Performance Perspectives Blog

Science: fact or fiction

by | Sep 10, 2009

I understand that there is no universally agreed upon definition of what science is, and that’s probably a good thing. But I suspect most people believe that science results in facts. We sometimes hear something being “art and not science, suggesting that art is perhaps a bit more “squishy,” where we may be less likely to agree upon single answers, whereas science should result in objective results that yield universal agreement.

Yesterday, my son Chris and I were returning from a trip to Delaware when I asked him whether glass was a solid or liquid. He immediately responded “solid,” whereupon I told him that when I was in my high school physics class some 40+ years ago I was told that glass is a liquid because it “flows.” Well, he immediately turned to his trusty Blackberry to discover that this previously oft cited belief was wrong and that glass is classified as a solid. Okay, so science 40 years ago said “liquid,” while today it’s “solid.” What happened? Definitions, rules, research?

I then mentioned that when I was in school Pluto was the 9th planet, but now is no longer considered a planet at all. Again, his Blackberry provided a conflicting answer, stating that although there was consideration to remove Pluto from the ranks of planets, the decision apparently was reversed.

And so it looks like science is becoming more art itself!

If scientists can change their minds about glass, Pluto, and much more, shouldn’t we in performance measurement be prepared to change our minds, too? Unfortunately, many hold certain rules as almost sacrosanct, and refuse to consider that perhaps long standing traditions (such as the universal application of time-weighting) cannot be reconsidered. Fortunately, there are enough of us pushing for change that we are seeing some movement … slow, yes, but movement nonetheless.

p.s., did you know that yesterday, at 9 seconds after 9 minutes after 9 o’clock, it was 09:09:09 09/09/09? Won’t happen again for 100 years.

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