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Do Business Theories, Principles And Models Stand The Test Of Time?

May 11, 2018

Do Business Theories, Principles And Models Stand The Test Of Time?

Greek philosophy was based upon the principle that it was not so much about getting the right answers, as asking the right questions. The main reason why any education begins with examining the founders is the fact that they were the first ones to raise the right questions, to form the right the settings or to recognise the right patterns. For example, Aristotle is the founder of science, not because of his research in biology and botany, but because of the way he categorised and grouped his findings. These are the basis of any scientific study. Though he caused a lot of controversy on the validity and credibility, Sigmund Freud is the founder of psychoanalysis because he was the first one to formulate the necessity of psychopathology treatment via therapist-patient sessions. Our school teachers or university professors want to make sure that we have learnt and understood the fundamentalists as they are the basis of our critical thinking and path to our further learning in any subject.

Things are slightly different when it comes to business studies and training industry. First of all, business education and training are relatively new. There are best practices and benchmarks. For example, though we like to analyse or to compare leadership styles with famous historical figures, the first essential work within this field took place in the mid of 20th century. Secondly, we experience constant economic and social changes which affect businesses, hence reflect what we learn or train on. Primarily due to these reasons, we often question ourselves on which theories, principles and models are fundamental, outdated or merely trendy.

Within the training environment, some of them date back to 1947; 70yrs old but still being trained/facilitated today:

  • 1947 - “Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze” Kurt Lewin's three stage theory of change
  • 1954 - “Hierarchy of Needs” Abraham Maslow’s  model for understanding human motivation
  • 1960 – “Theory X and Theory Y” Douglas McGregor’s understanding People's Motivations
  • 1969 - “S.W.O.T analysis” Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christensen, Kenneth Andrews and William D. Guth an analytical framework

This begs the questions why and are they still relevant in today’s business and education world?

The why is a hard question because all are relevant and even if they are trained/facilitated in their pure form, a user of the models/theories will see a difference of improvement in people, behaviour, and environmental growth. In many aspects, without them we wouldn’t be able to make greater improvements, and as Sir Isaac Newton was noted as saying, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants" in essence if any of these models hadn’t come about, then others may not have followed:

  • From 1947, Kurt Lewin's three stage theory of change the Management of Change models/theories have been continually developed or improved:
    • 1969 Kübler-Ross Five Stage Model
    • 1980s McKinsey 7 S Model
    • 1991 Bridges’ Transition Model
    • 1995 Kotter’s change management theory
    • 1996 ADKAR model
    • 2008 Nudge Theory
    • 2012 Accelerate “8-Step Process for Leading Change” – John Kotter expands on his change management theory

How about the progression of the following models/theories? What progression do you know or would you suggest?

  • From Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”  to ……?
  • From Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y; understanding People's Motivations to ……..?
  • From Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christensen, Kenneth Andrews and William D. Guth “S.W.O.T analysis” to …..?

Please share your thoughts and experiences, whether still delivering the past models/theories in the training environment or using something else or an amalgamation/hybrid of the models/theories.


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