Scholars and Practitioners: Debate or Collaborate?
April 11, 2012 Leave a comment
Working Together to Advance Our Understanding
Scholars and practitioners often see the world from different perspectives, providing an opportunity for them to learn from one another. Such an opportunity only helps us advance our understanding of ethics and ethical leadership if we take advantage of it.
Marshall Goldsmith, in his article “The Sunk Cost Fallacy” in Talent Management Magazine (November 2011) remembers behaviors he has observed in his colleagues.
When my UCLA colleagues would respond defensively, even violently, to well-meaning constructive criticism of their research papers, I saw it as another sign of the sunk cost fallacy. They were so attached to their years of hard researching they couldn’t brook an alternative viewpoint.
Marshall Goldsmith in The Sunk Costs Fallacy, Talent Management Magazine, November 2011
Scholars seek to prove that ideas are valid through research, and practitioners seek to prove that ideas “work” in today’s complex and connected society. It takes both a research focus and a focus on real-world relevance to provide the kind of clarity about ethical leadership that today’s leaders need.
Choosing Respectful Collaboration
I am saddened by the many times I see scholars and practitioners judging one another and trying to prove each other wrong. Defensive and judgmental reactions to other people’s ideas and feedback signal an unwillingness to learn.
Linda M. David, in her article “Perspective Shift – The Power to Change Your Mind” (Training and Development, November 2011) says that “the concept of shifting perspectives is a tool that will give you a wider view of most situations you encounter and, with practice, expand the options for how you perceive your world.”
Philip Friedrich points out in his article “Feedback as a Gift” (Training and Development, January 2012) that
Too often we reject the gift of feedback before we even understand it by explaining, justifying or rationalizing our actions. Explaining why we did or didn’t do something is a form of defensiveness that slams the door on opportunities for growth.
Choosing A Learning Perspective
Learning to shift our perspective and to be open to the ideas of others keeps us learning. The alternative choices (being defensive and judging others) do not.
When we are defensive, we aren’t hearing valuable insights and observations that others offer, and we are:
- Protecting our “turf” (our ideas)
- Pushing away anyone who is “too interested” and “getting too close for comfort”
- Closed to the ideas of others that could make our work better
When we are judging others, we are not open to learning from them. When we judge we are:
- Discouraging others from doing their “good works”
- Moving away from a collaborative mindset, and
- Missing the learning opportunity
When we choose to adopt a learning perspective, we believe that:
- Ideas are made to be talked about and improved
- We are more knowledgeable collectively than we are individually
- We grow and advance our work by learning
Linda Fisher Thornton is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also CEO/Owner of Leading in Context LLC, a consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.
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