self awareness, but will also boost my motivation to learn; “knowledge will be gained because I want it” (McAllister 1996:201)

Secondly, as a student that has often struggled to balance her the necessary rest time alongside work time, I rarely take a second to reflect on achievements. I always reflect on negatives, issues and especially failures, but where i complete something, I move on to the next thing at a rapid speed. This leads to a feeling of constantly running on a treadmill, sometimes a complete lack of awareness of self improvement and forgeting to acknowledge successes and achievements. Acknowledging achievements is something that I hold up as essential within a team, yet I rarely practice what I preach. Consequently, the time limit on the learning contract will (hopefully) provide the ability to acknowledge successes and review the process behind the success.

Within the strategies section, I’ve tried in each case, to go full circle in the Kolb and Fry (1975) learning cycle; ensuring that i’m an activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist in each case. As I’m less inclined to be an activist, I’ve endeavored to make sure the evidence is weighted towards, doing things. My natural instinct is to learning and explore but I don’t necessarily put things into practice. I’ve become much more of an activist as I’ve grown up; business is an activists play ground. But I think an area, where I lack, is that I don’t experiment. I decide on one course of action and proceed, therefore I think this tunnelled approach is removing my confidence to take risks and I’m missing out.

With this in mind, this is my learning contract. After the 12th of December, I will review the progress and I will also montior its implementation along the way.

 

Name  Rachel Horton                    Start Date   31/10/2013                                                          End Date 12/12/13

 

Learning Objectives

Learning Resources and Strategies

Evidence of Accomplishment of   Objectives

Assessment Criteria

Work on up to 3 SMART objectives at   a time

 

 

 

List activities that will   convince yourself and others that you have achieved your objectives

Specify how the evidence of   accomplishment of objectives will be assessed and by whom

 

1. To experiment with 4 different   reflective writing structures by 18th November, in order to   utilize and implement the most effective within my reflective pieces to   improve the structure and coherence.

 

 

 

 

 

      

  • Academic        books and journal articles.
  •   

  • Identify        what is wrong with current structure, taking on board Lucy’s feedback.
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  • Identify        proficient reflective writers and read their pieces.
  •   

  • Experiment        with different structures with writing.
  •   

  • Reflect        and reassess after each writing piece.
  •   

  • Seek        feedback and reflect on it.
      

  • Reflective        knowledge and academic literature evidenced within my writing.
  •   

  • Evidence        and knowledge of several reflective structures.
  •   

  • Ability        to set out what structure I’m using within writing and being able to        justify the choice.
  •   

  • Experimenting        with different structures within my reflective journal.
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  • Seeking        out and responding to feedback on reflective pieces.

 

      

  • Seeking        out feedback from Lucy in regards to my reflective writing; feedback so        far is that quality of writing is high but structure is lacking.        Consequently, improvement of structure and comments around that area.
  •   

  • Ability        to recognize which reflective structure is being used, making my        reflective pieces easier to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. To take on and complete one team   task every other week, that is completely out of my comfort zone and skill   set until January 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

  • Identify        the typical tasks and roles I take on within the team.
  •   

  • Identify        gaps in knowledge, skills and tasks I may shy away from; reflect.
  •   

  • Reflect        on why I often seek solutions that make sense rationally and often        ignore gut instinct.
  •   

  • Consider        times when I and as a team, have taken risks and why it succeed or        failed?
  •   

  • Taking        a more activist approach within certain tasks and instead of thinking,        just do.

 

      

  • Taking        on tasks and roles that I wouldn’t normally do.
  •   

  • Stepping        outside of comfort zone and a feeling of anxiety when approaching tasks.
  •   

  • Feeling        challenged.
  •   

  • Seeking        out expertise within the team and observing others strengths; teaming up        with an expert in a particular area.
  •   

  • Putting        trust in others and their ideas within the team implicitly.

 

      

  • Personal        and team recognition of either successfully completing/learning        something new or improvement visible within a particular area.
  •   

  • Being        able to do something new or tackle something with increased confidence.
  •   

  • Team        and coach will notice an increased self confidence in areas and        increased commitment to the team learning aspect of the course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To prepare a maximum of six key   points I’d like to express to the team within each team meetings, to improve   the conciseness and coherence of my verbal communication by Dec 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      

  • Reflect        and consider why verbally my communication can be rambling, fast,        disorganized in comparison to the effectiveness of my written        communication.
  •   

  • Research        and investigate communication strategies; implementing and trying        different ones.
  •   

  • Invest        time in preparing for meetings, making my points more concise instead of        over preparing and developing points.
  •   

  • Public        speak and present ideas to the group more within group meetings.
  •   

  • Ask        for the group to summarise or repeat the points what I’ve said; observe        whether they were picked up.
  •   

  • Use a        more structure approach; set out what I’m saying, explain it, then        re-iterate it at the end briefly.
  •   

  • Ask        for feedback on my communication from the team.
  •   

  • Observe        team members that communicate very well verbally.

 

      

  • Clear,        list of discussion points before each meeting.
  •   

  • Experimenting        with different communication styles.
  •   

  • Increased        confidence in communicating verbally.
  •   

  • Improved        understanding and less frustration within the group.

 

 

      

  • Clearer        understanding and better communication of points, assessed by the team.
  •   

  • Improved        presentation style and organization of verbal communication, assessed by        lecturers.
  •   

  • Clear        implementation of feedback from peers and lecturers, evidenced in        improved delivery.
  •   

  • Increased        self-confidence and reduction of anxiety and frustration, when        communicating verbally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time is money

Most entrepreneurs thrive in chaos; I know I do, especially as I’ve got older. There is something about the urgency and the pressure that gives an excitement. I thrive in my own self-imposed order and organisation, which I can make sense out of the chaos; my pragmatic view of chaos. I like to break the chaos down into pragmatic steps, to move forward, I rarely feel overwhelmed.

How I make sense of the chaos comes simply down to how as an individual I process information, how I reflect on the information and how I utilise the reflection and put it into practice. When I look at a mess or a disaster, I don’t see a hopeless disaster or a lost cause, I see issues, I see the problems, both of which I’m able to organise methodically and most importantly, I see solutions. The key to my learning is my ability to make sense of things and my strategy behind learning. Consequently, it comes as no surprise to learn, that I’m a deep learner. I like to challenge, research, investigate and explore. I’m really active in the learning process and I take forward knowledge to utilise in the future. I can only do this by making sense of what I’ve learnt and what I’m learning in this process. I can’t just take a fact and accept it on face value, I like to understand where it came from, the factors effecting it, how it might change etc.

However, surface learners, although they don’t learn as deeply as I do, they do complete tasks more quickly and often more efficiently. I can get bogged down in researching and end up reading about things that aren’t directly relevant. I always give myself more time within the drafting and research stage of an assignment, than I do the actual writing stage, as I know I have a “process”, I have to go through. This can mean, I end up with A LOT of information and with difficulty knowing what to cut out and which bits are the most important. Seeking to understand something fully often means lengthy time researching without a purpose.

This is also true when I read and listen to information. I cling to details for understanding. When I started to read academic journals, firstly I’d never actually question a lot of what I was reading and I’d take it on board as fact, secondly, I’d read it from cover to cover and almost want to highlight everything as it seemed equally as important. I’ve become much more disciplined at skim reading, seeking out relevance and utilising surface learning strategies. However, this is still an area I’d like to improve on.  This is exactly, how I view my learning strategy, it is a discipline. A compromise between how I prefer to learn and tools that will enable me to be a more effective learner; a more effective entrepreneur.

This is often where the chaos comes in; I work best under deadlines, pressure and often during a crisis, as this stops my natural instinct to research and read around the subject, seeking complete understanding. Under pressure, I’m forced to skim and seek out the important; I research and learn with a purpose. Without the pressure, I struggle to be disciplined, hence I can end up reading lots of articles unable to decide, enough is enough.

Whilst my deeper learning, enables a deeper understanding and wider knowledge bank in the long term and remains a method, I use day to day. I will endeavour to incorporate more surface learning methods, within assignments and focused research. The way I intend to make this into a reality, is by giving time limits when I approach tasks and research. After all time is money and I’m not making any money reading a textbook cover to cover.