Thursday, 6 August 2015

Travels, Things Quantum and Work Psychology

Villa in Riva del Garda, Italy. (Peter Johnson)
I'm starting to feel a little like a character in a 1960s euro-movie. I'm sat in bed in a hotel on the Italian riviera, auburn-haired woman asleep by my side (ok, it's the wife but let's not spoil the simile). We have driven here from Sheffield, via Operation Stack on the M20, delayed Eurotunnel trains and illegal immigrants in Calais. We stopped for a night in Troyes in  the Champagne department of France, and the next day drove to wonderful Geneva, Switzerland where we spent a lovely evening.

After queuing for ages to get through the Mont Blanc tunnel the following day, we made it into Italy and were presented with the challenge of the busy (and a little scary!) Friday afternoon A4 Autostrada traffic around Milan, Bergamo and Bresica. By early evening we had made it to our little hotel on the edge of Lake Garda.
There we enjoyed mainly relaxing - if somewhat Teutonic - times (the place was full of German holidaymakers), the highlight of which was lunch at the top of Monte Baldo. I was reminded of James Bond; specifically On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Without the snow. Departing three nights later, we drove southwards for four hours, and arrived on the coast. Tomorrow we drive from the Italian riviera, via Monte Carlo, to the French one and an overnight stop in Nice. One final interim stop awaits in Nimes, after which we will reach our destination - the regular holiday apartment in Montpellier - a jewel of a city in Languedoc, France. Holiday photos?

My work arrangements are such that every few years I can take extended vacations such as this. My manner of engaging with projects tends to be inspired and intense, and in grafting in this manner, I often skirt the periphery of burnout. Sojourns such as this are the perfect way in which to recharge my batteries. After a week of travel I'm already feeling considerably more human. The extent of my pre-vacation fatigue meant that I haven't given a great deal of bloggable thought to big ideas about work, society, technology and philosophy during last week's travels. I have however, been continuing my reading on the subject of quantum theory. I think that it is always important to spend time outside one's own subject area. As  result of this reading however I am finding that empirical (quantitative) work psychology is becoming increasingly irrelevant in my thinking. Personally, I think it is an epistemological nonsense. A dead end. An academic exercise mainly. The social systems which are our workplaces are of the nature of complex systems rather than mechanisms. How then, can these studies (even the replicable ones) where only a tiny fraction of the possible situational variables are measured, be generalised to be reflective of the full truth of human behaviour at work is beyond me. As I tweeted in one of my more sardonic moments: "Beep. We are machine. Beep. We react to stimuli. Beep. No free will".

No, empirical (quantitative) work psychology is stuck in an unhelpful paradigm. It needs to get messy and realise that the world of work is infinitely more messy than these kinds of studies suggest. In my opinion, the discipline has at least two routes open to it: work neuroscience (if it wants to keep to the materialist and reductionist gestalt) and theoretical work psychology, which is almost work philosophy, and which perhaps one day will take us to achievements approaching the magnitude of those of the early twentieth century physicists.

I could write a lot more on this topic but it's sunny and hot outdoors, so for now its ciao as they say around these parts!

No comments:

Post a Comment