DG's Desk

From DG'S Desk

As an institute we try to anticipate and meet needs of learners in a way no one else does. Our values are based on what we bring to our classes by combining theory and practice through a unique learning model called the IICA way of learning. This is our brand and is something we are constantly building, because it is an affirmation of who we are. The unique way of learning unlocks the growth potential residing in every learner. The IICA way of learning compels us to be agile, engage in constant exploration and prevents us from being complacent. Through this way of learning we handcraft the next phase of the career growth of participants.

On what is praxis?

In the IICA we teach praxis by relying on the IICA Way of Learning. Praxis for IICA is not a product, but a process that evolves through the learners’ own practices, experiments, contradictions and failures. We believe that leaders learn to create ways of pattern recognition as they progress along the pathway of leadership. The IICA four-step way of learning enables learners to see such patterns, including their implications and results, in decision settings much faster than before. And, this contributes to making excellent decisions again and again.

On beyond hierarchies

IICA is trying to align itself to the new generation and positioning the organization for the future. IICA wants to move away from hierarchial thinking to functional thinking focusing on the accountability of the role. This is a move from level/grade-based designations to role-based designations.

On the IICA edge in CSR

All economic activities working together in space produce a unified system of spatial economy; therefore, linkages between sector planning and spatial planning are important. Social, economic and spatial aspects of developments are interrelated and physical growth must be in harmony with well-defined social and economic goals. This is only possible when the three essential and complementary aspects of development - the social, economic and physical, are considered together and coordinated from the very beginning. This requires local solutions implemented with the knowledge and engagement of local people and supported by the CSR funds of companies with light oversight. The trust we place in local communities leads to the IICA edge.

How do we teach the IICA way?

In conventional professions (e.g. medicine and engineering) the leadership pathway is funnel- shaped. However, the pathway is hourglass shaped for practitioners deciding under conditions of complexity, uncertainty, instability and value conflicts. In the lower bulb of the hourglass, practitioners learn know-what and know-how, from their own and others’ experience, to bridge the performance gap (performing upto expectations much of the time or to know where you are and where you should be)1.

     In the neck of the hourglass, practitioners learn know-why by applying the right theories and concepts to direct and mediated experiences. This is the most challenging step and having crossed the chicken neck, practitioners move to the upper bulb where they acquire the expertise to bridge the opportunity gap (performing upto expectations most of the time or know where you are and you could be). In the upper bulb, practitioners dissatisfied with maintaining the present and fortified with know-how, -what and -why, have a desire (know want) to become change agents. In the upper bulb, expert-generalists use the right theory as a framework to integrate all available direct and mediated experiences, including tacit and explicit information, to make excellent decisions, again and again. Importantly, with time such decision-making becomes effortless and natural.

Know What and Know How

     In the lower bulb, practitioners are defined by their experiences and largely depend on experience as the source material to decide. Accordingly, in the IICA we build on their (direct) and others’ (mediated) experiences and this is likely to make them achieve goals much of the time. We increase their awareness of the “logics of action” and where the experiences come from (history or process), which will help them to retrofit previously-acquired experiences to the current problem on hand. Augmenting repertoires through rich accounts of administrative practices and making explicit logics of action, leads to faster and better decisions, a key requirement to bridge the performance gap.

1 See Hill and Lineback 2011

     Concretely, we do this by relying on accounts of practices that are rich in contextual details. These give the means to practitioners to quickly judge the extent of similarity or repeatability and deploy, from their repertoire of experiences, usable elements in the current setting; thereby, leading to faster decisions. For example, a lot of noise (e.g., doubtful facts, hearsay and gossip) is generated and practitioners expend great time “sweating the small stuff”2 . By learning to separate meaningful signals from noise3 practitioners are able to focus on useful information and get a head start during decision-making, leading to goal achievement more efficiently. Another way of generating high levels of productivity is to start conversely, say with tentative conclusions4 , and thick descriptions will enable administrators to quickly judge the level of similarity that is useful in the new decision setting to make conditional conclusions. Redoing and revising such conclusions along the way will lead to goal achievement much of the time.

     Our accounts of practice also enable learners to identify and apply the distinct logics of action. Having developed the precise know-how and know-what, administrators will be able to monitor activities that drive objective achievement and determine where they are and where they could be and modify and adapt responses in order to achieve goals much of the time 5. Goal achievement will occur much of the time because practitioners will be able to determine if the causal relationships are persistent (outcome of an earlier action is similar to the outcome of the same action now) and predictive (show a causal relation between the action and the outcome being measured). Simply, practitioners develop the art of making judgements leading to better decisions.

Know Why and Know Want

     However, relying on experiences and know-how of logics of action is unlikely to help administrators to know where they are and where they could be. In order to capitalize on opportunities, practitioners have to make judgement calls – have a justification, reason and rationale – for why she made the decision she did.

2See Carlson 1997

3See Silver 2012

4See Pozen 2012

5See Mauboussin’s 2012

This is the know why stage and in this stage theories, paradigms and ideas are wedged in between learners and their experiences (own or others). Practitioners learn the skill of thinking and move beyond gathering knowledge and information. In the face of a common complaint that theories are not useful in real-life settings (theory-practice gap), the challenge for IICA is to make theory useful to practitioners. This the IICA does by connecting the right knowledge with the right practice. In other words, pedagogy links “which theory” to “what kind of practice”6 .

    Typically, basic knowledge is “translated” through an institutionalized system of research and development into technologies with practical applications, but no such easy translation of knowledge into practice is available under decision-making settings characterized by uncertainty instability, complexity and value conflicts technical knowledge cannot be first generated and then applied. The translation dilemma is addressed by IICA by inserting the right theory in deep contextualized accounts of experiences and the right theory either forms the experience or transforms the existing experience - in explicit and implicit, subtle and not-so-subtle ways. The decision-making apparatus so created allows practitioners to innovate, move ahead when stuck and understand the implications of decisions in the wider economy.

     A key requirement for innovation and improvement is “associational thinking” - the process of connecting fields, ideas and problems, upto now thought to be unrelated7. The IICA instructors insert the right theory between practitioners and their experience, direct or mediated; thereby, enabling them “to intuitively recognize patterns and use the insights to make inductive predictions both vertically within categories and horizontally across categories”8 and the process will be enriched by the mediation of knowledge between practitioners and their own and others’ experiences.

     Specifically, creative process will provide the means to generate new hypotheses, or possibilities9, in two ways. First, possibilities will be generated by using the opposite of what is familiar in the experience-set and innovation will occur by blending the two opposites - what it is and what it is not - without fully negating any of them.

6 See Moroni 2010

7 See Dyer, Gregerson and Christensen 2009

8 See Gonsher and Mills-Scofield 2013

9 See Lafley and others 2012

Second, practitioners synthesize10 beyond binary either/or categories of experiences and enable them to break out of what they know, what they assume and what they have experienced11. Importantly, both processes generate possibilities, and right knowledge bases empower practitioners to make the associations12.

     Second, theory tells us what works, what does not, and under what conditions and learning to apply the right theory to the right practice will enable practitioners to understand why they are stuck and how to move ahead. Finally, thick descriptions of practice will inform practitioners about the process, or history, which is a powerful tool to shape the future. More important, practitioners will be able to take history to a higher level by applying the right theory. Such a sophisticated understanding of history will develop “pragmatic insights, valid generalizations and meaningful perspectives”13, leading to enlargement of their breadth and scope of thinking, a key feature of successful leaders14. And, development of an understanding of the implications of their decisions in the wider political economy will be one valuable outcome. The IICApraxis, in which right theory is actively inserted between practitioners and their experiences (in the neck of the hourglass), will empower them to access their own or others’ experience to make proficient decisions most of the time.

10Synthesis is the integration of disparate sources of information and identifying links between them; identifying jobs to be done and connecting available people to do the jobs, identifying priorities and the way forward, balancing past visions with future aspirations and examining new ideas in the light of the practitioners’ knowledge (Gardner 2006).

11See Gonsher and Mills-Scofield 2013

12Empirical studies on Einstein’s brain have found strong connections (corpus callosum) between the right and left hemispheres (Pulakkat 2013) and the right knowledge bases are expected to make the connection stronger, leading to greater creative activity by practitioners.

13SeeSeaman and Smith 2012

14See Charan 2007

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