Experts-shmexperts. Where’s the data?

I wrote yesterday about the kind of expertise that makes its case by relating what other experts and regular folk reckon. Once I started thinking about it, it struck me how similar this kind of expertise is to the kind relied on by the US government and military in Afghanistan. This is a topic that I thought a lot about while working for the Army, and that friends still working in that area did and still do write about. It’s also gotten a lot of attention recently since Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book about the war in Afghanistan came out. Rajiv criticizes the Obama administration for bringing its “C team” to Afghanistan. Continue reading


Experts that send us their reckons

I’ve been fascinated by the discussion on several blogs in recent weeks about the plagiarism and journalistic misconduct of science writer Jonah Lehrer (hereherehere). This morning I noticed a similar story about the well-known international affairs expert Fareed Zakaria. What piqued my interest, however, was not his plagiarism. In addition to plagiarizing a New Yorker article, apparently he also failed to cite a comment he used in one of his books by “the former Intel Corp. chief executive Andy Grove” that “America is in danger of following Europe down the tubes, and the worst part is that nobody knows it.” Continue reading

Organizations may have leaders, but organizational thinking shouldn’t

A few weeks ago Schaun wrote about the costs for an organization of prioritizing tactical over strategic thinking. That characterization seems right as far as it goes. However it’s also worth it to consider the subject as a problem with the distribution of ‘thinking’ across the organization. It’s too easy to come away from those kinds of examples with the lesson being that the manager or leader failed to see the big picture or wasn’t thinking strategically enough. It may be that the problem was that the manager or leader was doing ‘the thinking’ in the first place. Continue reading

Give data collection the respect it deserves

I attended a presentation on “a framework of corruption” the other day. Perhaps this is true for other areas of research as well, but researchers and analysts who look at corruption love to talk about frameworks and maps and indices and typologies. In a sense you can’t blame them. Corruption is about as vague a term in social research as is possible. To make talking and thinking about it useful you have to first break it into pieces. What kinds of corruption are there? Unfortunately, the typologies usually just involve other terms and ideas that are nearly as vague as the original word. Continue reading