Posted by Tim Bryce on November 11, 2015
BRYCE ON ACADEMIA
– “Theorists” versus “Practicals.”
I have met a lot of college professors in my lifetime, be it when I went to school, when I lectured on systems, or in various discussion groups on the Internet. From my perspective, they fit into two categories:
1. Practical people teaching proven concepts, as in engineering, chemistry, history, math, and English.
2. Theorists who invent a bunch of gobbledygook offering no practical use. I have found such people in sociology, political science, management, and very prevalent in information technology.
I have found the “Practicals” to be more interesting as they are more confident of their subject matter and are excited about communicating their body of knowledge to their students. To me, they are down to earth people who are practical in nature and willing to assist you any way possible. They are the type of people you would like to share a beer with and talk shop.
The “Theorists” are entirely different. Their world is based on observations and evidence, but no concrete proof, hence they lack the confidence of the “Practicals.” Instead, their world revolves around argument, which can be quite loud and vehement at times. Their bravado in discourse is based on their lack of confidence. Some people refer to them as pseudo-intellectuals, others as academic quacks. It is like they have got a bolt lose somewhere but don’t know how to tighten it. When I listen to them I get the uneasy feeling I should be holding my wallet. Rarely have I seen the “Theorists” produce anything practical for use, which is why many of them can best be described as “humbug.”
I do not have a problem with professors teaching proven concepts; but I do have a problem when they try to disguise their ideas as gospel. In the process, they invent a junk vocabulary intended more to confuse you than to prove their point. They are also content doing small things in the hopes of it leading to something bigger. When I listen to the Theorists, I am somehow reminded of the expression, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” In other words, much ado about nothing.
It is one thing to theorize something, selling the concept to earn a livelihood is quite another. Most of the Theorists would likely starve without the backing of the college or university. As for me, I tend to believe in the old English proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It has been my experience the effective techniques used in management and information systems were derived from legitimate business needs. For example, our “PRIDE”-Information Systems Engineering Methodology (ISEM) was created to satisfy the need to build integrated enterprise-wide systems resulting from the “Management Information Systems” (MIS) movement of the 1960’s.
There have been many other offerings developed over the years to expedite systems development, but we took a scientific approach to the problem and defined our terminology and principles. The fact it still works after +40 years means it has stood the test of time.
In the end, the real test of whether you perceive someone as a “Practical” or a “Theorist” is whether you would enjoy a beer with them or not. As for me, I have developed a taste for Stella Artois, but I’ll drink just about anything ice cold.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
For Tim’s columns, see: timbryce.com
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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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