Selected quotes of Albert Einstein:
"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality,
they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement
of everyday thinking."
"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a
"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that
it is comprehensible."
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of
thinking we used when we created them."
When the solution is simple, God is answering.
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not
everything that can be counted counts."
(Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton)
"Scientific" is an adjective. When it modifies
something, it refers to the way information is obtained by observation and generalized
into a model that is as simple as possible yet can predict outcomes to an acceptable
degree. When the model fails to predict outcomes acceptably, it is modified or replaced by
another model. Such models are very useful for making decisions to achieve desired
results. Good management utilizes such models extensively, when suitable ones exist.
Repeatability in science is a very desirable guide.
Repeatability in management may be misleading – when we aren't watching what we
should pay attention to – looking for the unexpected exceptions.
Appropriate models that encompass
the existing conditions frequently do not exist because all of the conditions upon which they depend
have not been identified. However, we usually have some models that seem to apply to similar
conditions. They are appropriate as far as we know,
unless we have been able to see the
unexpected results. All models are created with
only some of the conditions identified, and thereby are only able to predict the average
result, not individual results. Management involves specific results under specific
conditions. In practice, a prudent manager accepts predictions cautiously. A good manager
understands that surprise is a common experience. The predictions, or expectations
from a model, can be
thwarted by unexpected changes like unseasonable weather, disease outbreaks, economic
changes, etc. Sometimes a surprise is mysterious, without a clear explanation. Managers
must be responsive to immediate conditions, and adjust their expectations and
reactions accordingly. A good manager uses many models, some of them are scientific, some
are intuitive. All of them are subject to revision.
We see poor managers that seek refuge in
"scientific" models that are inappropriate but "objective." This is a
danger that all of us must monitor in our management. We may become overconfident, or
complacent. Objectivity also is a way to avoid responsibility for results of one's
actions. Many models are codified into regulations and laws, which can be very destructive
although written with good intentions. Regulations and laws may interfere with better
intuitive decisions in certain circumstances. For complex systems there is no such thing
as "sound science" to rely upon.
Is Management Scientific?
The answer is,
Management uses science,
but is never scientific. Good managers plan with expectations, monitor the actual results
and conditions, and revise their plans accordingly. When appropriate scientific models are
not available, intuition derived from experience serves as the basis for decisions and
planning. Prudent actions are essential because detrimental effects may be delayed in
appearing, and may be uncorrectable.
Management is a skill.
Management of complex systems is an art!