Management Half-Truths and Nonsense: How to Practice Evidence-Based Management

by Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert Sutton



The quest for information and research-based insight is an obsession in the capital markets. There is a veritable industry of analysts, investment bankers, portfolio managers, and investors who seek any informational advantage, which is one reason that academics who study finance have been recruited to work on Wall Street and with money managers. Yet the potential payoff for using valid evidence is even greater when it comes to managing organizations. At the same time, however, imitation is much slower and less effective in the world of management practices, in part because such practices depend on tacit knowledge and implementation skill, on knowing not just what to do but how to do it. In addition, management practices and logic resist copying because of the power of precedent and ideology. Most managers actually try to act on the best evidence. They follow the business press, buy business books, hire consultants, and attend seminars featuring business experts. While companies sometimes benefit from these efforts, there is surprisingly little rigorous use or serious appreciation of evidence-based management. This article explores these obstacles and offers guidelines to enable managers to better practice evidence-based management.

California Management Review

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Published at Berkeley Haas for more than sixty years, California Management Review seeks to share knowledge that challenges convention and shows a better way of doing business.

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