Academics, PCT, Influence, etc

[Fred Nickols (980405.1345 EDT)]

I've been loosely following two discussion threads (Jeff Vancouver et al and
Bruce Gregory et al), both of which have to do with gaining wider acceptance
for PCT. Bruce and Jeff both seem bent on doing so by PCT to non-PCTers in
ways that will strike some responsive chords. Unfortunately, if I read the
reactions on CSG correctly, this dilutes and distorts the truth of PCT.

It would seem that gaining wider recognition for PCT calls for a different
approach. If, as some on this list suggest, explications of PCT will not be
accorded acceptance owing to some kind of "gate guarding" behavior by those
currently in control of publications, trying to penetrate the groves of
academe is possibly the wrong strategy. Instead, it might make more sense
to focus on practical applications, obtaining some undeniable successes and,
later, when asked to explain, point to PCT. That, I can assure you, will
generate some real interest on the part of academics.

I spend a lot of time with academics and with those concerned with academics
and academe. Many of them are extremely worried and their worries can be
summed up in a single word: relevance. More precisely, they are concerned
that they are losing their relevance. The value of college degrees is being
called into question, especially in relation to rapidly-changing bodies of
knowledge such as engineering and information technology (meaning, of
course, that our wonderfully sluggish educational establishment is woefully
behind the times and hasn't a chance of catching up). As one chancellor and
heavy-hitter in the academic world pointed out, accredited institutions
won't have much of an edge if accreditation itself becomes meaningless.

So why not focus on practical applications and build a following there.
Once that happens, you have a "pull-through" force being exerted on those
who control what does and doesn't get published in "serious" journals.
Without it, you're stuck with a "push-through" strategy and most people I
know will readily agree that, even with superior force, that's a difficult
strategy. Without superior force, it's impossible.

Just a thought...

Regards,

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm

[From Bruce Gregory (980405.1441 EDT)]

Fred Nickols (980405.1345 EDT)

I've been loosely following two discussion threads (Jeff Vancouver et al

and

Bruce Gregory et al), both of which have to do with gaining wider

acceptance

for PCT. Bruce and Jeff both seem bent on doing so by PCT to non-PCTers in
ways that will strike some responsive chords. Unfortunately, if I read the
reactions on CSG correctly, this dilutes and distorts the truth of PCT.

Actually, I model my approach on the one taken by St. Patrick. It might be
argued that if he worried too much about diluting and distorting the truth
of Christianity, Ireland would still be pagan today. On the other hand, some
might think this outcome desireable. You pays your money and you makes your
choice...

Bruce

[From Bill Powers (980406.0300 MST)]

Fred Nickols (980405.1345 EDT) --

It would seem that gaining wider recognition for PCT calls for a different
approach.

I agree with you, but I'm not sure what the approach should be.

If, as some on this list suggest, explications of PCT will not be
accorded acceptance owing to some kind of "gate guarding" behavior by those
currently in control of publications, trying to penetrate the groves of
academe is possibly the wrong strategy. Instead, it might make more sense
to focus on practical applications, obtaining some undeniable successes and,
later, when asked to explain, point to PCT. That, I can assure you, will
generate some real interest on the part of academics.

The interest, however, will appear only if the "successes" are defined in
terms that are recognizeable by the academics. This is a dilemma, because
the problems that academics are trying to solve are defined by their
existing frames of reference.

So why not focus on practical applications and build a following there.
Once that happens, you have a "pull-through" force being exerted on those
who control what does and doesn't get published in "serious" journals.
Without it, you're stuck with a "push-through" strategy and most people I
know will readily agree that, even with superior force, that's a difficult
strategy. Without superior force, it's impossible.

Yes. Ed Ford's "RTP" is an example of an attempt to go directly for an
useful result, in the hope that others will be impressed and want to know
more. So far, it seems that the people who are the most impressed and who
want to learn the most about PCT are those who have admitted the failure of
other approaches or who just don't know anything about other approaches.
There have been few defections from other schools of thought, although the
ones that have occurred are quite remarkable.

I have had an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that once a person has
become caught up in some other school of thought for a sufficient length of
time, it becomes essentially impossible to abandon it and learn PCT. The
best that can be done is to seek a kind of compromise, in which PCT can be
understood only in relation to ideas that haven't come up in the other
system of thinking, and so don't conflict with anything that has already
been accepted. Where PCT conflicts with what is already believed, PCT
loses. Either its implications are flatly rejected, or they're manipulated
until they seem to agree with the older views and explanations.

This isn't just a matter of politics or expediency or self-protection. If
one has developed some other point of view sufficiently and held it long
enough, its origins are lost, and one can no longer remember what it was
like not to believe it. In many cases there are standard modes of argument
(like those that people used to raise against purpose in behavior) whose
validity is never questioned, or even thought about. People in this
situation are, I think, lost to PCT. No matter how much they might want to
understand this new view, they can't do it without dismantling the entire
basis of their present understanding -- which they can no longer remember.

If anybody can think of a way to deal with this problem, I'm all ears. But
to cite the original thought behind my post of a couple of days ago, it
seems that progress in PCT may be a matter of waiting for the right funerals.

Best,

Bill P.

[From Fred Nickols (980406.1730 EDT)]

Bill Powers (980406.0300 MST)

Fred Nickols (980405.1345 EDT) --

It would seem that gaining wider recognition for PCT calls for a different
approach.

Bill:

I agree with you, but I'm not sure what the approach should be.

I think, in general, it's what I proposed (see below)...

If, as some on this list suggest, explications of PCT will not be
accorded acceptance owing to some kind of "gate guarding" behavior by those
currently in control of publications, trying to penetrate the groves of
academe is possibly the wrong strategy. Instead, it might make more sense
to focus on practical applications, obtaining some undeniable successes and,
later, when asked to explain, point to PCT. That, I can assure you, will
generate some real interest on the part of academics.

Bill:

The interest, however, will appear only if the "successes" are defined in
terms that are recognizeable by the academics. This is a dilemma, because
the problems that academics are trying to solve are defined by their
existing frames of reference.

I don't agree with the statement above. My point was that if practical
successes can be achieved and then explained using PCT instead of some
more widely accepted theory, the academics will have to pay attention.
If they don't, the businesspeople who are interested in the practical
applications will begin to question the academics and that is clear and
present danger to the academics' power base.

What I'm suggesting is that practical successes accounted for by their
perpetrators using a different theory base forces an examination of that
theory base and it can't simply be one of discounting the new theory base
on the basis of its lack of fit with the old one. Skinner didn't wow
the academic world; people who believed in operant conditioning pulled
off some startling successes in the world of work and that gave the
behaviorists' some starting credibility. The limits of that model were
quickly reached and behaviorism has since fallen into a stagnant niche
if not downright disfavor.

Fred: (continuing in the vein above)

So why not focus on practical applications and build a following there.
Once that happens, you have a "pull-through" force being exerted on those
who control what does and doesn't get published in "serious" journals.
Without it, you're stuck with a "push-through" strategy and most people I
know will readily agree that, even with superior force, that's a difficult
strategy. Without superior force, it's impossible.

Bill:

Yes. Ed Ford's "RTP" is an example of an attempt to go directly for an
useful result, in the hope that others will be impressed and want to know
more. So far, it seems that the people who are the most impressed and who
want to learn the most about PCT are those who have admitted the failure of
other approaches or who just don't know anything about other approaches.
There have been few defections from other schools of thought, although the
ones that have occurred are quite remarkable.

I have had an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that once a person has
become caught up in some other school of thought for a sufficient length of
time, it becomes essentially impossible to abandon it and learn PCT. The
best that can be done is to seek a kind of compromise, in which PCT can be
understood only in relation to ideas that haven't come up in the other
system of thinking, and so don't conflict with anything that has already
been accepted. Where PCT conflicts with what is already believed, PCT
loses. Either its implications are flatly rejected, or they're manipulated
until they seem to agree with the older views and explanations.

Again, I disagree with your assessment above. I think people are perfectly
willing to abandon their favorite theories -- when and if something better
comes along. The point of the practical applications is to demonstrate the
presence of something better. However, absent any practical applications to
dislodge entrenched models and mindsets, matters will proceed pretty much as
you describe them above and below. Again, the point of practical
applications is to move the argument from the plane of only theoretical
arguments and experimental results (which few people trust anyway because so
darn many scientists have made such a habit of doctoring or at least
distorting the data).

Bill:

This isn't just a matter of politics or expediency or self-protection. If
one has developed some other point of view sufficiently and held it long
enough, its origins are lost, and one can no longer remember what it was
like not to believe it. In many cases there are standard modes of argument
(like those that people used to raise against purpose in behavior) whose
validity is never questioned, or even thought about. People in this
situation are, I think, lost to PCT. No matter how much they might want to
understand this new view, they can't do it without dismantling the entire
basis of their present understanding -- which they can no longer remember.

I think the entire problem has been wrongly framed. I don't view it as a
matter of persuading one group of academics of the theoretical goodness of
PCT. There's nothing down that path except heartache and headache and a
lot of frustration. I see it instead as a problem in the diffusion of
innovation. That is a sometimes "wicked" problem as they say but it is
definitely a manageable one.

Bill:

If anybody can think of a way to deal with this problem, I'm all ears. But
to cite the original thought behind my post of a couple of days ago, it
seems that progress in PCT may be a matter of waiting for the right funerals.

I've said what I have to say: treat it as a problem in the diffusion of
innovation and stop viewing it as an academic argument.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm

[From Bruce Nevin (980407.0827 EDT)]

Fred Nickols (980406.1730 EDT) --

I think people are perfectly
willing to abandon their favorite theories -- when and if something better
comes along. The point of the practical applications is to demonstrate the
presence of something better.

To serve this purpose, a practical application would have to function in a
way that cannot be explained by conventional linear-causation theories. It
would best be an application that has been sought on a conventional
linear-causative basis without success. A robot that could navigate solo in
an unpredictable environment would get attention. Or it could be something
that hasn't been in the "I wish" spotlight but once it's seen people say
"Yeah, hey, what a great thing! I'll take twenty!"

Rick's wonderful demos meet the first criterion but not the second. They
show things that our audience didn't know they were looking for, and they
show things they don't want to see. Show them something everybody really
would like to see, that the huffmeisters with all the funding haven't been
able to produce.

So what you're calling for is PCT-based inventors. Maybe we should check
out links at http://inventors.miningco.com and
Registered & Protected by MarkMonitor and so on, or contact places like
the Houston Inventors Forum http://www.giantsquid.com/index2.htm or L.J.
Kamm http://www.ljkamm.com/inventor.htm and get some inventors involved in
CSG. Or maybe an inventor is lurking among us even now.

  Bruce Nevin

[From Bill Powers (980407.0857 MST)]

Fred Nickols (980406.1730 EDT)--

The interest, however, will appear only if the "successes" are defined in
terms that are recognizeable by the academics. This is a dilemma, because
the problems that academics are trying to solve are defined by their
existing frames of reference.

I don't agree with the statement above. My point was that if practical
successes can be achieved and then explained using PCT instead of some
more widely accepted theory, the academics will have to pay attention.

What sort of practical successes did you have in mind?

If they don't, the businesspeople who are interested in the practical
applications will begin to question the academics and that is clear and
present danger to the academics' power base.

Don't you think that PCT might constitute a clear and present danger to the
current way of doing business, too?

I have had an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that once a person has
become caught up in some other school of thought for a sufficient length of
time, it becomes essentially impossible to abandon it and learn PCT. The
best that can be done is to seek a kind of compromise, in which PCT can be
understood only in relation to ideas that haven't come up in the other
system of thinking, and so don't conflict with anything that has already
been accepted. Where PCT conflicts with what is already believed, PCT
loses. Either its implications are flatly rejected, or they're manipulated
until they seem to agree with the older views and explanations.

Again, I disagree with your assessment above. I think people are perfectly
willing to abandon their favorite theories -- when and if something better
comes along.

Are you now convinced that there's no such thing as reinforcement or
reward? Are you now willing to give up the goal of motivating people to be
more productive in the workplace?

Best,

Bill P.

Bruce Nevin (980407.0827 EDT)

Fred Nickols (980406.1730 EDT) --

Fred:

I think people are perfectly
willing to abandon their favorite theories -- when and if something better
comes along. The point of the practical applications is to demonstrate the
presence of something better.

Bruce N:

To serve this purpose, a practical application would have to function in a
way that cannot be explained by conventional linear-causation theories. It
would best be an application that has been sought on a conventional
linear-causative basis without success. A robot that could navigate solo in
an unpredictable environment would get attention. Or it could be something
that hasn't been in the "I wish" spotlight but once it's seen people say
"Yeah, hey, what a great thing! I'll take twenty!"

I'm inclined to agree with you but with a slight reservation. My life
suggests to me that people of all stripes have explanations at hand for
just about everything. These explanations, however, range from very
weak to very strong ("the devil made me do it" to "the car is maintained
within the lane as result of perceptions being kept in alignment with
reference conditions"). So, "Yeah, I agree, but..."

On the second count, I agree wholeheartedly. Post-its is the best example
I know.

Rick's wonderful demos meet the first criterion but not the second. They
show things that our audience didn't know they were looking for, and they
show things they don't want to see. Show them something everybody really
would like to see, that the huffmeisters with all the funding haven't been
able to produce.

They are also accountable for via other worldviews. That's the problem,
and it doesn't make a bit of difference if Rick et al buy those other
worldviews or not. As long as others do, they'll explain away Rick's
demos using their own worldviews.

So what you're calling for is PCT-based inventors. Maybe we should check
out links at http://inventors.miningco.com and
Registered & Protected by MarkMonitor and so on, or contact places like
the Houston Inventors Forum http://www.giantsquid.com/index2.htm or L.J.
Kamm http://www.ljkamm.com/inventor.htm and get some inventors involved in
CSG. Or maybe an inventor is lurking among us even now.

I dunno 'bout those links you list but I think PCT is in need of inventors
and popularizers. Case in point: objectives. Most of the early work on
objectives (the formal stuff about verbs, objects, conditions, standards,
and so on) was done by Ralph Tyler at Ohio State University. Later on it
was popularized by the likes of Peter Drucker, George Odiorne, and Robert
F. Mager. Karen Brethower wrote the seminal paper on improving human
performance via non-training interventions (titled "Maintenance: The
Neglected Half of Behavior Change"). We need inventors, yes, but we also
need popularizers.

My sense of things is that Bruce G would like to be a popularizer. What I
don't see when I look about are the would-be inventors. Until they show up,
popularizers won't do us much good. In the meantime, Bill Powers will keep
on playing Ralph Tyler -- doing the seminal work and not getting much in
the way of respect except from a small coterie of devoted followers (chief
among whom, of course, is Rick Marken).

Oh well...gotta go do the noblesse oblige thing at a company function.

Bye...

Regards,

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm

[From Fred Nickols (980408.1707 EDT)] --

Bill:

The interest, however, will appear only if the "successes" are defined in
terms that are recognizeable by the academics. This is a dilemma, because
the problems that academics are trying to solve are defined by their
existing frames of reference.

Fred:

I don't agree with the statement above. My point was that if practical
successes can be achieved and then explained using PCT instead of some
more widely accepted theory, the academics will have to pay attention.

Bill:

What sort of practical successes did you have in mind?

Well, if I can demonstrate more effective approaches to improving human
performance in on-the-job settings, or developing better training, or
communicating expectations in a more efficacious manner, all of which are
different and better as a result of applying PCT, I would count those as
practical successes. The neat thing about all this is that the people who
count in this (not the academics), if presented with two conflicting
explanations of a success story, one by the person who is credited with
bringing about the success, and one by an argumentative academician, the
people who count will tend to believe the person who pulled it off (unless,
of course, the explanation is some off-the-wall explanation such as "little
green men from Mars gave me a helping hand").

Fred:

If they [the academics] don't [pay attention], the businesspeople who are
interested in the practical applications will begin to question the
academics and that is clear and present danger to the academics' power base.

Bill:

Don't you think that PCT might constitute a clear and present danger to the
current way of doing business, too?

Nope, not really. A few die-hard authoritarians will have to be dealt with,
but I don't think PCT poses much of a threat to the current way of doing
business. Indeed, it might be the perfect platform from which to present a
feasible alternative to coercive management practices. Let's see if I can
explain.

Most work is now of the knowledge variety, which is to say it is information
or knowledge-based, not materials-based. At a practical level, this means
that the person doing the work has to figure out what to do instead of carry
out some prefigured routine. (Rick Marken: Stay out of this. I'm well
aware that, from a PCT perspective, all responses are configured, but that's
not my point and I think you know that.) The shift to knowledge work took
place in large measure between 1920 and 1980. Knowledgeable managers and
executives are well aware that this shift brought with it a shift in the
locus of control over work and working. When work and working were largely
visible aspects of what we die-hard behaviorists call "overt behavior," any
number of options existed for obtaining compliance on the part of employees
with the prescribed work methods. Raw, mean-natured coercion, by the way,
was only one. Softer forms, such as negotiation, incentives, etc., were
also available. But, in the end, the end sought was in fact compliance.
Orders could be issued and, push come to shove, compliance could be enforced.

Things ain't that way anymore and most people I know know that. Plainly
put, orders can't be issued anymore and compliance is no longer the aim.

Management has been scratching its collective head for the past 30 years,
trying to figure out what to do. The responses have been marginal at best.
One response has been to shift the locus of managerial control away from
individual effort to the process level. That, however, begs the question
unless you're substituting machines for people because the process still
breaks into tasks performed by individuals. Incentives, empowerment,
self-directed teams, all these and more have been tried. To some extent
they work and to some extent they don't. It's all very much a mixed bag.

Now one thing that has stayed with me ever since I first read B:CP back in
1975 is that collective human endeavor hangs squarely on two factors:

  First, you have to have a set of shared reference conditions. By that,
  I mean individual reference conditions that are sufficiently similar
  that people won't be working at cross purposes.

  Second, you have to get people to adopt these and work toward them.
  Enter here some pretty conventional management and communications
  methods (with the caveat that most people screw them up in use).

Summed up, I see focusing attention on establishing and adopting shared
reference conditions as the sine qua non of collective human endeavor.

I had hoped that, given PCT's emphasis on reference conditions, that PCTers
might have something to say about the establishment and adoption of shared
reference conditions. That seems not to be the case.

Bill:

I have had an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that once a person has
become caught up in some other school of thought for a sufficient length of
time, it becomes essentially impossible to abandon it and learn PCT. The
best that can be done is to seek a kind of compromise, in which PCT can be
understood only in relation to ideas that haven't come up in the other
system of thinking, and so don't conflict with anything that has already
been accepted. Where PCT conflicts with what is already believed, PCT
loses. Either its implications are flatly rejected, or they're manipulated
until they seem to agree with the older views and explanations.

Again, I disagree with your assessment above. I think people are perfectly
willing to abandon their favorite theories -- when and if something better
comes along.

Are you now convinced that there's no such thing as reinforcement or
reward? Are you now willing to give up the goal of motivating people to be
more productive in the workplace?

If by "reinforcement" and "reward" you mean something I can do that will
successfully manipulate the behavior of others in accordance with my own
aims and objectives without regard for their aims and objectives, your
question is pointless: I never have believed that.

However, I know that I behave in ways that I would label as "rewarding"
people, and attempting to "reinforce" behavior. I also know that my
attempts to reward people and reinforce behavior might or might not work out
the way I want them to. I temper these efforts with my view of people as
autonomous agents. I deal with them (literally, most of the time), I don't
try to manipulate them via behavior mod and all that jazz. That stuff
simply doesn't work reliably with moderately intelligent people.

Your second question is pointless too: I've never had the goal of
motivating people to be more productive -- in the workplace or anywhere
else. I believe people have to motivate themselves -- assuming there is
such a thing as "motivation" (which I doubt, by the way, because I believe
"motivation" is a term we invented to account for observable patterns in the
behavior of other people for which we lacked a better, more powerful
explanation).

I happen to believe that PCT offers the best account of individual human
behavior I've ever come across. I also happen to believe that, in the
business world, collective human endeavor -- the interacting behaviors of
many people in a shared-purpose context -- generally matters more than the
behavior of any one individual (although not always).

Anyway, what I'm doing here on CSG is trying to figure out how to apply PCT
to the kinds of problems I encounter in the workplace. You and Rick and
others can tell me that it doesn't, but I don't believe that. I know...way
down inside me somewhere...that this stuff applies and I'm gonna damn well
figure out how. So there...

Regards,

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm

Phil Runkel on 9 April replying to Fred Nickols's of 8 April:

        You can _offer_ people a new way of moving toward what they want.
You can also make occasions for the people who work with person A to tell
person A whether they will help him move in the new way, thus enabling him
or her to perceive less risk in doing so than would otherwise be the
case. M. R. Weisbord, writing in his book "Productive Workplaces" after
half a lifetime of consulting experience, says that the best thing a
consultant can do is to make it easier for people to do what they were
ready to do anyway. I know that has subtleties, but I certainly agree
with the direction he points.

[From Fred Nickols (980409.1855)] --

Rick Marken (980408.1435)]

Bill Powers (980407.0857 MST) to Fred Nickols (980406.1730 EDT)--

Don't you think that PCT might constitute a clear and present
danger to the current way of doing business, too?

Well, Fred? Don't you?

Already answered.

Are you now convinced that there's no such thing as reinforcement or
reward? Are you now willing to give up the goal of motivating
people to be more productive in the workplace?

Well, Fred? Are you?

Already answered.

Regards,

Fred Nickols
The Distance Consulting Company
nickols@worldnet.att.net
http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm