Jenny Baker
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Foundation Spotlight: Welcome to the Brave New Normal

Milton D. Hakel, SIOP Foundation President

Things are never so simple as we think/believe/hope that they are.  As the year 2020 shows so clearly and dramatically in hindsight, things keep changing. It’s not just the global pandemic and rampant incivility. Expertise today is easily dismissed as being mere opinion. False dilemmas and zero-sum frameworks are far too plentiful. The critical thinking abounding in the roots of “the scientific method” appears to be in short and shrinking supply. Guess what—things are going to keep changing.

Not only will things keep changing, but their best explanations will keep changing too. Physicist David Deutsch writes: “I have often thought that the nature of science would be better understood if we called theories ‘misconceptions’ from the outset, instead of only after we have discovered their successors.  Thus we could say that Einstein’s Misconception of Gravity was an improvement on Newton’s Misconception, which was an improvement on Kepler’s.  The neo-Darwinian Misconception of Evolution is an improvement on Darwin’s Misconception, and his on Lamarck’s.  If people thought of it like that, perhaps no one would need to be reminded that science claims neither infallibility nor finality.” (my emphasis, see David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World, 2011, p. 446)

As applied scientists, I-O professionals seek explanations about the world of work. The world of work has changed dramatically over the past few years, and it will be good to keep in mind that I-O science and practice is neither infallible nor final.

I-O is unique.  It is special because of its unwavering emphasis on “praxis,” the synthesis of theory and practice without presuming the primacy of either. Praxis is symbolized in the double helix design shown in the glass statues SIOP gives to distinguished award winners. 

As I-O professionals, our stock in trade is thinking critically, observing anomalies, and removing error from explanations.  We investigate variance, bias, main effects, concepts, and theories. We are authorities about psychology applied to the world of work.

Ever since the beginning of the Enlightenment, questioning authority has been viewed as a good idea.  Of course, authority does not like being questioned. That being said, questioning is at the heart of peer review. No doubt about it—I have often wished for more sympathetic peers. Nevertheless, peer review is one of our foundational strengths.

A second foundational strength is our engagement as applied psychologists. Application immediately brings us into the sphere of public affairs, with the responsibility to address issues of public policy. The realm of public policy is even more fraught and uncertain than the realm of science and peer review.

Passage of the legislation that became the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shows the complex and slow pace of setting public policy.  On June 10, 1964, Everett Dirksen addressed the U.S. Senate as its minority leader, urging his colleagues to close debate and pass the bill. Here I will quote his line from Victor Hugo, “Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come,” followed by his call to action, “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing in government, in education, and in employment. It will not be stayed or denied. It is here.” Dirksen’s full text is online—read especially the opening paragraphs to glimpse the difficulties in advancing ideas whose time has come.

To summarize: Words and ideas matter. Evidence matters. Some opinions are better and more trustworthy than others.

Two Foundation initiatives came into sharp focus during the past year. The first was built over 2+ years, and the second emerged fully fledged in just 6 weeks. They show how the SIOP Foundation is advancing our applied organizational science as we evolve in these challenging times:

  1. The Visionary Circle, a venture to build a renewable and continuing source of funding for I-O praxis, got off to a roaring start.  The gala celebration we expected to hold in Austin zoomed into history: As part of SIOP’s 2020 Virtual Conference, four finalists presented their proposals for the $100,000 Visionary Grant. A vote by the donors selected the winning proposal, Working Off the Grid: Building Resilience in the Gig Economy, by Susan Ashford, Briana Caza, and Brittany Lambert. The next Visionary Grant is scheduled for presentation at the 2022 SIOP Conference in Seattle—join the Visionary Circle at the $1000 level now!
  2. The brutal death of George Floyd on Memorial Day led to a special appeal for contributions to an Anti-Racism Grant Fund. $50,000 was raised in June, 35 project proposals were submitted in July, and five small grants were awarded on August 24. We now seek contributions to open a second Call for Project Proposals as soon as possible. Donate now!

The mission of the SIOP Foundation is to connect donors with I-O-psychology professionals to create smarter workplaces.  We do it with endowments and term gifts that fund grants, scholarships, and awards. The SIOP Foundation Trustees welcome your ideas and donations for advancing I-O psychology—contact any of us. Consider creating an endowment to build for the future by giving appreciated stock, or including a bequest in your estate plan, and join the second cohort of donors to fund the next Visionary Circle Grant in Seattle or contribute to the Anti-Racism Grant Fund. Thank you for your continuing trust.


Now more than ever, it is crucial to keep our minds open and to keep on opening them because things are never so simple as we thought they were. The need for I-O praxis is enormous.

Milt Hakel, President,, 419-819-0936

Rich Klimoski, Vice-President,

Nancy Tippins, Secretary,

Leaetta Hough, Treasurer,

Adrienne Colella, Communications Officer,

Mirian Graddick-Weir, Trustee,

Bill Macey, Trustee,

John C. Scott, Trustee,

The SIOP Foundation
440 E Poe Rd Ste 101
Bowling Green, OH 43402-1355
419-353-0032   Fax: 419-352-2645

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