Saturday, May 13, 2006

Management Theory, Debunked

Matthew Stewart, a former management consultant and the author of the recent book The Courtier and the Heretic, has a good article about the dubious science of management theory in the new issue of The Atlantic. Stewart went into the consulting trade with a degree in philosophy and managed to avoid taking management classes or reading management books during his career as a business advisor. "I interviewed, hired, and worked alongside hundreds of business-school graduates," he writes, "and the impression I formed of the M.B.A. experience was that it involved taking two years out of your life and going deeply into debt, all for the sake of learning how to keep a straight face while using phrases like 'out-of-the-box thinking,' 'win-win situation,' and 'core competencies.'"

Mark Dowds


On Monday and Tuesday next week in Toronto there is a gathering of thinkers and pratcitioners in the world of Web 2.0

The conference is sold out and is the first occurence of something of this style that I am aware of in Canada. It is an exciting time to meet some of the people who are making a significant difference in the world we live in today. The speakers and organizers are a quality and influential bunch of people who have something to say. I would highly recommend viewing the site and reading the blogs of those who are speaking.

Mark Dowds

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jean Piaget (1896-1980)

He pioneered the way for modern child psychology. He looked at the world differently than his predecessors and had the capacity to watch, play with, and question children with a unique intelligence. His focus was on the development of mind as a child matures, experiences the world and adapts to it. Unlike other psychologists he got involved in the world of a child and had a way of questioning that led to some outstanding discoveries. It would appear that children felt comfortable around him due to his gentleness and warmth that potential bought him the right to experiment and learn where others failed.

He is renowned today even though he never attained a degree in psychology or for that matter any systematic training in the field.

Piaget’s unique perspective allowed him to disagree with both traditional behaviorists and hereditarians while having the capacity to glean from both camps and weave an enhanced version of both. In other words, Piaget embraced the perspective that “mental development requires both experience and maturation but is the result of an ever-changing interaction between organism and environment.” (Hunt, p.357). This appreciation of mental adaptation led him to propose four major stages of child development:- sensorimotor (birth to 18-24 months)- preoperational (18-14 months to 7 years)- concrete operations (7 years to 12 years)- formal operations (12 years and up)

As much as Piaget’s discoveries where new and genius, they are known today to be limited. The invariant sequence of the stages of development still remain strong however the reality of a deeper overlap has been proven. In addition the study of four month old children’s heart rates show something more when it comes to the appreciation of the permanence of an object that Piaget suggested even if a child forgets about an object as soon as it is made invisible. More recent studies have also shown a greater development of altruism in young children that was outside of Piaget’s considerations, and some of his questions seem to have been more leading than he considered.

One of the major benefits of Piaget’s discoveries is that we are now more aware of why a teenager tends to struggle more with suicide than a younger child because of the growing capacity to rationalize between inconsistency and scenarios. We have benefited from his work by knowing there is a strong experiential nurtured part of a child’s development that builds upon the more innate responses.

The major drawbacks of his discoveries are the confident rigidity in which they are presented. Like many other psychologists who discovered the first stages of a new form of study he was more fundamental than he needed to be. It could be suggested that he needed to be in order to bring weight behind his position; however, his work stands strong within its own right and was the first building block towards further work among other developmentalists.

Another drawback of Piaget’s work is that it limited the study of development to the child when today we recognize a richer life long learning perspective. This would be one of the main things that I believe he could have improved upon within his study had he been more open-minded to learning and formation beyond the younger days and into later transitional times. This however has been expanded upon by Erikson into 8 sequential stages of development. Even in this work it is recognized that Piaget was on the mark when he said the sequential nature of development is irrefutable, as we now know that a person cannot skip a stage and build upon the next.

In closing, Piaget’s work could have been enhanced had he chosen to recognize that he was opening up a new discipline for many years of development instead of attempting to start it and close it within his lifetime.