Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Social vs Natural Science in Management

Have social scientists have kidnapped management thinking?
Consider the following:
•a considerable number of outdated management theories based on dubious science pervade every facet of a modern organization and are not value managed.
•Social scientists push ‘empiricism’ as their new religion into the training rooms and ‘buzz’ books that greet every business traveler.
•It is true that humans are different from other animals because we can change based on knowledge. But for how long can we change our behaviour because of a book, leadership dictate or inspirational training. Hawthorne, Forer, Observer effects etc, are not properly discussed.
•Proof and results have not been forthcoming and the theories are remolded and re-presented to account for the many anomalies.
•Experiential learning may be fine as a concept but we do experience the world as flat and ourselves as younger, taller and less grey! But thankfully we have satellites and mirrors to put us right.
•And just because 200 students in the professors department say so doesn't make it true. John List (Chicago Economist) is challenging a lot of the economic behaviour study methods ('truths') that have filled many airport bookshelves recently.

Natural sciences can give us unbiased answers. More knowledge can help us address the real issues facing a resource constrained, global, interconnected organization.
Great advances have been made in Genetics, Evolutionary theory and Neuroscience. Very little of this has made its way into the workplace.
Some examples:
•Decision making has been radically challenged recently by the latest news that an fMRI scan can pick up our decision 6 seconds before we believe we make the decision (so we consciously make a decision 6 seconds after the decision is made by other parts of the brain). It is time to move on from A primer on decision making : How decisions happen. New York. March, James G. and Heath, Chip (1994).
•Team building needs to incorporate the work on reciprocity by Robin Dunbar at Oxford.
•A general understanding of some of the Brodmann areas of the brain will add value to motivation, risk management, learning, multi-tasking)

We need to develop a framework based wholly and exclusively on a natural science based evaluation and approach. The approach will address all aspects of the process of delivering change within an organization. It may be a difficult quest to bridge natural science and management. Initially it should focus on three main areas in Human Resource management namely: Selection, Development and finally Assessment of the employees.

In 2001 I began to study genetics, evolution and more recently the brain in an attempt to improve my understanding of this complex, rewarding but much misunderstood subject. I am concerned that many businesses still appear to be using ‘chicken entrails to forecast the weather’ and they need to follow Galileo’s direction, look to the skies and submit to better science.

No comments: