Bruce Gunn

photo neededIn hmolscience, Bruce Gunn (1937-) is an American business marketing and management theorist noted his 1968 Le Chatelier's principle based theory of business motivation.

In 1968, Gunn, in his “The Dynamic Synthesis Theory of Motivation”, postulates a business chemistry/business thermodynamics type theory, according to which Le Chatelier’s principle together with the transformation of energy, are what define employee motivation. The following is Gunn’s abstract: [1]

“An interdisciplinary perspective of employee motivation is presented, based on the premise that the principles of natural science provide the fundamental basis for analogizing the operational similarities of physical and social productive systems. This concept is applied to motivation by observing that all productive systems-whether physical, organic or social-are input-output systems. The lowest common denominators in these systems are energy and mass. Le Chatelier's principle provides the universal environment for motivation. Thus, the transformation of energy in a given productive system represents the essence of motivation. The usefulness of analogizing the process of energy transformation in these two seemingly diverse systems can be seen by tracing the essential factors leading to efficient energy expenditure in physical systems and applying similar strategies to energy transformation in social systems. Such an approach will provide the manager with a concrete frame of reference from which to draw plausible remedies in solving the innumerable problems of efficient motivation and utilization of employee energies.”

Gunn, interestingly, was very interdisciplinary in peer review, his reviewers for this paper being: Ronald E. Jones (chemical engineering), Lee V. Mclean (electrical engineering), Leon C. Megginson (management), Stanley Preston (finance), Samuel H. Roy (statistics), and Roger A. Richardson (psychology).

Le Chatelier's principle | Motivation
The gist of Gunn's motivation theory in regards to Le Chatelier's principle seems to be the following argument: (Ѻ)

“A threatening force to his survival or security from either of these environments will mobilize energies (ability to do work) of the entire organism in an active effort to restore the balance of the previous state. The result of these inner states of tension are thought of as motivation. The phenomenon of motivation can be seen in the tenets of physics; Le Chatelier’s principle states: ‘If a stress, any change in one of the variables that determines the state of a system in equilibrium, is applied to a system in equilibrium, the equilibrium is shifted in a way that tends to undo the effect of the stress’.”

This is all fairly cogent, except for the fact that, previous to this, on his opening page, he stages:

“The basic motive in life can perhaps be readily recognized by visualizing the continuum of evolution from life’s simplest to most complex forms: molecular structure followed by instinct and the complex sensory mechanism of intelligent primates combine to make the drive for survival an irrepressible force. In essence, the law of self-preservation is the first law of nature.”

In other words, there is no "drive for survival" at the molecular level or "law of self-preservation" found when we step down the great chain of being. Gunn, in short, is using the extrapolate down method, i.e. bending over backwards to incongrously force or carry Darwinian theory into the molecular, chemical, and thermodynamic realm, where it holds no sway. This was issue was famously first dealt with in 1991 by American philosopher Robert Pirsig, who gave the following ridicule to such logic: [2]

“Why should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and nitrogen (N), 'struggle' for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive?”

In short, atoms and molecules, do not struggle to survive; hence the same logic should apply to humans, which are but powered geometries of the former.

To critiques of Gunn's article were given one by Arne Mjosund of University of Alabama another by Michael Brenner Bell Labs; a snippet summary of Gunn's theory by the latter states: [2]

“In Gunn's paper, a framework is proposed for describing motivation of people within a business environment. The paper suggests that the universal principle[s] of physics may be the most appropriate vehicle for gaining insight into the complex process of this type of human behavior.”

In 1968, Gunn was a graduate teaching assistant in the marketing department of Louisiana State University. Gunn earned his BS in management at West Virginia and his MS and PhD in marketing and finance at Louisiana State University, the latter with a dissertation on “A Systems Approach to Consumer Motivation: with Emphasis on Procedures for Identifying Opinion Leaders” (Ѻ). In 1989, Gunn was a professor of marketing, with the college of business at Florida State University. (Ѻ)

1. Gunn, Bruce, Brenner, Michael E., and Mjosund, Arne. (1968). “The Dynamic Synthesis Theory of Motivation”, Management Science, 14(10): B601-25, Jun.
2. Brenner, Michael E. (1968). “Critique of: ‘The Dynamic Synthesis Theory of Motivation’”, Management Science, 14(10): B-601-B-619, Jun.
3. (a) Pirsig, Robert M. (1991). Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (excerpt, pg. 140; chemistry, 11+ pgs). Random House.
(b) Lila: An Inquiry into Morals – Wikipedia.
(c) Lila (excerpts) –

Further reading
● Mjosund, Arne. (1968). “Critique of: ‘The Dynamic Synthesis Theory of Motivation’”, Management Science, 14(10):B622-B625.

External links
Gunn, Bruce – WorldCat Identities.

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