On Good Scholarship, Goal Setting, and Scholars Gone Wild

by Lisa D. Ordóñez, Maurice E. Schweitzer, Adam D. Galinsky & Max H. Bazerman

Overview — When confronted by anecdotal evidence and some causal evidence, how should scholars—and indeed businesses and society—react? In this response to a critique in the journal Academy of Management Perspectives, the authors articulate the aims of their article "Goals Gone Wild: How Goals Systematically Harm Individuals and Organizations," describe points of disagreement with the critics, offer a definition of good scholarship, and suggest a program of research for future studies of goal setting. Key concepts include:

  • Future research should investigate both the constructive and harmful effects of goals. These studies will require new and creative approaches.
  • Anecdotal evidence matters. Given that one large negative effect can overwhelm the influence of many positive effects, anecdotes and empirical results linking goals with harmful outcomes deserve more attention and systematic research.
  • As financial crises, Ponzi schemes, and the collapse of the automotive industry demonstrate, the combination of unethical behavior, risk-taking and poor judgment can be toxic. Three areas of research with significant prospects for illuminating potential problems are the links between goal setting and unethical behavior, goal setting and excessive risk-taking, and goal setting and judgment.

Author Abstract

In this article, we define good scholarship, highlight our points of disagreement with Locke and Latham (2009), and call for further academic research to examine the full range of goal setting's effects. We reiterate our original claim that goal setting, like a potent medication, can produce both beneficial effects and systematic, negative outcomes (Ordóñez, Schweitzer, Galinsky, & Bazerman, 2009), and as a result, it should be carefully prescribed and closely monitored. 12 pages.

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