Illusions and Delusions

This is the third article in the series on Organizational Learning Disabilities. It is quite delayed, after the second article in October 2018. So, I decided to share my understanding of two of the seven organizational learning disabilities in this article: Do hope it is not too long.

They are:

The Illusion of Taking Charge: Proactiveness means reacting to a problem quicker and stronger.

Pro-active means literally ‘for action’. Re-active implies more of responding to a stimulus. As long as we are responding to a problem, or an issue once it has appeared, we are still reacting — however fast we act. Many a time, pro-activeness is mistaken for reacting faster, solving problems faster, before they become crises. Pro-activeness is not acting early.

True pro-activeness is about seeing how we contribute to our problems. Proactiveness is stopping the problem before it happens. So pro-activeness in action would be seeing how one’s actions can lead to problems in the future and minimize those unintended negative consequences.

Delusion of Learning from Experience: Deluding ourselves that we are learning when consequences of our actions are not close in time and space.

Most of the learning in our lives comes from direct experience through trial and error. However, consequences of our actions and decisions in organizations are not visible immediately. So, what happens when we can no longer observe the consequences of our actions? Since the results are not within our learning horizon, it becomes impossible to learn from direct experience; but we see some immediate change in the system, and we assume that is the result and that is the learning — we delude ourselves that we are learning. The longer term, second and third order consequences appear after a while, but the tendency is to repeat the same action over and over.

Let us take an example of what has happened in the fashion retail sector in India in the last few years:

Once the online fashion companies started mushrooming, the offline retail companies started offering discounts and freebies to boost sales. Now, what I hear from some of my friends in the sector is that customers are waiting for ‘Sale’ season to buy (at a lesser price). To increase the flow customers, the brands are offering ‘not discount; but freebies during the peak season (when the goods are sold at MRP)’. Finally, both these strategies have led to lower performance indicators.

A recent example from my own life — I bought a blazer for my son for INR. 6,999/- .(for more than INR. 6,000 a bag of INR. 3,999/- was offered at INR. 500/- as a combo-buy). This was a discount of 31.8% on overall MRP.

This is just one example, there are many more each of us would have experienced in our life time: Check out this link on ‘Cobra effect’:

The questions for reflection for all of us in our own roles are:

How do we contribute to our own problems through these two disabilities and how can we overcome them?

I would be keen to hear from you to hear about any practice or approach that you have used to overcome these two disabilities in both your personal and professional life.

With inputs from Deepa Ram Bhat

originally published in Linkedin:



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Raja Chidambaram

Raja Chidambaram


I enable transformation of systems - be it individuals, organisations or communities. I believe in creating a borderless, sustainable, world.