Monday, December 20, 2010

Social sciences are NOT pseudo sciences.

We would have heard jokes about one armed economists, 7 economists in a room with 8 opinions etc. We are flooded with books on management, leadership, economics, psychology etc-many of which profess starkly contrasting views. The layperson may be forgiven for thinking that the authors are like the 6 blind men of Hindustan-each seeing the subject from his own limited perspective. But this is precisely the point. There is no other way to study a social science.

As aptly mentioned in Robert Murphy'sbook "Lessons for the Young Economist"
Most professionals in the social sciences think that the same method the “scientific method”—should be used in their fields as well . However, the problem is that, quite literally, the objects of their study have minds of their own . It has proved fiendishly difficult to come up with a set of concise laws that accurately predict the behavior of people in various circumstances . In the social sciences, especially economics, things are so much more complicated that in many cases it is simply impossible to perform a truly controlled experiment
In Plain English, that means that things depend on the context, research is a GUIDE to action
and not the recipe in itself

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is Management only like cooking?

This post is NOT to insult either managers or cooks-both are competent professionals. The reason the thought occurred is that there are similarities between the 2 professions as follows
  • Recipes are taught not when to use them:-Cooks learn recipes and decide whether to use them. Similarly, managers learn theories and decide where to use them
  • Contextual variations are must:-Like how a cook varies his recipe according to the guest's tastes, the manager has his own 'seasoning'/'modification' to the routine theory
  • Success breeds a new recipe:-Super star cooks bring out their own recipe books/open culinary schools/restaurants.Similarly, managers become lecturers, speakers, writers to propagate the theory they feel brought them to the top
  • Success at the top is mainly due to OTHER factors:-A good cook rises as he can master the art of cooking. But to remain at the top, he builds a good team, manages finances of his own joint etc. The same I think applies to managers.
For this post, I was inspired by a book 'Naked Management Games'( which is a superb read. The interesting portions from that book are reproduced below
business than its would-be scientists suggest, more closely allied to cooking than any other human activity. Like cooking, it rests On a degree of Organization and on adequate resources. But just as no two chefs run their kitchens the same way, so no two managements are the same, even if they all went to the same business (or cooking) school. You can teach the rudiments of cooking, as of management, but you cannot make a great cook or a great manager.

In both activities, you ignore fundamentals at grave risk —but sometimes succeed. In both, science can be extremely useful but is no substitute for the art itself. In both, inspired amateurs can outdo professionals. In both, perfection is rarely achieved, and failure is more common than the customers realize. In both, practitioners don't need recipes that detail timing down to the last second, ingredients to the last fraction of an ounce, and procedures down to the Just flick of the wrist; they need reliable maxims, instructive anecdotes, and no dogmatism