Friday, March 24, 2006

Good management requires continuous learning

While reading an article titled "The Wisdom Fallacy: Why Management Is Really Like Math" I found myself nodding my head a lot - even though my skills in mathematics have a lot to be desired :) Robert May, the author of the article, says the only way to get better at management is to learn more about it, like maths. Its true; just like mathematicians, most managers don't learn all they need to be good managers on the job - they have to read a lot about management techniques, study different examples, study other managers (their peers and bosses), build on their people skills and store those "people interaction techniques" in memory and recall them whenever needed.

An interesting quote from the article:

Why will people accept advice on a subject, from someone that has studied it in depth, if that subject is programming, but not if it has to do with raising their children? Why, in some areas of knowledge, do we equate studying with mastery, and in other areas we don't? I'll call this the "wisdom fallacy" - that people believe wisdom has no correlation with knowledge for some subjects, when really it does.

In my work experience, I think most people lump management into the second category. I have never heard anyone say "I am not a very good manager," or even "I don't think I would make a good manager." Yet they will regularly opine on management, and explain their management theory in detail to you. But, by definition, some managers have to be the worst, right? And haven't we all worked for managers that we think knew very little about management? What is going on? Why is management something that nearly everyone thinks they do well?

So true. How many times have you heard a colleague claim he or she is good/an expert on a subject that they haven't spent years studying and don't read about? Or see designers and visualizers who draw illustrations and paintings for clients but don't read articles on the net or visit online portfolios and galleries or do some research on styles and typography?

Most of the managers I know however, are the "on the job" types - people with good instincts and good learning abilities, but they don't apply them to learning "management techniques" and rather depend on learning through experience and mistakes. Which is not a bad thing at all, but it tends to leave them with a false impression that they're always doing the right thing. I'm guilty of doing this myself - doing work I haven't been trained to do or even studied about, and learning on the job and then believing I actually did some good work to be proud of.

Our brains have cognitive filters for some things. We tend to automatically ignore facts that contradict our religious or political views. It's not intentional, our brains just have a lot of information to process so they throw out contradicting information subconsciously. Don't let that happen in your role as a manager. Seek out contradictory information. If you think you are doing a good job, don't look for evidence to support it, look for evidence against it.


quotidian said...

Howdy, dropping in through BlogMad.

Will look into that article. I read HBR every month. They have really good stuff - I think the key is to distill effective management principles through theory and practice.....