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What's Chip Reading?

Teaching Smart People How to Learn

This month I chose to focus on a rather long article, one that was published first in the Harvard Business Review in May-June 1991. It was put into book, or “expanded pamphlet” form by the Harvard Business Press under its “Classics” series.

The most fascinating part of the article, to me, was his description of the way that people rarely act as they say they are going to. He calls these “theories of action”. An “espoused theory” is a persons stated behaviors. “Theory-in-use” is the way they really act. When challenged about the difference between the two people become very defensive and tend to focus attention away from their behavior to that of others. Argyris calls this defensive reasoning. Professionals also go into a doom loop of despair if they don’t perform perfectly or if they do not receive adequate recognition. The term doom zoom is also used because professionals go into despair very quickly.

How many times has defensive reasoning gotten in the way of learning something? How might you be able to learn better if you understand these concepts?


Chris Argyris


Harvard Business Review Classics



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