Here’s to ‘acting as if’

It is the beginning of a new academic quarter and I am back in the classroom – an enjoyable experience for me because it’s an opportunity to continue learning (and unlearning as well).

In the time I had to do a some reading before the quarter began, I stumbled across a wonderful 2010 piece by Marlene Fiol in the Journal of Management Inquiry: “Acting as if we were new.” In brief it is a call to action for organizational theorists and researchers to act as if the field were new – and thereby expand research conversations and embrace being wrong.

In the article she quotes organizational theorist John Van Maanen, who said (tongue in cheek) during a 2006 speech: “In the long run we will all be dead. In the long run we will all be wrong. A wonderful scholarly career can be had only when the former precedes the latter.” To which Fiol adds her wish: That at the end of her life’s work, much of her research would prove to be wrong most of the time, providing the opportunity to search again.

So here’s to acting as if we were new – no matter what field in which we believe we are expert. Embrace being wrong and the new opportunities to explore.

1 Comment

  1. Jeff: Great post. Surprisingly enough I was actually at the same talk that Marlene Fiol was referencing and I remember having a visceral reaction to Van Maanen’s supposition that in the long run we will all be proven wrong, let’s just hope we’re dead by then. I guess he’s joking because there seems to be so many counterexamples to his supposition, but it does remind us to not take ourselves so seriously!

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