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My conversation with academics


Fri May 25 2007


Phd: I heard you think you have a great program.

Me: I do. I have this great program to develop people.


PhD: Why is it so good?

Me: Because it makes people more productive in the workplace.

PhD: So it's vocational? That's not really my thing.

Me: No, it's around leadership.

PhD.: If it is about doing anything work-related, it is by definition vocational.


Me: Well, you could use it to lead in a non-profit organization. Or a lab. Or run a university.

PhD: Well, I guess THAT wouldn't be vocational. What theories of leadership and education are you using?

Me: I can dig some up, but more importantly, I have stacks of results.

PhD: I like theories a lot more. Besides, why should I trust your results? You are a vendor.

Me: Because all of the research was done by third parties.


PhD: Sure, but the research was done by someone.

Me: Ah, yes.

PhD: And that person was no doubt proud of their results.

Me: I guess.

PhD: Well, those people were all bias towards success. Research invalid. QED.

Me: Ah, okay.

PhD: You are thinking about this all wrong. What you need is a firm foundation of theory. Either use an existing theory, or pose a question, and then find the evidence to support it or refute it.

Me: Why?

PhD: That will increase your chances of success.

Me: But I already have success!

PhD: But not repeatable success. Your type of success requires people who care about the results. Your programs require ownership.

Me: I guess...

Phd: But if you build an academic case, then the results just happen, even if no one cares. It's like physcis.

Me: Do your projects work?

PhD: Hardly ever. But that's the best part. First, it's not my fault, it's the theories'. Second, obviously, we feedback that knowledge of failure into the process, and refine our knowledge base. We end up with better theories, not just one off successes.

Me: Hmmm.

PhD: You just don't get it, do you? Where's another PhD? They get it.

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