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December 2014

A lick of new paint

By Dave Snowden  ·  December 31, 2014  ·  Polemic

6: Using language without meaning

I’m never sure if this particular fault is deliberate sin, simply going with the flow or simply a failure of critical intelligence but it is all too common. Some current examples include people taking the language of complexity and attaching them to old ideas and practices. There are a group of people both published and unpublished who have ideological beliefs about the nature of human interaction, the role of consultancy and the like. We also see some very naive views of the natural systems...

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Industrialisation of the craft

By Dave Snowden  ·  December 30, 2014  ·  Polemic

5: Taking something of value, but then seeking to industrialise it

While I detest cults I have more sympathy for my fifth target in this series.  There are a lot of things that start off well, but then shift from the capability of an artisan to a fully industrial model in an attempt to scale without the cost of a true apprentice scheme.  The normal approach to mastery is not a short training course, but rather an extended apprenticeship in which mistakes are made as you attempt to copy the master and the stories of those failure...

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The Cultists

By Dave Snowden  ·  December 29, 2014  · 

4: Anything requiring you to attain levels of enlightenment

I'm never sure if I dislike pseudo-science more than crypto-religious movements.  In practice they both tend to end up as cults in order to maintain a false belief system.   The exemplar of the former, although it is now on the wane, is Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) with its various promises of personal mastery and manipulation.   Check out the Wikipedia entry (in which I am an active editor) if you want to see the evidence for its lack of scientific authenticity.  ...

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The Popinjay

By Dave Snowden  ·  December 28, 2014  ·  Polemic

3: The old ways are evil, I bear the torch of truth and enlightenment

I remember a publisher explaining three strategies for publishing a business book.   One option was the specialist academic book likely to sell to libraries or specialists and published in low volume at high price.  The second type would be priced at a more reasonable rate for the hard back version which would be held for a bit before the paperback version.  Finally we get the short term best seller;  light on content high on popularity.  Here they would be...

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Statistical tails wagging the dogs of truth

By Dave Snowden  ·  December 27, 2014  ·  Polemic

2: Confusing correlation with causation and the paucity of good data

This seems to have been an innate feature of management science and to a lesser extent social science considered more broadly.   It is a growing problem in health care with statistics seeming to dominate over biology in respect of evidence.  I'll write more on the health care issue in the new year but for the moment I want to focus on management science.   The general pattern of serious text books is to study a group of organisations that have a quality we...

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