Cowton, Christopher J. and Zecha, Gerhard (2003) Doing it right instead of twice: A Popperian approach to management decisions. Philosophy of Management, 3 (2). pp. 23-33. ISSN 1740-3812

Fundamental to Sir Karl Popper’s oeuvre was the insight that humans err — and that we can learn from our mistakes. Critique is therefore valuable in all human endeavours. Although this stance is most famously seen in Popper’s claim that to be scientific a theory or hypothesis has to be falsifiable, Popper adopted a critical approach extensively in his work towards whatever crossed his path. Yet he never developed or suggested a general method of criticism. In this paper we present and explain a method of criticism consistent with Popper’s approach and applicable to every rationally accessible part of human life including management theory and practice.

Managers of course already know the importance of learning from mistakes. But what we propose here in our Model of Rational Criticism places the emphasis on learning before we actually make the mistakes by seeking to eradicate errors of reasoning, thus reducing the chance of costly errors in implementation. We conclude by exploring some of the implications of our model for managers.

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