Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Debunking of Hawthorne effect

For many decades, management schools have been exposing the students to a study whose findings have been assumed to be as clear as daylight. Productivity studies undertaken in the Hawthorne plant of a telephone-parts factory were supposed to have "conclusively proved" that the very act of being experimented upon modifies the behaviour of the subjects. That is, if a child knows that its parent is watching it studying, the child is likely to study better or atleast differently.

The finding is apparently intuitively logical and is perhaps true in most situations. Now two economists in the University of Chicago have unearthed that the Hawthorne study was not done rigorously enough to invest its finding with credibility. This is a serious blow to management thinkers. That some "finding" can survive in the management lore for more than 80 years with a near-unanimous support only to be doubted later on is as intriguing as it is comic.

No comments: