Ways of describing 'textbook management' versus 'real-world management'?
July 18, 2018 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on a business training which includes content on the difference between how things 'should' be versus 'how they really are'. What should I call the two sides?

In theory, for example, you as a manager set good objectives and people work to achieve them because that's their job. In real life there are all sorts of interpersonal conflicts and work preferences and historic events that have an impact, as well as overall corporate politics.

I've tried names like 'ideal vs real', 'textbooks vs actual', 'theoretical vs complex', but I can't seem to find a way of phrasing it that captures what I'm trying to get across.

All suggestions much appreciated!
posted by StephenF to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Theoretical v. Applied
posted by rue72 at 9:15 AM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Policy vs Practice
Myth vs. Reality
Management Myths/ Management in Practice
posted by melissasaurus at 9:25 AM on July 18, 2018

Textbook vs Real World
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:30 AM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Theory vs. Practice, as in "the gap between theory and practice." ("In theory there is no gap between theory and practice. In practice there is.")
posted by russilwvong at 9:35 AM on July 18, 2018 [10 favorites]

System (how the organization thinks it does a thing) and culture (how the organization actually does that thing).
posted by gauche at 9:57 AM on July 18, 2018

"Textbook vs real world" is useful when you're actively pointing at examples of a gap in the theory. I also know a lot of people who, when discussing management theory, still talk a lot about interpersonal conflicts, historical events, politics, etc, but even there the word 'textbook' comes up a lot to refer to theory that ignores those factors and only works with platonic-ideal robo-employees.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2018


a tech company published magazine ads using this theme in the 1960s
posted by Rash at 10:55 AM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Around here we use 'on paper' vs 'in reality' for a similar measurement of computers. Computer and human productivity are very different, but the reaity vs/ expectation isn't necessarily.

"On paper that server should only run at about 65% capacity while under load. In reality, it is sitting at 95% all the time and we need to add a server"
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 11:23 AM on July 18, 2018

Textbook descriptions, theories, even the way we talk about things exclude thousands of meaningful factors; I think of them as simplified. The opposite of that would be complex, but "complex" doesn't seem to capture the idea that it's a reflection of the kind of reality we _want_ -- a reality that's oversimplified is not worth living, it's not fun, it doesn't allow us to be creative. "Organic" is a word some people use, but I really don't think it's the direction you'll want to go, and the word is overused and abused anyway. Maybe that complexity is the essential part of nature - growth, complexity, beauty, vitality. So, here:

simple vs. natural

simplified vs. vital

abstract vs. growth

abstract vs. natural
posted by amtho at 11:43 AM on July 18, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks all!
posted by StephenF at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2018

aspirational vs descriptive?
posted by forza at 1:39 PM on July 18, 2018

I feel is/ought should be mentioned.
posted by rhizome at 2:53 PM on July 18, 2018

I have to say I'm a little cautious about calling an erroneous representation of reality 'aspirational' or 'ought'... It's a little like saying people 'ought not' have days off, or that we 'aspire' to a world with no weather. Those things seem like inconveniences at the time, but they're beyond necessary; they're the source of all good things.
posted by amtho at 3:58 PM on July 18, 2018

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