Workplace Review is nothing if not broad in its coverage of work. In its current issue, Vol 10 No 3, David Nikolas Brodsky compares academic studies from the discipline of organisational behaviour, and is led to consider the ways in which knowledge itself is gained and organised.
Bedevilled by all manner of “inherent weaknesses” including the “cherry-picking” of evidence, “subjective bias”, “a priori knowledge”, being too context-specific – academic studies today often yield “very little generalisable knowledge”, argues Brodsky in “A Mere Reflection on Knowledge and Humility”. More, truth itself may be obscured, he suggests.
This flawed pursuit of knowledge is connected with its institutionalisation. Overseen by “establishments”, the search for knowledge is “organised into sciences”; disciplines have their “inherent norms … encapsulated within their accepted paradigms” (“fixed assemblage of thought patterns and assumptions considered to be legitimate”) with their “accepted methods”.
Brodsky says this approach “engenders general efficiency and order”, but also “some fragmentation”.
This manner in which the search for knowledge proceeds, is arguably attributable to its social context:
The capitalisation of knowledge over the past century has necessarily led to its protection under systems of intellectual property. … the truth has become less important than a new angle. Now, even an angle is capitalised upon by way of the need for academics to secure their positions and futures by recognising some opportunity for intellectual property, staking a claim to it, and then selling it as a service (even if it does not constitute any real truth). This has culminated in knowledge ownership guised as knowledge management, the peril of which being that (capital “T”) “Truth” has become a higher priority than the truth (which requires much more digging).
With knowledge viewed as the accumulation of any other resource to be exploited, it is unsurprising notions such as protectionism and nationalism preclude the sharing of knowledge freely and openly, suggests Brodsky.
While conceding “the more Truths found, the closer to the truth we may be”, he asks whether there may not be a better way. At the risk of “being branded an idealist”, he considers a “best practice” for the pursuit of knowledge and scientific innovation may “require only fundamental ingredients … curiosity, data openness, testing rigour, critical thought, humility, and honesty”.
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