Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Evidence-Based Management : A Lesson for the "Soft Sciences" ? - LexiLine Journal 441

We have been preaching "best evidence" to the soft sciences for 30 years but they are still not listening.

Perhaps Robert I. Sutton at Stanford would have more success than we do if he applied to mainstream academia in the humanities what he teaches at the Department of Management Science and Engineering and at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

Professor Sutton offers managers a course in Organizational Behavior: An Evidence-Based Approach which he describes as follows:
"This course tackles fundamental organizational behavior issues (e.g. employee selection, rewards, teamwork, culture, innovation) from an evidence-based perspective. Evidence-based management is a simple idea. It just means finding the best evidence that you can, facing those facts, and acting on those facts - rather than doing what everyone else does, what you have always done, or what you thought was true. It isn't an excuse for inaction. Leaders of organizations must have the courage to act on the best facts they have right now, and the humility to change what they do as better information is found. The course includes active discussion, industry guests, and case studies."
Professor Sutton, how about if you offered that same course in principle to the archaeologists, Egyptologists, Near East scholars, Biblical scholars, and historians of astronomy on this planet, who generally "do what everyone else does", who persist on "doing what they have always done" and "who do what they think is true" rather than acting on the best evidence available, which often contradicts what they think.

In any case, we are on your side.

Society needs a more solid evidence-based approach in many fields of human endeavor, rather than the witchdoctor-like tea-leaf reading which prevails in many of the soft sciences today. Apparently, the same problem prevails in management as well.

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