I have often discussed the role of science in our discipline and have argued that it has consistently played a back role to commercialisation and marketing. This is perhaps the greatest divide in the discipline.
One of the more important journals to read in this regard is the June 2006 Occupational and Organizational Psychologist. The invited article is entitled ‘What does it mean in practise’. Its premise is that the journal lacks relevance to practitioners. There are a series of rejoinders and supporting articles but none really hit the mark as much as this one.
The hypothesis that should be proposed is that practitioners are primarily interested in making money (independent of what works), not that scientists produce work that cannot be used. This has been illustrated in other blogs which discuss how science has been distorted to support ends. Commercial ends don’t so much ignore science but the overreaching demand to make money supersedes any other principles or the ability to draw impartial conclusions from science.
Competencies may be difficult to measure but will continue to be sold if people are buying it. Ipsative tests may be problematic for selection, but if it is a USP it will be sold. Validity may not be what it seems, but if packaged right, extending claims into the absurd, it will sell.
The authors in this journal are right to question the relevance of academic work, but the assumption that practitioners are focused on ‘real’ outcomes is not fully accurate. What I/O psychology really lacks is any formal and critical open debate. The failure of scientific bodies and academic institutions to set any standards has meant that the science of business psychology has been deemed insignificant to its finance (ala marketing). This is not because business psychology lacks usefulness but rather that because the discipline and guiding bodies lack standards and fortitude.