Espoused and/or Practiced Values

Espoused and/or Practiced Values

Argyris (1995) describes two theories of actions:

  • the theories we espouse, and
  • the theories we practice.

Ideally, of course, they are one in the same; our behaviours align with the philosophies we hold close. However, there is, more often than not, a mismatch between what we say we believe, and what we do and few are aware of the difference.

How can it be that we don't know that we're behaving in a way that is inconsistent with our espoused beliefs? Argyris goes on to describe two response models, one positive, and one negative.

Argyris describes how that individuals around the world value goal achievement, maximising winning outcomes, behave rationally, and minimise negative feelings. They often adopt defensive positions regarding conflict and tend to seek out only points of view that reinforce their beliefs. This leads to a overly heightened sense of worth and confidence in their choices and actions where it may not necessarily be warranted.

Other individuals, the more successful ones, value information, choice, reflection, and intervention to correct errors. These individuals seek out challenges in order to improve processes and product.

He offers some strategies for breaking out of the feedback loop and getting over pre-conceived notions to get to the roots of problems. Identifying and understanding your assumptions and how they influence your perceptions and choices is a good first step.

Argyris, C. (1995). Action science and organizational learning. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 10(6), 20–26. http://doi.org/10.1108/02683949510093849

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