Objectivity and the ministry of silly walks


I’ve been thinking about the idea of psychologists trying to be detached and scientific.  To my mind, this is impossible.  We are never really subjective, as we bring our own experiences, upbringing, interests and passions into our work.  And that’s a good thing. 

I came across a fabulous example of such a passion in Gareth Morgan’s pen portrait of Frederick Taylor, the father of the scientific-rational approach to organisational design at the turn of the last century.  Taylor’s obsession with monitoring and measuring every aspect of work to gain maximum efficiency spilled over into his life.  Morgan tells us that Taylor “did not only measure pig-iron carriers and coal shovellers, he would, on his cross-country walks, constantly experiment with his legs to discover how to cover the greatest distance with the minimum use of energy, or the easiest way to vault a fence, or the ideal length of a walking stick.”  He must have cut a fine Cleese-like figure striding across the countryside.

Apparently, this need for control stemmed from his upbringing in a puritan household where a strong work ethic reigned.

As Morgan goes on to observe, “We are all, in some way perhaps, the prisoners of our past and our models of organizations just reflections of our childhood.  There is no truth, only personality.” (From ‘Images of Organization’, 1986.)

Eat your hearts out, scientists.


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