Whoever said business was a science?

Yesterday, a colleague sent me a link to an article by Bob Lewis, entitled On the verge of collapse. The article compares business today to collapsed societies of the past referencing Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed.

Lewis makes a point that “compared to actual science, management science is little more than unsupported hand-waving.” While I agree with this point, I disagree that this is a cause for concern.

It is an interesting article and he is right about “management science.” It is an oxymoron, but who said business was a science. Business is an art. The closest thing we have to a true business science is economics and it is horribly flawed in comparison the physical sciences.

Take for example the subjective theory of value (which is the theory upon which value pricing is based) — a good or service’s value is whatever the subjective opinion of the buyer believes it to be. This is not exactly hard, like say the atomic number of an element is hard. This makes people crazy, especially cost accountants.

The problem is that this has led to even more bizarre behavior in our effort to “control” value. Hence, the billable hour was born. Ahh, we can now measure it! As VeraSage co-founder, Ron Baker, has said, “Yes, we can now be exactly wrong, instead of approximately correct.”

I don’t believe, as Bob Lewis does, that business’ lack of hard science is something we should be worried about it. As Peter Block states in his great book The Answer to How is Yes!, “Our obsession with measurement is really an expression of doubt. It is most urgent when we have lost faith in something. Doubt is fine, but no amount of measurement will assuage it.”

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