Sunday, January 6, 2013

Graduation Address - Is Science the Sum of All Knowledge?

 Transcript of Joel Avrunin's Address to the Undergraduate and Graduate Students at
Towson University's 148th Commencement Exercise
January 6, 2013 Commencement - 10 AM - Towson Center Arena
Graduation from University of Baltimore / Towson University Joint MBA Program        

      Thank You Lisa Jackson our GSA president for that introduction. Good morning President Loeschke, distinguished guests, honored faculty, family and fellow graduates.  With my undergraduate degree in engineering, I sought to answer the question, “Is science the sum of all knowledge?”  Society accepts that if you learn the science behind a system, you are now an expert who can tackle any problem.  With that mindset, I started at Towson to become an expert in business, specifically wanting to know how to manage organizational change.  If science truly is the sum of all knowledge, then just as an expert in the science of engineering can design, an expert in the science of business should be able to manage.  I foresaw going to class and learning the skills needed to not only motivate employees and monitor their productivity, but also to be an expert in all aspects of the business.  My course schedule certainly read that way – finance, project management, marketing, and accounting.  And yet it was in an economics course that I read the prescient words of Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek who asserted that the knowledge of the circumstances of time and place were more important than all of the science we can learn.  Hayek teaches us that since a manager cannot be at every decision point, he must empower those he employs to make decisions on their own.  He teaches that the further removed a decision maker is from the point of knowledge, the slower an organization will be able to adapt to change.  But if the key to management is to be hands-off, then why go to business school at all – what is the role of a manager?