Modes of growth

Most of us are probably familiar with the Experiential Learning Theory of David Kolb. However, did you know that he had dabbled in career theory?

In the book Career Frontiers: New Conceptions of Working Lives (2000, OUP) he contributes the chapter snappily entitled Performance, learning and development as modes of growth and adaptation throughout our lives and careers along with Richard Boyatzis.

They propose that throughout our careers we move between three different modes:

  • Performance mode – in which we are trying to master new skills or navigate a new environment. The emphasis of this mode is to prove yourself worthy and meeting expectations.
  • Learning mode – in which we try to expand our role and seek variety and novelty. The emphasis here is self-improvement and a desire to apply newly acquired skills and knowledge to a wider context.
  • Development mode – in which we focus on the meaning of our lives and our values. The emphasis in this mode is to achieve self-fulfilment and a sense of authenticity.

Unlike linear developmental theories (Super, Levinson, etc.), we don’t necessarily progress from one mode to the other. We may oscilate between modes and be in different modes in different areas of our lives.

  • What mode are most of our clients in?
  • What impact will that have on their needs and outlook?
  • What mode are you in now?

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  1. #1 by Aminder K Nijjar on 30 October 2009 - 19:40

    Can the modes not be operating simultaneously?

    • #2 by David Winter on 30 October 2009 - 23:30

      Well, according to the theory as stated, you will tend to be in one mode predominantly at a time in a certain area of your life. However, they do say that you might oscillate between modes at certain times. For example, if you are in learning mode, trying to stretch yourself and expand your capabilities, you may take on new challenges that put you back into performance mode for a while.

      But who knows. Every theory is a simplification of the messiness of real life.

  1. Twisting the kaleidoscope « Careers – in Theory

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