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The Natural drift: what happened to operational research?

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The aim of this paper is to provide a critical view on the growing number of writings about the "crisis" in the OR/MS community. In contrast to most writings found in the OR/MS literature, however, this paper also considers articles from the Harvard business review, in order to provide a managerial perspective. Six main issues appearing in the debate are distinguished: the scientific versus technological nature of OR/MS, customer relations with users of OR/MS, the learning effect of an OR/MS study, tactical versus strategic importance of OR/MS, tool versus problem-orientation in OR/MS, and the interdisciplinary character of OR/MS. It is believed that the problems signalled are due to a phenomenon of "natural drift" between the scientific and the technological natures of OR/MS, as a result of which some fundamental aspects of OR remain underdeveloped. Better ways of managing the natural drift are needed to turn the so-called crisis into an opportunity.

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