The Learning Cycle of Academic Research = Formal PDCA

An excerpt from tomorrow’s podcast with David Wilkinson, founder, and editor of The Oxford Review

Note: This is a transcription of an interview. It has not gone through a professional editing process and may contain grammatical errors or incorrect formatting.

Joe Dager: I do not think most people understand the rigors of academic research. Is there a way that you could explain that briefly?

David Wilkinson: We can do that. The idea of research is, it is meant to be as unbiased, or as objective as possible. There’s no such thing as I would say completely object because we are human beings. However, there are steps that we can take to make sure that what we are doing isn’t very biased. We want to make sure that the research is both what we call valid in other words that we are using the right kind of instruments for that piece of research and it is reliable. So that we can repeat it and we can see whether those findings are repeatable and that is what we are looking for, we are looking for rigor within the research. What we find is we do the research, we publish the research, and the reason for publishing the research in an academic journal is for other academics to look at it and say, yes, we agree with it, or no, there are holes in it, there are weaknesses in this research. David Wilkinson

It is by that kind of peer review process that academics get better and better and better at doing the research and making sure that the researching things have like got some gravity and usefulness. The peer review process is you submit the paper to a decent journal, and then other academics will have a look at it. They will criticize it. They will say, hang on, this is not measuring what you think it is measuring or that your statistics are flawed, or the whole premise is or some other evidence that you have not looked at and it kind of keeps those academics on our toes as it were.

Now in non-peer review journals like the Harvard Business Review and magazines and things like that that doesn’t happen, there’s an editorial they are trying to sell a magazine. Peer-reviewed papers on the other hand, what they are trying to do is make sure that the research is the best research because they want to publish the best research. Therefore we have this reviewing process as peer reviewing process, and basically, it is kind of criticizing you. It is quite a tough process particularly if you are just starting out. I have been researching for years, and I still have papers that go in and come back with some horrible comments on them. So you have just got to get used to it.

Joe Dager:  That sounds a lot like, and I have a Lean background, but it sounds like the 8-step problem-solving process, PDCA. You go through that iteration of solving a problem developing countermeasures. From a business standpoint it is the PDCA process, I mean PDCA been around since Aristotle. There are many similarities here.

David Wilkinson: Absolutely. Both Lean and research are learning processes. We are trying to get better and better and better with lean we are trying to reduce waste if it is within an organization and get the processes better, performing better, get us performing better and research is the same. It is a learning process we are trying to get better and better. We are trying to produce better and better research that is dealing with the things that need to be done. So we have this kind of critical approach to it, and it keeps you on your toes because you are not going to get published if you produce a load of rubbish whereas with a magazine or something like that you are going to get published if it sounds good.

About David Wilkinson: David is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world’s leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and researchers at several universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advantage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillan.

The Oxford Review aim is to get the very latest, just published, peer-reviewed research to you in brief, understandable, practical, and useful way to digest briefings; no jargon, no overload. And make you the most impressively up-to-date person in the room.

Disclaimer: At the time of this writing, I have a working relationship with The Oxford-Review