The figure of Chris Argyris was key to the evolution of business philosophy in the United States throughout the 20th century.
Through it Chris Argyris biography we will get to know better the details of his life, reviewing his intellectual and professional career and reviewing his most outstanding contributions in the field of organizational development, for which he is known today.
Brief biography of Chris Argyris
Chris Argyris was born in Newark, New Jersey, USA, in 1923, with his twin brother, Thomas S.. His parents were immigrants of Greek descent, who had moved to America in search of a brighter future for his family.
Chris Argyris’ education took place between his two countries, on the one hand he grew up in Irvington, another town in New Jersey, but he also spent time in Athens, the capital of Greece.
Once he reached the age of majority he joined the United States Army, specifically in the Signals Corps., Participate in various operations in the context of the Second World War. Once he was able to return to America, he continued his education, in this case entering Clark University, where he would earn a degree in psychology.
Precisely in this faculty, Chris Argyris had the opportunity to meet one of the most important psychologists in history, organizational psychology expert Kurt Lewin, Which would remarkably influence the thinking and line of work of Argyris himself. Graduating in 1947, he continued his graduate studies, this time at the University of Kansas, where he majored in psychology and economics in 1949.
Only two years later, he became a doctor, presenting a thesis focused on behavior in business, led by sociologist William Foote Whyte, a figure in his field, who developed the methodology of observation by participating and a lifelong study of the urban ethnographic behavior of Boston street gangs.
Immediately, Chris Argyris immersed himself in academia to begin his career as a teacher and researcher. This first step, which will last two decades, took place at Yale University. Within this prestigious institution, Argyris joined the team of the Center for Work and Management of the University. The director of this section was the expert in sociology and economics, Edward Wight Bakke.
Bakke would represent another of the key figures who would generate a significant imprint on Chris Argyris’ approaches in his subsequent work.. His career at Yale University also provided him with the opportunity to start teaching in the field of management science, which is why he also spent those years as a university professor, sharing his knowledge with students. new generations of students.
After a long stint at Yale, in 1971, he decided to settle at Harvard University, another of the best institutions in the United States. In this center, he would assume the role of teacher in organizational behavior, in which he was already an eminence. Chris Argyris didn’t limit himself to teaching, as he also ran a consultancy firm in the city of Cambridge called Monitor.
Thanks to a life devoted to research and teaching, in 2006, Chris Argyris was named Honorary Doctor of Laws in the discipline of the University of Toronto. This is not the only accreditation to his excellent career, as Yale University, where Argyris has spent much of his career, also awarded him the title of Doctor of Science, in 2011.
It was in 2013 that Chris Argyris, 90, passed away. His remains are in the town of Weston, belonging to Massachusetts.
Main contributions of his work
Chris Argyris’ work is extensive and consists of several important contributions in the field of organizations.. Initially, he focused on studying the types of structures that predominated in businesses at the formal level, as well as the mechanisms used to manage and control people, and how they affected individuals themselves. He then refocused his research to focus on the conduct of managers.
In the case of executives, Chris Argyris finds an important variable in their personality type in relation to the maturity of the employees. In this sense, if the manager maintains a positive cut with his subordinates, making them see that he considers them responsible, they will have a more optimal productivity. This explains why workers with a high level of maturity will prefer to increase their responsibilities and be able to make decisions.
Contrary to this reasoning, when you have a team of adults and a reasonable level of maturity, but at the forefront is a framework that uses more traditional techniques, based on simple authority and without delegating to subordinates or allow “ to take more responsibility than they have, we will achieve poorer performance caused by low motivation.
In another turn of the helm in the subject of his major works, Chris Argyris he studied the effect of the social researcher on the organization by working there. Another of his great interests was the study of human reason in business. In other words, beyond behavior in general, I wanted to know what reasoning workers were doing when making decisions and generating actions.
The science of action
Much of Chris Argyris’ work centered on this latter stream, which he called the science of action. What interests him with this work is to find the model that explains how humans reason in the face of threatening scenarios, so that they can explain how they design their model of response actions.
This allowed him distinguish between two learning models, The single cycle versus the double cycle. The first of them refers to the behaviors implemented to obtain results that we anticipate and thus neutralize the difficult situation with which we are confronted. The alternative would be dual cycle apprenticeship. This other model is about behaviors that aim not only to end the threat, but also to learn more.
The meaning of actions in accordance with this second model would be to be able to learn how to generate a change in the variables that made the threat appear in order to be ready to avoid it in the future, with the necessary information. this. These explanations of people’s behavior could be applied at both the personal and organizational level..
The scale of inference
As part of action science theories, Chris Argyris created a tool he called the Scale of Inference. With him, he tries to explain the thought pattern that a person generates from the moment a situation is presented to him until he assesses it and decides to exercise a certain behavior in this regard. for that draw a ladder on which each step, from lowest to highest, represents a step in this thought pattern.
The ladder would start with reality and facts, which would be the lowest rung. From there, we would move on to the chosen reality, that is, to the objective situation as it appeared before the subject. We would then find the interpreted reality, that is to say the reality as conceived by that particular person, which does not have to coincide with that of the others. The next step would be the assumptions that this subject makes regarding this interpretation of reality.
In turn, these hypotheses will lead him to draw certain conclusions about the event he witnesses. The results will take him one step further, towards beliefs about what to do in this regard. Finally, he will complete his ascent in this schema of thought, reaching what would be the last rung, which is none other than the actions or conduct which, in fact, will execute.
the scale of inference is just one of the many contributions to organizational science that Chris Argyris left us in his legacy.
- Argyris, C. (1970). Method and theory of intervention: a view of the science of behavior. Addison-Wesley.
- Argyris, C. (1977). Double-loop learning in organizations. Harvard business review.
- Argyris, C. (1994). Good communication that blocks learning. Harvard business review.
- Argyris, C., Schon, DA (1974). Theory in practice: increasing professional efficiency. Jossey-Bass.
- Fulmer, RM, Keys, JB (1998). A Conversation with Chris Argyris: The Father of Organizational Learning. Organizational dynamics.