Irrationally held Truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors – Huxley 1825-1895

Stating

Our team ended our team learning module on a high, with formed friendships, cohesion, evidence of team working and learning and increasing “psychological safety” in the group (Hills 2001). This is a stark contrast to the emotionally loaded response experienced when our old team was split up and the mourning experienced at the loss of the old team.

Deconstruction

When our old team was split up, the emotional response was extreme and surprising. The old team functionally did not work; moreover, we didn’t necessarily get on as individuals when working together. In fact, after splitting up, as individuals, we get on a lot better now and it feels like tension has been relieved. Consequently, the expectation due to the failures of previous tasks, poor team working, lack of communication and tension building, was that we’d look forward to splitting up the team and a new beginning. This was an expectation I shared with members of both teams.

I was looking forward to engaging with business minds that had been placed with me, to compliment and challenge me, and for my existence in the new team, to do the same for others. I wanted to feel an enterprising spark, similar to what I had within Enactus and what I had at the beginning of my time with Gateshead Council, where by, I know there is really “something” within this collective of people and exciting things lie ahead, even if it is far from perfect at the moment. With the old team, we all felt nothing.

So when the team was split up, there was a significant amount of misplaced anger towards the lecturing staff for doing such a thing and anger directed towards members of our new team. It was also interesting because before the team swap, we’d heard lots about other members of the other team, so we united with many preconceived ideas of each other. I’m sure others had assumptions about me too. Surprisingly, even I felt up tipped and a bit resentful of this new team, which was completely unexpected, as I’d wished for the change so much.

However, week two was a lot more positive and we went through a process of discovery, realising that within this team whilst we were all very different, there was a good match of skills and differences. When we started discussing our business ideas, there was a spark there and a different type of energy. Moreover, as the weeks grew on, there grew a bond, where by the team, engaged in tasks for the team’s overall learning as a unit. Such learning could only take place, in situations where physical proximity was enabled. However, outside of meetings and physically working together, the bond by the end of the module wasn’t strong enough for distance learning as a unit, but it was a positive start. But within the progression towards the end of the module, there was a progression from group of emotional individuals into the beginnings of a team.

Within the team learning module, this is probably the module in which has enabled me to truly get the most out of my other modules and to challenge my preconceived strengths and weaknesses, whilst showing me how I can effectively contribute to the team. My biggest learning point has been the potential learning opportunities within the team itself, if team work and a team learning culture is fully embraced. I’ve learnt far more about myself, about business and about other people through my “interactions” and “experience” within my teams (Winstanley 2005). I’ve also realised that on reflection, all the high emotions and frustrations, as real and as personal they felt within the team, are actually a natural process of team learning and team formation. Perceived failings and difficulties was actually the team learning (Winstanley 2005).

Theorising

The emotional response in the beginning of the new team could be put down to a new “learning shock” in which a new learning environment is formed and is completely unfamiliar and the learner experiences a state of shell shock (Winstanley 2005). Within the learning shock theory, learners experience feelings of disorientation, frustration, tension and desperately try to cling onto the familiar (Winstanley 2005). This can further be connected with Mezirow ‘s (1990) theory of “meaningful learning”, in which learners in new situations can experience a “narrow orientation”, in which they attempt to reject norms, that don’t coincide with what they already know. Within a team working environment, especially one that is enforced, even the most narrow orientation of learner within the team is forced to be more receptive and open themselves to new, uncomfortable experiences, that don’t accord with their “cognitive structure” (Mezirow 1990).

Such a process, enhances the “learning shock”, as the new team presents an unfamiliar, learning opportunity with a “bewildering set of new norms”, provoking a highly emotive response (Winstanley 2005). As such, self-doubt sets in, with the learners forced to re-evaluate their own identities and establish their position within the new group (Hills 2001). Winstanley’s “learning shock” theory can further be connected to her “thinking faults theory”, in which each learner experiencing the shock, goes through an array of emotions (2005).

Applying the “thinking faults”, theory to our team formation, the first stage is “catastrophising” in which the group change is perceived to be a much larger and extreme change that will have a huge fall out of impact, than in reality it is (Winstanley 2005). The second stage, is magnifying the negative, in which the team seeks out negatives within the new team and blows them out of proportion superficially (Winstanley 2005). Consequently, we sought out the perceived negatives we’d heard about our new members and instantly dismissed them and exaggerated within “this is never going to work” scenarios.  We then move onto “externalisation and blame”, involving the learners to place inappropriate blame onto the external environment (Winstanley 2005). Our new team became extremely angry towards lecturing staff and coaches, in which we felt pushed into an uncomfortable situation. Moreover, this tension was even present in our interaction with each other, in which several members displayed the attitude of “I didn’t want this or you in my team”. The fourth stage of the thinking faults theory is “emotive reasoning”, which involves members desperately trying to make sense of their emotional responses, even if unexpected (Winstanley 2005). For myself, this involved romancing the previous team initially and considering that potentially we should have stayed as we were and it would have been easier. The final stage is “mind reading”, which is potentially the most damaging of all the stages (Winstanley 2005). Within this stage learners become aware that their frustrations might be shared by others within the team and try to guess what others are thinking about the situation and about them.

The theories of “learning shock” and “thinking faults” (Winstanley 2005), although difficult and frustrating, when applied to our team, go to some lengths at explaining the often unexpected emotional responses experienced. Moreover, this emotive situation, provoked positive discussions the next week, in which we found that most of our emotional responses and reasoning, had been completely unfounded. Consequently, applying Mezirow (1990) “Meaningful learning” theory, we began to establish a new cognitive structure within a new learning environment, forming new norms. Such constructivist theories of team learning ring true here (Gibbs 1981), in which our growing bond and progression through the weeks to the end of the module, can be considered to be a direct output of our construction of a new team learning environment.

Construction

It is interesting to explore through theories, that the response experienced during the formulation of the new team, was an emotive response to a change in learning environment and being placed into the unknown. It is positive that we turned these emotional responses into productive outputs and began building the team. As such, in future team changes and formation, it can be taken forward that such emotional responses are part of the process and can be used to make “transformative action” within team learning (Mezirow 1990).

Gibbs, G. (1981) Teaching Students to learn. Oxford: OUP

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

Mezirow, J. (1990) Fostering Critical Reflection in Adulthood – A guide to transformative and emancipationary learning. San Franciso: Jossey Bass

Winstanley, D. (2005) Personal Effectiveness. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Try something new….

As i’ve gotten older, i’ve become less conformist. Yet, I still find myself having habits, within business and otherwise, that I continue to do. Methods of working, that I continue to realise are unproductive, but they are familiar, so I’m going to keep doing them.

One of my objectives, is to do at least one thing a month, I wouldn’t have normally done, within a professional environment. Taken a chance in business; risked it. Go on gut instead of rationale.

I found this Ted talk quite inspirational covering the subject…….

http://www.ted.com/talks/matt_cutts_try_something_new_for_30_days.html

Try something new from today….make every second in business count. Don’t let the decisions be made for you; actively engage and take a chance on others.

Question everything

riddler

I heard a very good piece of advice recently, “question everything!” This is something I’ve been brought up to do, something I do daily and I think is a crucial skill within being an entrepreneur. The art of looking at the norm or a product and questioning, “Why does this have to be this way?” and “How could things be improved?” Nothing has to remain the same and nothing should remain unchallenged. That is exactly what entrepreneurs are, they are business challengers.

Questioning things is a deep part of my personality. I believe it improves processes, teams, and business. This aspect of my personality and my willingness to question things, leads me on to the focus of this post. What is the impact of my personality on our business team and on their learning?

Hills (2001:33) defines personality as “the probability of a particular set of behaviours occurring” and considers that “personality drives the nature of interactions between people.” From this evaluation, we can consider personality types are crucial to effective communication between people which is, in turn, crucial to developing an effective team. At first glance, this seems challenging, that who you are and how you are perceived directly impacts on our team. But from previous experience within teams, I would say aspects of my personality have been initially misinterpreted which have had an impact on the team. Once the team has got to know who I am and how I work, the impact is lessened dramatically.

So the questioning begins with my personality type. Well, I could list off a variety of attributes I think I have, but the most effective method of assessing this stems from the Myers Briggs Type Inventory. This comes in the form of a questionnaire and focuses on types of personalities leading to certain likely behaviours. A participant answers certain questions and is labelled a type. My type, is as always, an INTJ, which is apparently quite rare. I have been this type since I took the inventory, ten years ago. The only aspect that has changed, is that gradually, I’m becoming less of a strict thinker, representing the fact I consider people and their feelings on board. I also attempt to be more risk taking and go a little more on my gut instinct.

My results are as follows;

I’m 44% introvert – thought orientated, deep thinker, recharge alone

88% intuitive – seek pattern recognition and meaning

12% thinking – Objective, logical, deductive decision maker

33% judging – Seeks organised and structured learning.

From these results, you can begin to gleam what sort of person I am.

Another method of personality labelling has been put forward by Cattell and Kline (1977) and focuses on personality traits: 16 of them. Within their questionnaire, again you answer a serious of questions and the outcome is you are rated between 0-4 for each trait. The closer you are to 4, the more you are considered to hold the personality trait.

My results were as follows:

Warmth – 2.6

Reasoning – 3.4

Emotional stability – 2.6

Dominance – 3

Liveliness- 2.1

Rule conscious – 2.4

Social boldness – 1.2

Sensitivity – 2.7

Vigilance – 0.6

Abstractedness – 3.3

Privateness – 1.6

Apprehension – 1.7

Openness to change – 3

Self-reliance – 2.8

Perfectionism – 2.1

Tension – 1

So far within my learning, I have focused on self-awareness and self-reflection. This is the starting point. But I’m yet to consider what these results mean in the sense of the team and question the impact of my personality on the team.

Looking at the results so far, the picture paints an introverted, pragmatic individual. One who reacts based on rationality and judgement over feelings. Someone who seeks out meaning, challenges and can be detached and self-reliant. A dominant personality, who welcomes idea exploration and is always open to change.

As Hills (2001) suggests, it is the people within the team that make the team, hence knowing the people within the team and how they interact is so crucial. Consequently, it is the personalities, the mixture of personalities and understanding of those personalities that is the most important in determining the success of a team.  Hills (2001) discusses many barriers to team development and effective team learning, but there were two points, which instantly stuck out to me. He considered two of the barriers are (and he listed many), the detached learner and the self-sufficient learner. These are two aspects of my personality (I am quite detached and I am very self-sufficient) that I have never questioned how they would impact the team.

The detached learner is an introvert, one that doesn’t rely on people, one that needs to process information often in isolation before reflecting back into the group. This personality can be misunderstood, considered aloof and is hard to grasp by learners that like learning alongside other people. Consequently, my quietness in meetings, sitting a part and often leaving a meeting at the end to be on my own, can be (and on reflection, has been) mis-interpreted. It gives off the air of someone who doesn’t actively want to be involved and someone who isn’t interested in engaging with the group on a personal level. This couldn’t be further from the truth it is just the way I naturally am within a business environment.

The self-sufficient aspect has always been something I saw as a strong point. I take ownership of my own learning and I manage my own learning effectively. I don’t bring what I learn back into the team and I don’t actively involve them in the process, I often feel I don’t have to, after all I’m the one engaging in the learning process. Hence, I can come across as the one who seems to know everything or may be more aptly, “the one who think she knows everything”. But within a team learning business environment, I’m not being a team learner and I’m not ensuring the sustainability of the group. I am pocketing knowledge in secret.

Consequently, as a team, we need to take two steps. We need to first learn about our personalities, question them and understand what we do to then communicate that into the team. Secondly, we need to listen to others and how their personality may impact on the team. As a team and as individuals, assessing personality and behaviour, we need to appreciate the importance of diversity. We have a lot of differences, that instead of rejecting; we could focus on as being complimentary when paired together.

Moreover, the key to an effective team is compromise. It is about accepting how you are and how others are and working together on the business in the middle ground. Whilst having awareness, that if someone like me detaches, it is simply to think and reflect, and that will be of benefit to the team. Also, if someone else gets defensive or upset about feedback, it is because they are driven by their emotions; passion is always beneficial within a team. Most importantly, it is having the confidence to question the behaviours and personalities of others, to gain a greater insight and understanding.

As an individual, I can make small changes which will have a big difference, something which Anderson (2013) advocated in one of my previous blog posts. I can stick with the group more, even if just superficially during lectures, seminars and breaks. But I will take my lunch breaks alone; as this is the time I utilise to plan and reflect. In terms of sharing my learning, I can communicate more openly what I’m learning and highlight it within the group. I will stop looking at the learning from the point of view, what do I need to know and what does my business need to launch? Instead, I will look at it strategically considering, what will the team benefit from learning and what does the team need to launch our business.

These steps forward, couldn’t have been made without questioning things that are so natural within my interactions and learning processes; things I’ve never questioned before. Questioning enables progress and change. Therefore, question everything in business, including your personality.

 

 

Is reflection even important? Reflecting on…..Reflection.

Rodgers (2002:845) defines reflection as a “complex, rigorous, intellectual and emotional enterprise that takes time to do well.” I never fully realised the importance of reflection as a tool, until I found myself maturing with age and thinking about my younger years. I used to see it as a waste of time, I was already onto the next task, the next emotion, the next challenge; I never stood still for long. Consequently, I made the same mistakes often on repeat and never felt I got the full experience out of an experience. Things sometimes felt rather meaningless.

Now, reflection is the calm in the storm, it is stopping still, regardless of your surroundings and taking in your past route and evaluating it, before looking ahead and considering how to proceed. It is not just a tool, but an essential asset within learning.

I’ve always been a reflective person and have used reflection in my personal life as much as I use it professionally and within business. As I’ve grown with age and acquired and sought out knowledge, I’ve been able to explain the reasoning behind some of the conclusions within reflections and been able to act on my conclusions. I’ve also changed my original view of reflection, which usually took two forms. I either reflected on a situation only negatively, using it as a tool to pick a part what I should have done and not using it as a “transformative” tool. (Ryan 2001). I consequently, found the process as uncomfortable, unproductive and merely, dwelling on the past in a negative way.

My second use of reflection was a method of shifting blame and accountability onto others. It was often quite easy to ignore my own short comings and look at other’s work, considering how they have impacted on my own learning or progression. Especially within team learning situations. I’d reflect on their contributions, with the formulated mind-set that I’d already done the best I could and couldn’t change.

I now perceive reflection as a method to challenge and change. Of course, it involves picking up on the negatives but it also involves increasing my self-awareness (Hills 2002), but also understand why and how I have been successful, which leads on to discovering my strengths; a positive and rewarding experience. Furthermore, understanding why outcomes have happened is crucial to long term business planning. In such a difficult and unpredictable business environment, the one consistency that I hope to hang on to, is knowing how I will react in situations. This enables me to make plans and contingency plans, but most importantly, realistic, actionable plans that aren’t idealised.

Such transformative action (Friere 1972) leads to empowerment to make the change (Giroux 1988). In short, reflection is a central ingredient to empowerment and success. Businesses, changes and successes don’t just happen randomly in life, it is the ability to understand why things have happened and to potentially replicate them that becomes an essential tool. It is also about understanding failure. Understanding my failures and team failures, is no longer a negative experience. It is a diagnostic, journey of discovery, which can uncover a whole host of factors relating to internal and external factors. Moreover, reflection involves an all senses engaged approach. I reflect based on what I see, hear, experience, feel and say and it involves all five senses interacting. It involves being engaged fully in what you’re doing.

Bain et al (2002) suggests an impressive reflective frame work that I will take forward; reporting, responding, relating, reasoning and reconstructing. Why I consider this as a good framework, is because it structures my reflection. As someone who does it as a routine, on almost all situations that occur. Where I feel, I fall down, is in the reconstructing element. Once I’ve identified, considered it, understood and added it to my knowledge bank, I don’t feel I utilise the knowledge effectively and efficiently. Whilst I may consider, what I would do differently, if the situation occurred again, I don’t manage to always relate that to a transformative action; as in “I will do….”. I also, get rather bogged down in the details and the meanings of things, which I do within business and my life in general. I often lose sight of the end goal and lose a sense of purpose. I end up feeling, that I understood the event, but not always how this new understanding may be applied productively. Such a structure, will do exactly what is it literally supposed to do, it will change my reflections from a mesh of ideas, thoughts, theories and concepts, into an organised journey through my thought process, clearly evidencing appropriately my conclusions and comments.

Using the construct, I will use the prompt of “reconstruct” at the end, to put the reflection into some sort of future construct and defining exactly what I have learnt from the experience; an actionable step forward. This final layer of reflection will add to the notion that my reflection has a deeper purpose (Ryan 2011). It will enhance my ability to not only having the ability to deconstruct my ideologies and understanding their foundations, but as an empowered learner, who is not just capable of change but is actively changing and demonstrating how. (Mezirow 2006)

One month on…..A reflection

One month into this course and what have I learnt so far? I’ve learnt a lot, I’m a self-confessed learning addict. My starting block was the re-iteration of the importance of self-awareness. It is something that has come up over and over again within the literature and Hills’- Learning in Teams. How can you improve or be aware of the impact of your behaviour, if you aren’t aware of who you are and how you react. A concept that is only being realised in my late twenties, as I actually have posed those awkward questions to myself or challenged my actions or reactions in a certain situation. Moreover, I’ve learnt the importance of identifying and being aware of others. Seeking out mutual win/win situations and solutions, where both parties win. This can only be achieved by being aware of what you want and who you are, coupled with an awareness of the other person and being aware of their wants and needs. A win/win symbiotic relationship can be the key to success, passed on exploitation and the willingness to explore together.  Steven Covey advocates this method to team learning within his book “seven habits of highly effective people”.

But the challenge is, to gain a win/win situation and people parties have to be engaged in the process. So, how to do I go about that!? I want to go about changing my focus from seeing our differences, such as age as a weakness and as a stumbling block and something to be exploited.

As I’ve used a lot of these personality questionnaires, competencies questionnaires and business profiles, I am able to see the progression since I first took them. Unlike the others, who comment about the irrelevance of them, I see the value and I seek out the research behind it in order to understand. Areas that I was once oblivious to, I’ve worked hard to understand where they stem from, knowing when I will react in a certain way and controlling them. I’ve also learnt how to build on the good things, exploiting my strengths. As an introvert over the years, I’ve burst out of my shell and I see this course and this progression as a continuation of that. This “Learning in Terms” module compliments the “personal effectiveness”, which equally facilitate challenging yourself and learning the theory behind your own behaviour. So a key learning point here has been my ability to change. Do not accept the static and I don’t. Using the “this is the way I am” excuse is, as always, unproductive and uncompromising.

This opportunity here isn’t something that occurs in everyday life. Challenging yourself, learning to accept yourself and wanting to change takes a lot of guts. It is very easy to remain blissfully ignorant and refuse to be accountable for my own behaviours and learning. The truest lesson of University, is the realisation that, the lecturer isn’t responsible for your learning, for your grades, they are still researching and learning themselves, they are responsible for their own learning, which they bring back and deliver to us. We are responsible for our own learning, getting the best grades, going out there and making things happen. It is empowering but of course daunting. I’m always struck by the overwhelming fear that a. I can never learn everything. B. Things that I want to know, I just can’t learn all at once.

I’ve also gained a greater awareness of where I am now in terms of my learning. As someone who is commented on for their youthful appearance (I’m 28) and look much younger, people have often commented that it is when I open my mouth or react to something I show my age.  This is true with my learning; I’m a completely different learner to ten years ago and I’m sure I’ll evolve into the future.  I’ve had the chance to
experiment with a variety of learning styles now, especially with being away from a school classroom for so long. I’m much more aware of what works for me and the processes I need to go through, in order to learn most effectively.  I’ve also as a mature student, made the decision to return to education, consequently my drive and want to learn is different to someone from school. I consider I have focus and drive.

But, my biggest learning outcome so far, has been the idea that learning in team within a shared environment IS in fact beneficial. I’ve always been close minded and sceptical to it. Learning has always been an isolated activity or that is how I’d perceived it to be. My personal processes of learning go on in my head first, thinking, challenging, understanding, exploring, before I then express them out loud. But, with my recent experience and successes within teams, I’ve learnt the strength, the power and opportunities are in numbers. I’ve learnt that if I stick at it, learning within a team actually compliments my overall learning experience. I can be rigid, close minded and single minded within my own opinions and objectives if really passionate about things. I can sometimes be far too fixated on processes and details. Learning in teams gives me that push to listen to others, explore their ideas, try new ways of working, that I just would never be open to on my own, appreciate others learning style and in line with Steven Covey’s  mantra from Seven Habits of Highly effective people, “seek to understand before being understood”. I have a lot to learn from others and they can learn from me.

The people here around me, should not be underestimated, even though I don’t know them so well, hearing of some of their backgrounds, many have done exceptional things. I know I do underestimate them and that I have made snap judgements based on my core values, of idealistic interactions and behaviour. My key focused thought, needs to centre on their age, not at an excuse but to remember my younger self and my imperfections then.

My core philosophy of “I can do this better on my own” is long forgotten because I have realised that I can’t do it better on my own. I have the passion and drive to do things on my own, but what I produce and realise would be enhanced with other’s participation and input. In Enactus, a team enabled me to realise my goals and we realised member’s own personal goals, a possibility we could not have individually done alone. We achieved so much more together, than anything I could have imagined. Working within that team has deeply changed my deep seated view of team work and the value of team learning. The mutual win/win working in practice. The team was not a bind and something we “had” to be. The team was a strength; in fact it was singularly pointed out by judges as one of our winning strengths and reasons why we did so well in the competition. Unlike the others, we stood together with no finance behind us (we earned all our start up pennies within) and we had a core team of 15 (competing and beating teams that consisted of 100s). It showed over the course of 18months, what 15 completely different individuals can do and what they can learn as a team; we learnt a lot.

Whilst Enactus taught me what a team can do in practice, this course has taught me the necessity of a team and understanding not only myself, but also each other. Consequently, this course is teaching me, that in order to start up my business and make this in to a reality, it isn’t me against the world, and it will be me within a synergistic team, learning as we go. This isn’t daunting, this is thoroughly exciting.