When we fail or run into obstacles, our first response, according to research from Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Chris Argyris, is a process called “single loop learning” in which we look for external or technical explanations for our difficulties. We blame other people, we blame our environment, we blame the market. There’s a much more effective alternative, according to Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield, authors of the upcoming book, “The Art of Doing,” and it’s common to the most successful people.
In The New York Times, they write:
Less common but vastly more effective is the cognitive approach that Professor Argyris called double-loop learning. In this mode we question every aspect of our approach, including our methodology, biases and deeply held assumptions. This more psychologically nuanced self-examination requires that we honestly challenge our beliefs and summon the courage to act on that information, which may lead to fresh ways of thinking about our lives and our goals.
The successful people we spoke with — in business, entertainment, sports and the arts — all had similar responses when faced with obstacles: they subjected themselves to fairly merciless self-examination that prompted reinvention of their goals and the methods by which they endeavoured to achieve them.“
It’s a technique that’s neither easy nor fun. It requires admitting, at times, that there are problems with you, with your idea, and with your approach. It’s much easier to blame an external factor, and to think that your approach will work next time with harder work and a bit more luck.
But what the authors call “brutal self-assessment” is essential for breaking out of a feedback loop that can quickly make a career or business stagnate. They found it in successful people ranging from David Chang, the founder of the Momofuku restaurant empire, to tennis star Martina Navratilova.
Because it’s so difficult, it’s a huge advantage for the people who manage to be uniquely self-aware.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.