“In great matters men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small matters, as they are.” ― Gamaliel Bradford
How many incidents of plagiarism do you think you have seen since reading the first post in this series? Think you have seen some key language or original ideas misrepresented as the author’s, in blog posts or even methodologies? In the first post of this series we looked at why this is dangerous for our profession.
Why is this happening now?
The internet has become the town square. It is now the first and sometimes only place we go for information. The control, and to some extent, the quality of publishing has been exploded. High standards of journalism (such as citations and fact checking) exist only at the highest end of the spectrum.
In the town square, reputable sites line the street, like banks in the good ole times, but in the middle is a raucous haggle of merchants. It’s pretty ugly when you think of it this way. There may be quality product (perhaps like organic butter in the farmers’ market) in the marketplace but the pressure to drive the price down also drives the ugly side of competitive behavior―cheap imitations and knock-offs.
How’s the view from up there?
We’ve all heard the expression, “standing on the shoulders of those who went before,” but this noble notion seems to be offered almost exclusively in service of academics and founding thought leaders whose seminal work was completed prior to the ’80s.
There seems to be an unspoken, jagged line in time where work published before approximately 1980 gets referenced widely (for example Kurt Lewin, Dr. Kübler-Ross, and Edgar Schein, to name a few) and anything after that is only dimly acknowledged.
I believe there are four reasons for this:
1. History meets history in the making
Post WW1 through to the early 1980s was perhaps the heyday of industrial psychology and saw the emergence of both process and consulting paradigms. For an excellent review of this period, check out Chapter 3 of “A Brief History of Organization Change” in “Organizational Change: Theory and Practice” (W. Warner Burke, SAGE Publications, Inc., 2011). Tremendous progress was made in understanding organizations, as well as in establishing the foundational models of change management that we know today.
In the 1980s, much of this foundational theory of both individual and organizational change was beginning to be codified into processes and methodologies. This is continuing, happening in real time, and the pace is accelerating.
There are many brilliant people working in this space. Some of these thought leaders are better known than others. You might think that those who are renowned professors, who have published books, done speaking circuits, etc. might be protected from IP theft by virtue of their reputation. Strangely, not so. They are perhaps more susceptible.
2. Battle of the Ego: original thought vs. marketing
Much of the material published on change management today is actually marketing. In fact, many books are also nothing more than marketing.
The agenda of this material is naturally to sell the products and services of the author. There is an automatic bias: promote the author, demote, or exclude competitors. I say, caveat emptor.
3. The deafening silence
“Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.” —Henri-Frederic Amiel
There is another unspoken dynamic at play. I think of it as my mother taught it to me: “If you don’t have something positive to say, don’t say anything at all.”
There is a deafening silence when it comes to the critique of new ideas marketed to the business community. Isn’t it strange when you think about it? We have the power to “call out” plagiarism and foggy thinking but we don’t. Something else is at work here.
On this, and maybe only this, my mother was wrong. Silence is the enemy.
As long as knowledgeable practitioners tolerate plagiarism it will continue―in fact, it will grow.
If we think of our environment as a community where we are all citizens, we all have a role in serving and protecting the community. In fact, we can only all prosper when the community prospers. No single business (not grocery store nor dentist) thrives alone. When the windows are broken on the local school it reflects on the entire community.
The difference for us, though, is that we are a very loosely self-organizing community. We do not have, nor do I think we would benefit from, from an enforcement presence. So who will do it?
I am reminded of a wonderful little story called Whose Job is This?:
4. Whose job is this?
This is a story about people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”―Anonymous
There is only one person who can do this―the person who sees it.
This might feel risky, like you are making a target of yourself. You may be. The question is, “What do you stand for?”
There are benefits to standing up for integrity and there are ways to do it both respectfully and intelligently. Also, there are ways of referencing others’ work that still inspire credibility and add value for audiences. All this is coming up in the next two posts.
Meanwhile, can you think of any other reasons why plagiarism is so common these days?
- The REWARD. Stolen: Change Management. Reward offered. Post 4
- Fair game and foul play. Stolen: Change Management. Reward offered. Post 3
- Stolen: Change Management. Reward offered. So What? Post 1
- Change Management Methodology (Strategy Execution Methodologies. Post 4)
- Ten tips for becoming a trusted advisor in change management
- The power of change management. Pay it forward.