I was having a really interesting conversation with Susan Elliot Sim at Agile Open SoCal. I was asking her why is it so difficult to get peer-reviewed articles published on Agile. She responded by telling me this story, with the instruction to identify the emotions you feel when hearing\reading the story:
“Suppose I told you I was going to tell you that in order to understand what is wrong with your dog – he’s been limping and you think something is wrong with his leg – we are going to take him to a dog psychic in Nevada and this dog psychic is extremely good, highly recommended and gets great results and you take your dog there.
You ask the dog psychic, ‘Can you ask the dog if his leg hurts?’.
The dog psychic talks to your dog and turns to you to say – channeling your dog, ‘Well…thank you for asking about my leg, but that is not what’s bothering me. It’s my back. It hurts a lot when I jump up and down off the bed, especially on cold mornings, so could you please get me a ramp to make that easier?’
‘Also, I really like it when you come home to play with me during the day and I remember that time we went to the park and chased the birds in the pond, so let’s do more of that.’
‘Oh, and I really don’t like that dog food we have been eating all these years. Yes, I know that I eat it all up and I probably shouldn’t have, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings cause you do so many nice things for me. However, since we are finally having a conversation after all these years, I thought you should know.’
And you respond to your dog, ‘Oh my God! I never knew you felt this way about so many things. When we get home, I am going to make all these changes. I am so glad I spoke with this dog psychic!'”
So how did you feel after hearing this story? It is a bit farfetched isn’t it?
According to Susan, this is experience is very similar to what academic researchers think about Agile – it is nothing more than dog psychics. That you really have to believe in dog psychics in order to get any value out of them. In addition, the people who believe dog psychics sound a bit evangelical in talking about how great dog psychics are and yet there is no (scientific) evidence on the mechanics of dog psychics. I thought this anecdote is a really good concept to keep in mind when we encounter skeptical people; sometimes we just sound loony.