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Silos & sinecures

August 7, 2010

I’ve got a series of heavy weight posts to make from the Academy, a few really good sessions today, especially the final one I went to on future directions in Organizational Science. I’ll try and get them out over the next few days. One immediate observation for today (and it has been a very long day): there is something perverted about academia at the moment. Now I am not suggesting sexual deviancy here, I have no direct or indirect knowledge of any such practice. What I mean is the system seems designed to prevent original thought and risk taking. It seems like a majority of the sessions are all for young academics to teach them how to manage the process of publishing papers and securing tenure. A process that appears to require conformity to established practice, dealing with well defined problems and above all not doing anything new or radical.

If that was not bad enough on entry, the degree of specialization at more senior levels is really scary. There seems to be little knowledge or interest outside the particular (and peculiar) aspects of the particular silo, and they are very narrow silos. With one senior academic my suggestion that he look to anthropology to understand a particular aspect of culture met with patronising indifference; a further suggestion that complexity theory and concepts of emergence would assist in understanding the way shifts in culture handled resulted in the same patronising indifference, but with irritation added in for good measure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have met and talked with some people who are the antithesis of this so I am not trying to tar everyone with the same brush. But in a conference for the leading thinkers in the field of management science I would expect a little more openness, or dare I say it, curiosity?

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