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The Learning Paradox – review


Title: The Learning Paradox: Gaining Success and Security in a World of Change
Author: Jim Harris
Publisher: Capstone Publishing Ltd (A John Wiley & sons Co), Oxford, 2001
ISBN: 1841121894
Price: £18.99

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According to the author, Jim Harris, The Learning Paradox was written in response to the question, ‘How can individuals and organizations create greater security?’ The material for the book was compiled by Harris in his work with clients over an eight year period.

At first glance this hardback book with its 437 pages looks tough going. The actual content however is not difficult to work through although there is a lack of diagrams, summaries and bullet points to break up the text and reinforce learning.

The book begins with a summary of how we cannot afford to be complacent and how we need to keep up to date with the world around us by being more pro-active, by questioning the way we see problems. It confirms the end of the secure job as we have known it. Harris challenges the reader to debate and challenge all the theories put forward in the book.

Chapter 2 looks at learning and how children learn. Harris contends that we need to unlearn things. He emphasizes that we shouldn’t be afraid of consequences and that mistakes are part of learning. Our future security depends on our ability to learn and change.

From here on the book is largely taken up with analysis of the skills required by leaders of tomorrow, how to create a sustainable enterprise, creating value and the new economy. Chapter 8 looks at the importance of delighting your employees as the way to delight your customers which I can’t disagree with. But the empowerment rhetoric, true costs of not training, learning curve and motivation discussion were all a bit ‘tongue in cheek’ and lacked substance!

E learning, IT systems and the internet revolution take centre stage in the last third of the book with another push on how it is so important to keep up to date in these areas to remain competitive.

Although I don’t disagree with the content of the book I did find it frustrating. I was itching to read and learn about something new but this book generally focuses on areas that have already been discussed a thousand times before. I was disappointed to find yet another text on maintaining competitive edge and the importance of keeping ahead of your competitors through learning how to learn. Saying that I consider it is my job to keep up to date with discussion in this area and it may suit others, who feel the need for a summary version of key issues and changes in business and management areas. However, there is a considerable amount of text to work through to get to the point which may not suit the busy line manager!

True to his word the author does respond to the initial question posed of, ‘How can individuals and organizations create greater security?’ The answer quite simply is through continual adaptation to the changing environment. It took 497 pages but we got there in the end.

Happy reading!

Kay Maddox
Training and Development Officer for Pirelli Cables UK


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