Business Science - an Oxymoron?


20 January 2005

A challenge with using scientific principles in a business context is that the system, i.e. the business world, is neither isolated nor in equilibrium. A soon as a new idea is formulated, some businesses will try to adopt it or defend against it, thereby changing their execution or strategy. In other words, the process of studying the system alters it, in contrast to the assumptions in the scientific method (and no, it isn’t like quantum mechanics).

The scientific method is based on the repeatable experiment which is used to categorize and generalize insights, leading to new predictions. But it is difficult to see how we can use the observe–predict–confirm sequence of the method in business: there can (hopefully) only be so many Enrons.

But then the question is: are we looking at the wrong problem or do we need a fundamentally new method of analysis?