Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

25. The Human Side of Enterprise*

Douglas M. McGregor

IT HAS BECOME trite to say that the most significant developments of the next quarter century will take place not in the physical but in the social sciences, that industry--the economic organ of society--has the fundamental know-how to utilize physical science and technology for the material benefit of mankind, and that we must now learn how to utilize the social sciences to make our human organizations truly effective.

Many people agree in principle with such statements; but so far they represent a pious hope--and little else. Consider with me, if you will, something of what may be involved when we attempt to transform the hope into reality.


I.

Let me begin with an analogy. A quarter century ago basic conceptions of the nature of matter and energy had changed profoundly from what they had been since Newton's time. The physical scientists were persuaded that under proper conditions new and hitherto unimagined sources of energy could be made available to mankind.

We know what has happened since then. First came the bomb. Then, during the past decade, have come many other attempts to exploit these scientific discoveries--some successful, some not.

The point of my analogy, however, is that the application of theory in this field is a slow and costly matter. We expect it always to be thus. No one is impatient with the scientist because he cannot tell industry how to build a simple, cheap, all-purpose source of atomic energy today. That it will take at least another decade and the investment of billions of dollars to achieve results which are economically competitive with present sources of power is understood and accepted.

It is transparently pretentious to suggest any direct similarity between the developments in the physical sciences leading to the harnessing of atomic energy and potential developments in the social sciences. Nevertheless, the analogy is not as absurd as it might appear to be at first glance.

____________________
*
From "Adventure in Thought and Action," Proceedings of the Fifth Anniversary Convocation of the School of Industrial Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, June, 1957).

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