35 Practical reason

Brad C. Anderson

Dr. Townley argued that an exclusive focus on one type of rationality often leads to irrational results.[1]

For example, many businesses use performance metrics to measure employee competence and promote desired behaviours. By their nature, performance metrics rely on either technocratic rationality or economic rationality.

If implemented poorly, this reliance on minimal forms of rationality leads to problems. These problems include the degradation of communication and trust between individuals, overcompensation of some people, under-compensation of others, lying, bullying, and managing the appearance of performance rather than improving actual performance.[2]

Moreover, each form of rationality has strengths to understand certain facets of the world but is blind to others. For example, let’s return to the researchers developing an intervention that delays frailty in the elderly from the start of this chapter.

Science (technocratic rationality) showed how to delay frailty. It was, however, blind to the fact that implementing the procedures was financially unviable (economic rationality). If the researchers want to resolve this challenge, they will require additional forms of rationality.

Let’s take a moment to see what additional rationality the researchers must apply if they want the Health Authority to implement their findings.

  • Bureaucratic rationality governs the process through which the government assigns billing codes. Thus, if the researchers wish to create a new billing code, they must learn this bureaucratic rationality.
  • Additionally, the government is a sphere of society that is different from a healthcare environment. Thus, the researchers must familiarize themselves with the government’s institutional rationality.
  • Furthermore, government departments will need to approve the creation of this billing code. These departments decide what to support based on their values and beliefs. To obtain these departments’ approval, researchers must understand those values and beliefs. In other words, they must learn the contextual (cultural) rationality governing those departments.
  • Acquiring this contextual (cultural) rationality will require emotional and social intelligence on behalf of the researchers, which they develop through their body and emotional rationality.

Gaining mastery of all these needed rationalities requires practical reason. is the process of blending multiple rationalities to generate effective solutions to challenging problems. We gain a fuller picture of the world facing us through blending rationalities while deepening the arsenal of tools we can use to overcome challenges.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Practical reason is the process of blending multiple rationalities to generate effective solutions to challenging problems. We gain a fuller picture of the world facing us through blending rationalities while deepening the arsenal of tools we can use to overcome challenges.

  1. Townley, B. (2008). Reason’s Neglect: Rationality and Organizing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.
  2. Mannion, R., & Braithwaite, J. (2012). Unintended Consequences of Performance Measurement in healthcare: 20 Salutary Lessons from the English National Health Service. Internal Medicine Journal, 42(5), 569–574.

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Practical reason by Brad C. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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