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Friday, March 30, 2007

SSRN's Barbados Group

If you have signed up for SSRN's email abstracting service, you received an intriguing dispatch earlier this month.  The email was from SSRN co-founder Michael Jensen announcing a new SSRN abstracting journal.  The journal is entitled, "Barbados Group for Development of a New Paradigm of Performance Research Paper Series."  In the SSRN email announcement, Jensen stated:

This abstracting journal will post the work of the members of The Barbados Group, an international, self-selected group of scholars, consultants and practitioners whose intention is to create a New Paradigm of Performance, the working name for which is The Ontological Foundations of Performance. This new paradigm is based on the fundamental proposition that the performance of an individual, group or organization is a correlate of the way the world in which and on which that entity is performing "occurs" for that entity. Our new paradigm also offers access to this "occurring" through a specific use of a distinct aspect of language.

According to the announcement, the Group's work will establish "a new paradigm" that brings "a new understanding of the source of action that provides powerful access to elevating individual, group and organizational performance."  In providing the outlines of this new paradigm, Jensen stated: "The foundations of the new paradigm utilize the perspectives provided by the disciplines of neuroscience, complex adaptive systems science, rhetoric, and philosophy."  The Group's fourteen members have fascinatingly diverse backgrounds: there are a number of CEOs from consulting and educational firms; business school professors; a philosophy professor; and a senior astrophysics educator.

How did this Group come about?  I asked Professor Jensen about this, and he said:

The group came together because in one way or another we found we were interested in (what I call) the ontological foundations of human behavior and performance. None of us knew us all, but we collected together and have been meeting for almost 4 years now, over the phone about every month or so and in person about twice a year. Our first meeting was in Barbados, so therefore the name. Landmark Education has provided financial support for expenses.

The Barbados Group Abstracting Journal is available here.  Thus far there are twelve papers up, including A New Model of Leadership by Jensen and Allan Scherr of ALS Consulting.  Some of the papers are .pdf files of PowerPoint slides.  [As a side note, it is interesting to note SSRN's experimentation on this.  As the SSRN abstracts of these slide files note: "SSRN is experimenting with enabling the distribution of different types of files: slides, spreadsheets, video, etc. This is the third upload of a pdf file of Powerpoint slides. We are interested in our users desires to distribute files that go beyond word processing text files. You can communicate with me [Michael Jensen] on these issues via my email address below."]

Although the Barbados group is self-selected, Jensen encourages our readers to send drafts to him for possible inclusion in the journal.  From my vantage, this new research does not appear to draw on legal research.  However, there are certainly interdisciplinary applications.  One Barbados paper which is still in PowerPoint stage but which I look forward to reading is Jensen's The Puzzling State of Low-Integrity Relations Between Managers and Capital Markets

Posted by Matt Bodie on March 30, 2007 at 09:11 AM | Permalink


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I was having dinner tonight with an old college roommate who now works in fundraising for a university. I forget what we were actually talking about, but at some point he mentioned how very convoluted his job had become in the ten years since he’d started. As he saw it, fundraising is essentially about shaking someone’s hand and making a connection – as simple as that. Yet there’s always someone new with a new strategy that’s supposed to increase effectiveness or create some fantastic system to raise funds. In the end, without that connection and that handshake, the rest is pointless. Speaking as an academic, I can say the same is often true in education. Good teachers know how to teach students, and they know when they are being effective. Hire good teachers and let them do their jobs. Instead, we create vast and complicated systematic approaches for doing what we already essentially know how to do. I wonder if, in our information driven age, where we have endless statistics and data at our fingertips, we haven’t reached a moment when we are simply far too in love with analysis as a pursuit.

Posted by: Mobile Phones | Jun 13, 2007 12:58:00 AM

I think you are correct that this doesn’t seem directly relevant to law, but there are some crossovers with some of the theoretical work of writers such as Stanley Fish, who has called into question the meaning behind some of the words we typically use, and how those meanings can be fixed or flexible based on context. I’m referring specifically to those rhetorical arguments that appear on Jensen’s page. All of this is vaguely related to post-modern theory in general and the idea that words typically do not have a fixed meaning unless they are placed into a specific context that everyone agrees upon. I can see where a passing understanding of the principles they raise could be useful when applied to the language that exists specifically within a courtroom versus that which appears more commonly in everyday speech. Wouldn’t it make sense, for instance, that a lawyer act out one role before a judge (with it’s particular set of language) and another before the jury (with a somewhat different set of language)?

Posted by: Mobile Phones | May 28, 2007 7:42:22 PM

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