Sunday, May 20, 2012

Knowing how to do versus what to do.

One final word on Maslow. He believes it is important for science not to slide into scientism. He talks about people who mostly focus on ritual and protocol.

Without wishing to create an extreme and unreal dichotomy, it is still possible to point out a difference between those who know only how to do and those who also know what to do. These former individuals, of whom there are always a large number, tend inevitably to become a class of priests in science, authorities on protocol, on procedure, and, so to speak, on ritual and ceremonial. While such people have been no more than a nuisance in the past, now that science becomes a matter of national and international policy, they may become an active danger. p189

The interesting thing is this echoes one of the more famous distinctions between managers and leaders (see this HBR article by John Kotter). Managers make sure things are done right. Leaders think about what is the right thing to do. Managers keep to procedures. Leaders cope with change.

Organizations need both, of course. You need to make sure people get paid on time and inventory is accounted for and taxes get paid. But you also need to adapt to change and reinvent the business model from time to time.

Maslow would prefer to concentrate on answering important problems, rather than method or rigor or quantification. It is not the means that matters, so much as the ends.

Means centering tends strongly to overvalue quantification indiscriminately and as an end in itself... Means -centered scientists tend, in spite of themselves, to fit their problems to their techniques rather than the contrary.

We have discussed over the course of this blog how economics and psychology focused on means and method rather than important questions for much of the last three generations.

And in a larger sense, this is our problem with the economy right now. We have become transfixed on the means - income, formal jobs, monetary transactions - rather than the ends we want. We have highly sophisticated techniques for producing abundance.

But It is also important for us to know what to do. The means have to be related to the ends. Instead, as a society we don't tend to discuss the ends and the purposes.

As I see it, we have had far too much management of economy and far too little leadership on the economy. Our thinking simply hasn't adapted to underlying change.


No comments:

Post a Comment