Bad Science

by Viv on November 3, 2009

If you’re struggling to think of what you’d like to receive or buy someone for Christmas, I’d recommend Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science. Amongst other things it successfully and perceptively: 

  • lampoons the nutritionist claims of the likes of Dr Gillian McKeith (whose only doctoral credentials appear to be having bought a mail-order doctorate from an American university);
  • highlights the tragedy caused by the South African government’s insistence that garlic was more effective at treating AIDS than retrovirals; and
  • examines how and why the media is so poor at representing science fairly.

So how does this relate specifically to L&D?

This book is an excellent introduction to how to use the scientific method intelligently.  Often in the work environment lies, lies and damn statistics are used to support arguments. In general, we are not very good at discerning what counts as good science and what has been skewed in a misleading way to advance particular agendas.

I found myself applying these principles to re-examine some of the statements that are commonly accepted as the truth in business e.g. “Generation Y people are not motivated by money”, “Sales people are only motivated by money”…if both of these were true presumably it would be impossible to recruit a salesperson born after 1980?

If reading this book encourages more people to challenge assumptions more effectively i.e. “on what basis do we know that this statement is true?”, perhaps we can look forward to working in even more successful, fair and ethical organisations.

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