Paging Professor Kuhn….

Initially, it sounds like a lot of hot air over what labels we want to apply to ourselves. Are we an applied discipline or a reference discipline of our own — who cares? We discover and create knowledge of sufficient interest and utility that the field perpetuates itself. Good enough.

Figure 1, p. 3: I doubt the arrows end in our little cloud. Even if the arrows didn’t go back to any other academic field, IS still would fire arrows out to the real world. Maybe IS is simply the ultimate synthesizer: we take all the information from the other fields, mash it together, find out what happens, and produce the results that the rest of the world can use. The field is easily both a consumer and producer of knowledge.

(One crazy philosophical tangent: if IS consumes knowledge and produces knowledge, is it subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics? It would appear that knowledge creation defies entropy.)

We know what we’re doing is valuable, don’t we? This article doesn’t advance knowledge in the field so much as help us justify our work to ourselves or to members of other disciplines. I suppose one could argue that the article promotes research by soothing our nerves and giving us confidence, but that’s meta-stuff, not actual content.

p.5: Markus (1983) proves the arrows do run both ways (as Bakersville and Myers show in Figure 2, p.7). And I’m glad to see that we have scholarship establishing that change is not viewed inherently good and that resistance to change is not inherently bad.

We get to the real meat and potatoes when Bakersville and Myers (pp. 8-9) call on IS scholars to broaden their focus. Doesn’t such a call run counter to the increasing specialization found at each step up the academic ladder and through the evolution of the universities? Rather revolutionary… and certainly welcomed by this author.

As the authors point, out, if we in IS are to broaden our perspective, we must be met by a similar broad-mindedness in other fields. If we’re asking for publication in non-IS journals, we might run into a buzzsaw of specialization and even territoriality from other disciplines. We almost have to evangelize, selling other disciplines not only on the value of IS itself, not only on the validity of IS’s status as a reference discipline, but also on this paradigm-shifting worldview of top science as broad and interdisciplinary, not specialized and insular. (Bakersville and Myers themselves use the words “paradigm shift” on p. 11.) At that point, we are no longer IS experts; we are philosophers of science. Sounds like fun….

To evangelize this worldview, we must speak in the vernacular. We need to carry our ideas to other disciplines in language common to all. We need to produce research that the uninitiated can take from the shelf and get on first reading. Perhaps we are already well-suited to that task. If we have been producing applications for the business world, we should be used to translating our academic exertions into bare-bones, bottom-line explanations that MBAs can understand. If MBAs can understand us, anyone can.

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