Specialist subject: "The Bleeding Obvious"

Published by Tony Quinlan on

From the nep-hrm list, I’ve just come across the following piece of research:

The Causal Effect of Studying on Academic Performance

From the abstract,

In this paper, we examine the causal effect of studying on grade performance using an Instrumental Variable estimator. Our approach takes advantage of a unique natural experiment and is possible because we have collected unique longitudinal data that provides detailed information about all aspects of this experiment. Important for understanding the potential impact of a wide array of education policies, the results suggest that human capital accumulation is far from predetermined at the time of college entrance.

I sincerely hope that they come out in favour, because otherwise I wasted a fair amount of time in previous years.  (Although admittedly not as much as my peers or as much as my lecturers/teachers/tutors wanted.)

More importantly, this is a good example of two major flaws in some management thinking.  Firstly, the need to use obscure language (although, in fairness, this was produced for the academic world which has very different standards by which to judge written English).

Secondly, I’m inferring from “we have collected unique longitudinal data” that they’re adopting the attitude that nothing can be true or agreed unless it is data-derived.  It’s an attitude that’s common – and, in places, helpful – but when applied universally, as it commonly is, is detrimental.  There are some areas of management where correlations and causalities are not linear and data will either mislead or actively distort situations.

That’s where intuition, pattern recognition and common sense can be most powerful.

[The post title, of course, comes from the classic Fawlty Towers episode, The Rat.  “Next contestant: Sybil Fawlty; specialist subject: The Bleeding Obvious”]