Testing Conventional Wisdom

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Report to the LILAC 2010 conference on a University of Manitoba project which used information literacy and evidence-based methodologies to have students test managers' "conventional wisdom" ideas and practices.

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Testing Conventional Wisdom

  1. 1. Testing conventional wisdom with evidence-based management: The role of information literacy in a business course LILAC 2010 Limerick, Republic of Ireland Nick Turner, Amy De Jaeger, Betty Braaksma, and Ganga Dakshinamurti University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
  2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Background: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is “conventional wisdom”? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What is evidence-based management? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How does information literacy relate to it? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conventional Wisdom Project: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Description of the UM Asper School of Business course </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Methodology </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Findings </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The students speak </li></ul><ul><li>Practical implications </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? Comments? </li></ul>
  3. 3. What is “Conventional Wisdom”? <ul><li>“ A widely held belief on which most people act.…This term was invented by John Kenneth Galbraith, who used it in The Affluent Society (1958) to describe economic ideas that are familiar, predictable, and therefore accepted by the general public . Today it is used in any context where public opinion has considerable influence on the course of events.” </li></ul>The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
  4. 4. An old Irish saying… <ul><li>Is leir don saol e an firinne </li></ul><ul><li>“ Everybody knows the truth” </li></ul>http://www.ireland-information.com/irishphrases.htm
  5. 5. A familiar example of conventional wisdom… <ul><li>&quot;Internet-savvy students are far ahead of their teachers” </li></ul>http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0815/p25s01-cogn.html
  6. 6. What is Evidence-Based Management? <ul><li>Face the hard facts, and build a culture in which people are encouraged to tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant. </li></ul><ul><li>Be committed to &quot;fact based&quot; decision making -- which means being committed to getting the best evidence and using it to guide actions. </li></ul><ul><li>Treat your organization as an unfinished prototype -- encourage experimentation and learning by doing. </li></ul><ul><li>Look for the risks and drawbacks in what people recommend -- even the best medicine has side effects. </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid basing decisions on untested but strongly held beliefs, what you have done in the past, or on uncritical &quot;benchmarking&quot; of what winners do. </li></ul>http://www.evidence-basedmanagement.com/
  7. 7. Asking the Unasked Questions <ul><li>“ look beyond the accepted conventional wisdom with a different perspective by asking the unasked questions.” </li></ul><ul><li>Fundamental to all IL standards is the idea of evaluating information </li></ul><ul><li>We teach students to evaluate published information for accuracy, currency, origin, bias, authorship, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>What if we tested conventional wisdom the same way? </li></ul>http://ezarticles.com/?Freakonomics--A-Journey-on-Challenging-Conventional-Wisdom-Through-Economics&id=158617
  8. 8. The HRIR 2440 Conventional Wisdom project
  9. 9. The Course <ul><li>HRIR 2440 Human Resource Management: </li></ul><ul><li>introduces undergraduate students to organizational functions such as staffing, recruiting, training, compensation, the design of work, and health and safety at work. </li></ul><ul><li>students can take it with at least one year of university and after admission to the Business School, </li></ul><ul><li>compulsory for BCom students = everyone from 2nd year new students to 4th year actuarial science students can be taking it </li></ul>
  10. 10. The Research Questions <ul><li>Which conventional wisdom beliefs do managers hold? </li></ul><ul><li>How do students test conventional wisdom? </li></ul><ul><li>What role does information literacy play in students’ approach to making sense of the problem and the evidence? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Methodology <ul><li>Students worked in groups of four to six </li></ul><ul><li>Selected an HR issue facing a real life manager </li></ul><ul><li>Interviewed the manager </li></ul><ul><li>Proceeded through a series of exercises to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>articulate a research question based on the identified issue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>search out research in the management research literature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>attempt to reconcile the manager’s ‘conventional wisdom’ with the research literature </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Librarians’ contribution <ul><li>Meetings with Course instructor (Nick), Asper School librarian (Ganga), IL Coordinator (Betty) in the fall, sketching up the project flow chart </li></ul><ul><li>Two IL sessions at beginning of course with Ganga and Betty </li></ul><ul><li>Nick, Ganga & Betty facilitate peer group check-in/initial report </li></ul><ul><li>Ganga assisted students with literature searching and further analysis of their topics </li></ul>
  13. 13. Students Interview managers <ul><li>What issues came out of interviews? </li></ul><ul><li>How do students recognize a research question? </li></ul><ul><li>How do they write one? </li></ul><ul><li>How do they find evidence in the literature? </li></ul><ul><li>How do they interpret/evaluate the evidence? </li></ul>Does the evidence support the managers’ conventional wisdom? Understanding the lived experience of managers Testing conventional wisdom Making sense of research Formulating research questions Learning Gaps Learning Constraints
  14. 14. Findings <ul><li>Used a combination of instructor observation and post-project written reflections from a sub-sample of 91 students. </li></ul><ul><li>  Analysis of the reflections suggests that students learned much about the nature of evidence and reconciling managers’ conventional wisdom with the best evidence derived from the social science literature. </li></ul><ul><li>The importance of information literacy was demonstrated in the observations that students made about their perceived inability to read and interpret social scientific research and the pragmatic (often technically-related) difficulties in accessing high-quality sources of social scientific research. </li></ul>
  15. 15. The Students Speak: Literature Search and synthesis
  16. 16. The Students Speak: Critical Thinking skills <ul><li>“ The first thing I learned was that there is an infinite number of research questions that could be asked, the problem is choosing one that will lead your research into a meaningful answer. For every idea in researching, there is a case study to go along, the challenge lies in choosing which data is sound. “ </li></ul>
  17. 17. The Students Speak: Critical Evaluation <ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>“ The most important and valid thing that I have learned from the wisdom assignment is not to rely on information that you get from one source. I used to believe that if I have researched something or if a manager who has a lot of experience is telling me something then it’s reliable and valid. After doing this project, it has been evident that sometimes what conventional wisdom tells you isn’t necessarily reliable and valid.” </li></ul>
  18. 18. The Students Speak: Basic understanding of research process <ul><li>“ I learned the importance of question asking. The questions we asked in our interview gave us a completely new and interesting subject to explore. The questions we asked during our research helped us gain new perspective on our subject. Asking the right questions is very important to research as well as to problem solving, something any manager must do.” </li></ul><ul><li>” To get reliable and valid information from internet and other sources and to find out the extent of their validity. To relate the information which our group got from the manager to the research that we have done.” </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  19. 19. Practical Implications <ul><li>management education instructors can introduce similar learning experiences into their own classroom settings. </li></ul><ul><li>practicing managers can use social science research as a tool to enable evidence-based management. </li></ul><ul><li>management librarians can introduce information literacy into management classes or during reference consultations with individual students </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>In 1999 a European study by IDC examined…the &quot; knowledge work deficit ,&quot; and concluded that the cost of intellectual rework, substandard performance and inability to find knowledge resources was $5,000 per worker per year . </li></ul><ul><li>In 2005, an Aslib study found that “UK SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) wasted over 3.7 billion in terms of time wasted through inefficient use of the internet as a research tool” </li></ul><ul><li>In 2007 the Lexis-Nexis Workplace Productivity Survey found that “white collar professionals spend an average of 2.3 hours daily conducting online research, with one in ten spending four hours or more on an average day.” </li></ul>Practical Implications – Real world evidence http://cceonline.net/images/Computer_Frustration.jpg
  21. 21. An old Irish saying “ Though wisdom is good in the beginning it is better at the end.” http://www.irishabroad.com/culture/proverbs/
  22. 22. Questions? Comments? Thank you Tapadh Leat

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