Friday, April 9, 2010

Specialization vs. Holistic understanding in History

While on specialization, Niall Ferguson makes a strong argument against specialized patchwork learning in his field, History (FT.com, subscription). While lamenting the state of History education in British schools and their focus on a few specialized topics, he suggests that: "The crucial thing is to have an over-arching story – a meta-narrative, as academics pretentiously call it...Knowing the names of Henry VIII’s six wives or the date of the Reichstag fire is no substitute for having a real historical education."

This takes on more significance for approaches to understanding business than might be immediately obvious. Particularly if we recall Ferguson's recent work is on understanding the financial history of the world and deploying holistic understanding of a phenomenon towards understanding specific issues, such as the current financial crisis.

Could a similar argument be made for the importance of Strategy's holistic approach, considering its emphasis on big picture understanding of the external and internal, and also on organizational history (path dependence and what have you).

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