Evidence-based management (EBM) means making managerial decisions after familiarizing oneself with the best relevant and available scientific evidence (Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007, p. 84). This method of decision making is undisputed in the medicine field. However in the current business management world, EBM is mostly hypothetical (Thomas & Pring, 2004; Walshe & Randall, 2001).
Picture this. Your doctor recommends a new multi-vitamin that is gaining impressive reviews in the market. You decide to give the vitamin a try, and you begin to suffer adverse effects because this vitamin happens to interact with your current medication. Your doctor refuses to take responsibility for the recommendation, instead she says “I have been doing this for 20 years and this has never happened before! Plus! This vitamin is produced by one of the most famous doctors in the world!”
Would you consider it malpractice if a trusted practitioner makes recommendations that do not take into account the relevant and current knowledge in her field of expertise? Do you require the same vigilance in management practitioners, as you require of medical practitioners?
Unfortunately, the reliance on personal experience and popular ideas, is a very common practice in today’s world of management. This blog is a call for refocusing management education on evidence with a promise of better organizational outcomes. Decisions made based upon personal judgment and popular concepts, are prone to systematic errors and biases (Kahneman, 2011; clements, 2002; bazerman, 2009). Even practitioners and industry experts can make judgment errors, if not relying on a scientific method for decision making. Whether it concerns the credit card rating of bonds (Barnett-hart, 2009), growth of economy (loungani, 2000), political developments (Tetlock 2006) or medical diagnoses (choudry, fletcher, & Soumeri, 2005), comprehensive evidence is required for sound decision making. Strategic management is no different!
Below is a table re-purposed from the Academy of Management Learning & Education journal that compares a list of decision making features between the Management and Medicine disciplines. The object of this table is to draw attention to some of the challenges facing EBM, and highlight areas of improvement. Please take a look and contribute ideas and insights from your experience. If this topic is of interest, please reference the following blog for a snapshot of the challenges and misconceptions of evidence-based management.
Barnett-Hart, A. K. (2009). The story of CDO market meltdown: An empirical analysis. Retrieved from https://sites.hks.harvard.edu/m-rcbg/students/dunlop/2009-CDOmeltdown.pdf
Bazerman, M. H., & Moore, D. A. (2008). Judgment in managerial decision making (7th ed.). New York. NY: Wiley.
Choudhry, N. K., Fletcher, R. H., & Soumerai, S. B. (2005). Systematic review: The relationship between clinical experience and quality of health care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 142(4), 260-273.
Clements, M.P. (2002). An evaluation of the survey of professional forecasters probability distribution of expected inflation and output growth. Journal of Economic Literature. Retrieved from htt://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download? Doi=10.1.1.130.844&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. London, UK: Penguin Group.
Lougani, P. (2000, December 18). The arcane art of prediction recessions. Financial Times.
Mintzberg, H. (1990). The manager’s job: Folklore and fact. Harvard Business Review, 53(4), 163-176.
Rousseau, D., McCarthy, S., (2007). Educating managers from an evidence-based perspective. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 6(1), 84-101. doi: 10.5465/amle.2007.24401705
Thomas, G, & Pring, R. 2004. Evidence-based practice in education. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Tetlock, P.E. (2006). Expert political judgment: How good is it? How can we know? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Walsh, K., & Rundall, T. G. 2001. Evidence-based management: From theory to practice in health care. The Milbank Quarterly, 79: 429-457