Sunday, 1 December 2013

People matter more than process

I've just had the privilege of writing a paper with two people I respect tremendously in my field… and to see it rejected by an academic journal. The editor's argument is the following: "I would like to point out that your paper went through a standard blind review process, where names and reputations are not part of the evaluation criteria. The three independent reviewers all converge to similar conclusions." The failure is all mine since I did most of the writing and the reviewers felt negatively about the style of the paper.

It's not the rejection that bugs me, as an author I've had my share of that, and, in this case I had never heard of this journal in the first place. It's the assumption that the "blind" editorial process is a guarantee of quality. In a confused, not stabilized field, WHO says WHAT matters enormously.  In this case, one of my co-authors created the field, the other, as a senior manager at Ford, has more knowledge of the topic than any one else. I've learned more in writing this paper than I had in years. WHO they are counts!

It reminded me of a development project where the project manager had perfectly followed the workflow, the gate reviews, the checklists to come up with a piss-poor product that flopped terribly on the market. Luckily the division manager gave the revamp to a gifted engineer most managers disliked for his messy ways, but who understood the product inside out, and he focused on one idea: simplification. The resulting product became a total hit, market share practically doubled.

When Bill Gates has a banal idea, which he often tweets about, it's well worth listening, because his idea might not be innovative, but his judgement is bulletproof and who he is give the thought credential. After all, everything the man touches works out. Action trumps thinking every day. Doing creates evidence. Evidence is better than intuition when it comes to learning.

Frederick Taylor has had the last laugh. back in 1911, he stated: "In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first." This might work for bureaucracy and Law courts, but when it comes to learning, clearly who the speaker is matters tremendously, regardless of the process. Who we choose to follow as Best In The World determine a large part of who we become. Sure, even the wise can drew up, and indeed do. But in a world saturated with information, choosing WHO we listen to REALLY matters!

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