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How to manage your own learning ...
How to manage your own learning

The great management guru Charles Handy once said the best way to learn 'is to be in a position where you are worried your responsibilities might exceed your competence'.

The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers' continuous learning programme is based on the assumption that managers learn little from traditional courses.

Mike Broussine, organisational studies lecturer at Bristol Business School, works on the Solace programme. He says: 'From our school days, we learn how to limit our learning by being dependent on other people's knowledge. These early influences provide us with a legacy that affects our adult understanding of how to learn.

'We tend to opt for training processes with which we feel familiar, even though the evidence suggests little long-term learning will come from them.

'Real learning comes from having to deal with the anxiety that comes from entering unfamiliar territory, like becoming a senior manager in the first place.'

Many of the problems faced by Solace members are made up of messy issues, clashes of values, political dynamics and other problems that cannot be solved by technical rationality. Instead managers need to develop intuition and 'professional artistry'. They must asking themselves if past ways of behaving are appropriate.

Solace students do a lot of work with their peers, challenging each other, talking through real-life scenarios and working in partnership to resolve problems.

A favourite term is 'double-loop learning' the process by which governing norms and values are made overt, then questioned.

Says Mr Broussine: 'The gap between what people say and what they do can be maintained by senior managers through rationalisation, pretence, scapegoating any source of criticism, denying contra-indicating feedback, and avoiding situations in which such feedback may be given.'

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