Soft skills are hard, too

When asked for constructive criticism, one student remarked that he’d prefer “more hard skills” in my BPM course. Another said he’d like the soft skills. A third said that she didn’t think we would still do so much “organisational stuff” (we were at the time dealing with group process – I had designed a number of roles for the students to take on during class – recorder/visualiser/ideas creator/… etc). A fourth observed “the slow, soft way of approaching the topic” (which he liked).

I then spent a considerable amount of time showing them how e.g. “group process” contained a number of important lessons to be exploited in bpm practice later on. But of course, with my own “hard science” background, the remarks made an impression on me.

This morning I bought Bode’s book on “The Novel” (“Der Roman”, Francke 2005 – in defense of analysing novel, not merely reading it). I quote (my translation):

“Where the meaning [‘der Sinn’] of a procedure has not been understood, knowledge-creation or even an ‘aha’ experience can only result by accident.”

In my teaching, I want to support this process by the most effective process of immersion that I know: using oneself as an example. Including one’s professional and private experience. As a result, the students yesterday came up with wonderful solutions to a home exercise – describing their own professional life so far in free-form language. These solutions ranged from a simple time-line (extending beyond the student’s point of birth into the past – as far back as WWII – a systemic solution), over clustering of activities and tree-graphs, to a general process view involving only “I”, “external world”, and “genetic disposition”, complete with feedback relationships between these actors. So, whatever their conscious might say, the learning has begun.

There now, I feel somewhat justified. But why am I getting defensive in the first place? Is it really my background as a physicist (which I am betraying in subtle ways)? Is it lack of confidence in my own methods? My own mastery of the subject-matter? All of the above?

Maybe I should not ask the why question, but the what am I doing being defensive question? Answer: I am putting pressure on myself, which I may well need to improve this course. Creating a certain degree of resistance and constructive criticism is one way of doing it. Also, probably the most important reason: I enjoy the struggle! 🙂

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