A very insightful post about the class of cultures between business people and academics. What is especially striking is the necessity of making decisions in business with incomplete information. 

The panel pointed out that in business decisions are often made on partial information. This can be uncomfortable for researchers who like to carefully collect evidence and do a considered analysis before offering an opinion. In fact, careful answers are what most academics hold most dear; you are not being an academic if you skip steps, leave out details or don’t entertain the possibility you are wrong.

What was initially described to be a ‘problem’ of the scientists was looking more like a culture clash – and this feeling only intensified when I asked my next question.

How was it possible for science graduates to be bad at team work? They grow up in a lab culture where sharing and collaborating are the norm. You can’t really DO science without collaborating at some level. After years and years of this even those who are not naturally disposed to play well with others will pick up some team work skills?

Well yes of course, the panelists replied. When you get a team of scientists working together in a non academic setting they collaborate like mad. They are the very model of best practice in team work.

So long as they are with other scientist types.

They just don’t get along with other people that well. ‘Other people’ being non academics and people who are not trained in the same discipline.

Scientists often found it difficult, the panelists explained, to communicate with non scientists. Communication involves much more than merely translating technical terms and concepts into non specialist speech. In the workplace telling someone a fact is not enough; scientists must learn to use the facts to persuade people to adopt a position or a new practice. Scientists do not usually have good skills in this because they get used to dealing with people who think the same way. This made sense to me – there is enough climate denial, anti vaccination crusades and anti-wind farm advocates out there, despite the best efforts of scientists to tell them the facts.

Facts do not, in fact, speak for themselves at all.

If you do not get good at persuading people with facts the communication problems multiply. The panelists gave examples of scientists criticising decisions they thought were wrong and asking uncomfortable questions they knew the other person couldn’t answer.

Basically acting like a normal academics.

via Academic on the inside? | The Thesis Whisperer.


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