We are all keenly aware that there are hundreds of I.T. consultants around the world ready to jump to our assistance. Of course, many of these experts can be out of touch with the latest developments in their respective fields, but they still try to dazzle you with their multicolored charts and models. This poses considerable risk, especially to I.T. professionals who are constantly on the lookout for new ideas and methods.
Being out of touch, however, is not limited to the province of consultants alone. We can all at times be afflicted with this debilitating but seldom talked-about condition. Let me suggest why this state of mind can be quite common.
First, to the best of our current knowledge, no human has ever been born exactly identical to another human being. Therefore, it is physiologically impossible for any one of us to see, perceive, learn and understand something (i.e., an object, theory, etc.) exactly the same way as another person. So, everyone perceives the world around them a little differently than someone else. As a result, we all have our own individual theories and assumptions that help guide us through life.
Second, the more successful we are in our activities that follow our world views, the more we tend to depend on them. In the end, our viewpoints can become fossilized or written in stone. Classic examples are a plethora of leadership and management principles even though time and new evidence have proved many of them to be ineffective or even counterproductive.
Finally, people who eventually attain high levels of recognition either through key leadership positions, consulting or scholarship are often marked as authorities or "gurus" in their particular fields, and their opinions carry an inordinate amount of weight. Eventually, however, their principles can also become fossilized if they are not aware of or open to change as new knowledge is introduced.
This is true for I.T. or any other discipline.
Below are seven ways to spot whether a CIO or other executive—or consultant—is out of touch:
- Research is considered to be a waste of time. "We have been very successful and our experience speaks for itself."
- Lack of critical thinking. "That may work well within such and such an organization, but we are different."
- An inability to take constructive criticism and lack of respect for varied opinions. "We are the originators of this method/product/theory. Who are they/you to question us?"
- Maintaining a positive image at all costs. "What would people think of us if this didn't work as expected?"
- Lack of effective practice. "We have been advised by the best minds in the business. We can skip the experimental phase."
- Blind faith in experts and top executives. "How can we go wrong? These people have worked with the top companies around the world for years."
- An aversion to introspection. "We don't need that fuzzy self-examination of feelings, thoughts and motives around here. We are practical people."
So, it's quite apparent that occasionally we can all get out of touch. The best we can do is to use extreme caution as we go through cycles of theory development and theory modification or replacement. Hence, no matter what conceptual framework we come up with, we should be keenly aware that something else most likely will eventually replace or modify the older models.
Charles (Kalev) Ehin is Emeritus Professor of Management and the former Dean of the Gore School of Business at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He is the author of Unleashing Intellectual Capital (Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000) and Hidden Assets: Harnessing the Power of Informal Networks (Springer, 2005). His Web site is www.UnManagement.com, and his e-mail address is email@example.com.