In the inaugural post of this endeavour I mentioned that in the open day for Birkbeck the phrase that was oft repeated was “it’s a very academic course”. At the time this didn’t really sink in, of course it’s academic; it’s at a university and its run by academics. Little did I know…
Having done a science undergrad there was of course a mixture of theory and practice (the spark gun in our lab that was ACTUALLY shaped like a gun gave endless amusement) but what I hadn’t realised was that there are courses at university that are ALL about theory and NOTHING about practice…
Attributions differ (Churchill, GBS and Wilde are all in the mix) for “two nations divided by a common language” in reference to the UK and US but when it comes to academics and practitioners it seems the language is just the tip of the iceberg, but the language….seriously….who writes like that? And why? If I have achieved nothing else in the nigh on 2 years I’ve been ‘at this’ it’s to get something of a grip on being able to decipher ‘academeese’ and now feel very comfortable in reading a paper/journal article and enjoy seeing the versions that are written for the practitioner press (spot the academics in People Management and find their original papers – it’s fun, no REALLY, it is!)
So where am I going with this? Well, it seems that academics put a lot of time and effort into research and then drawing conclusions from that research. At the same time practitioners put a lot of effort into, ummm, practitionering… but do the two groups actually talk to each other? It seems not. One of our lecturers, Rob Briner, is on something of a jihad with regard to evidence based management, challenging both parties it seems – the academics to make their work accessible (both intellectually and physically) and the practitioners to actually give a stuff about basing their work on research and not just the latest business fad/fashion/book.
Rick (@FlipchartFT) wrote a great blog post on it (which he directed me to when I had my own Briner moment) and to anyone interested I would highly recommend reading it. The sad thing is aside from Prof Briner and a few brave souls it does seem that most people really don’t give a stuff about what they are basing their work on and if a consultant says/they do…especially if the consultant works for a very large firm of consultants and charges a day rate equivalent to the GDP of a small Polynesian country
I feel a certain sense of frustration at this and prior to this experience of studying I was just like everyone else and still fall into the trap when trying to make things a) palatable and b) defensible (everyone loves a fad, especially if it’s been in the Harvard Business Review) but if I make it through this academic endeavour I, the undersigned, promise to be better Professor Briner, I do!
….and as a final though if anyone ever tells you “it’s very academic” don’t brush it off, stop, thinking about it and treat it like the warning on the front of a packet of cigarettes because whilst journal articles don’t kill, trust me they can maim!