Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The value of being unreasonable

Of all the quotes about change that I posted yesterday, Shaw’s “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man” stuck with me the most, although the others certainly made a memorable impression. I love quotes that get me thinking. This one made me think about how I face and have faced the world and my workplace during the past few years. I don’t think I’ve been very reasonable. I have not always tackled the changes around me, perhaps because there were too many of them to deal with all at one time. I don’t adapt immediately to anything, but I can adapt over time, provided I can see the value in making the change. I don’t always see the value of doing so. Most changes have to do with the way research is done now; the new focus is on getting researchers to accept a research world that is defined by large research groups and extensive national and international group collaborations. A far cry from the research world of twenty years ago, where working in small groups, often alone, was the norm, at least in the environments where I worked. At that time, decisions were often made alone with perhaps some input and advice along the way; now, there are several meetings with multiple individuals to discuss specific issues before a decision is made concerning them. This new approach shifts responsibility for decisions from one person to several persons, which is advantageous in some respects; I can see the value in this approach. However, the loss of autonomy as an independent creative researcher and the dilution of responsibility are two major concerns that could have negative repercussions. It is easier to adapt to change, to fit in and to stop challenging, rather than to stand out or stand alone, to protest, or to challenge the voices of reason telling you to be reasonable. Or better yet, to be realistic. It remains to be seen whether the current trends and approaches will lead to increased productivity and effectiveness (the current definition of progress) or if unreasonableness is the better approach to ensure progress, as Shaw apparently believed. 

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