MIS40910 – Critique – Systems Approach to Literary Review & Misunderstanding Performance due to Halo Effect

A Systems Approach to Conduct an Effective Literature Review in Support of Information Systems Research – Yair Levy and Timothy J. Ellis

1.Levy2006-System Approach to Literature Review

Misunderstanding the Nature of Company Performance: THE HALO EFFECT AND OTHER BUSINESS DELUSIONS – Phil Rosenzweig

2.Rosenzweig2007-Misunderstanding the Nature of Company Performance

Though the two articles have little in common but still there is a common thread that they both deal with human enquiry process. Levy & Ellis have proposed a systematic framework to enquire into the realm of writing literary reviews whereas Rosenzweig’s article also deals with enquiry but is more a critique on the research methodologies used by different authors who enquired into the performance measures among business organisations.

They are in agreement in that both give the due importance to the quality of data to be used as input for either writing literary reviews or researching company performances. Levy’s article emphasises the importance of avoiding the pitfall of garbage-in/garbage-out while producing an effective literary review. In a same breath Rosenzweig stresses how dubious data and flawed findings have led to questionable findings and to a general misunderstanding of company performance.

Where they differ is in that Levy & Ellis have totally ignored any discussion around biases that might lead to the skewed data processing. On the other hand Rosenzweig has over emphasised the impact of biases and suggested that almost every magazine or business journal out there has been lost to halo effect resulting in derivation of specific inferences on the basis of a general impression. In our view the solution might be somewhere in the middle, though biases should not be discounted totally but accepting that biases for & against will always be there in any human enquiry process and by taking steps the dilute their impact instead of rejecting outright any previous research might benefit researchers by allowing them to use the past conclusions & judgements of their compatriots.

Levy & Ellis have over simplified the knowledge creation process by using the analogy of Input, Processing & Output stages as if human brain can process robotically tome of data collected during Input stage. Human brain is not a CPU in real sense and the thought processes get impacted by emotions, likings, past experiences, intelligence, education and innumerable other variables. Human brain can make unexpected connections using the data at hand or can even totally miss the most important relevant fact. That’s the reason multiple revisions, peer reviews, editorial reviews are so common in literary domain. But there is no mention of the same in Levy & Ellis’s article.

In contrast Rosenzweig article takes a much more rational approach and critiques the research methodology adopted by three well reputed set of authors. The arguments made by him around those methodologies broadly make sense. Any discussion around the performance measures of individuals, organisations or for that matter even of nations & societies can at the most be a debatable topic. To make a sound argument on the performance measures one has to formulate a process of quantifying the efficiency and effectiveness of past actions which is very subjective. To overcome this constraint Rosenzweig has recommended evidence based management, advanced by Pfeffer & Sutton. But then relying on just hard facts can make managers short sighted, there is enough evidence to suggest that great managers have all been instinctive and insightful. If we take an example of one of the greats, Steve Jobs once famously said “Customers don’t know what they want”. In this context searching for evidence in business environment can be as worse as searching for a mirage in a desert.

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