Monday, June 11, 2007

Rummaging around in the references

I confess! I am now preparing a proposal to undertake a PhD.

I imagine that this, in educational terms, will compare to my MBA Dissertation rather in the same way that the Hobbit compares to the Lord of the Rings.

What I sense lies before me is the dubious honour of sacrificing every free moment for the next four to six years in the selfish pursuit of, first, a thorough background understanding in, then the pinpoint investigation of and finally the worldly-wise formation of noble yet unfinished conclusions around my given topic. And all written and spoken about in a way that must please minds so well-trained in viewing the world with rigour that in so pleasing them, my own mind must itself become changed and enlarged.

Ah yes, I am in this for an enlarged mind!

On the few occasions I have spoken with people about this, the first question asked is generally "a PhD on what"? It's at this point I can report I become uncustomarily tongue-tied and inarticulate. I usually blurt out something about management learning, but it feels like a paradox - the problem is that the more you look at the beginning, the more you see, and the more you see, the less you feel able to focus, so the further away you feel you are becoming from answering the 'on what' question.

But I am told this is normal, and the feeling on confusion will pass and be replaced by others, such as 'overwhelmed', 'intrigued', 'engaged' (if you're lucky), 'frustrated' and 'sick of the whole damn thing'. Can't wait.

Anyway, my topic (as worded in my head today) looks something like this -
'Creative Interventions in the development of cognitive capacities for strategic decision making in managers'
There, I've said it!

Already I can report progress in my learning. I have learnt that you don't have to read every word of every academic paper! In fact, you are stupid to do so. There will be some that you will read until you know them word-for-word and be glad that you do , and others that you will you know that well but wish hard that you didn't. But mostly you become a very discerning raider of the lost references, picking through the papers cited to pick out the gems and the links. I am likening it to the newspaper journalist who goes through the litter bins of the subject of their story to look for clues.

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