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APPRECIATIVE INQUIRY

 

Home > Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life, Part 1

Appreciative Inquiry in Organizational Life

David L. Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva

Part 2
Positive Image, Positive Action

Abstract

This chapter presents a conceptual refiguration of action-research based on a “sociorationalist” view of science. The position that is developed can be summarized as follows: For action-research to reach its potential as a vehicle for social innovation it needs to begin advancing theoretical knowledge of consequence; that good theory may be one of the best means human beings have for affecting change in a postindustrial world; that the discipline’s steadfast commitment to a problem-solving view of the world acts as a primary constraint on its imagination and contribution to knowledge; that appreciative inquiry represents a viable complement to conventional forms of action-research; and finally, that through our assumptions and choice of method we largely create the world we later discover.


Research in Organizational Change and Development, Vol.1, pages 129-169.

Copyright © 1987 by JAI Press Inc.

All rights of reproduction in any form reserved. Used by permission

ISBN: 0-89232-4749-9

 We are sometime truly to see our life as positive, not negative, as made up of continuous
 willing, not of constraints and prohibition.
— Mary Parker Follett

We are steadily forgetting how to dream; in historical terms, the mathematicist and technicist dimensions of Platonism have conquered the poetical, mythical. and rhetorical context of analysis. We are forgetting how to he reasonable in nonmathematical dialects
                                                                                                                                                         Stanley Rosen

 

INTRODUCTION

This chapter presents a conceptual reconfiguration of action research. In it we shall argue for a multidimensional view of action-research which seeks to both generate theory and develop organizations. The chapter begins with the observation that action-research has become increasingly rationalized and enculturated to the point where it risks becoming little more than a crude empiricism imprisoned in a deficiency mode of thought. In its conventional form action-research has largely failed as an instrument for advancing social knowledge of consequence and has not, therefore, achieved its potential as a vehicle for human development and social-organizational transformation. While the literature consistently signals the worth of action-research as a managerial tool for problem solving (“first-order” incremental change), it is conspicuously quiet concerning reports of discontinuous change of the “second order” where organizational paradigms, norms, ideologies, or values are transformed in fundamental ways (Watzlawick, et al., 1974).
In the course of this chapter we shall touch broadly upon a number of interrelated concerns-scientific, metaphysical, normative, and pragmatic. Linking these streams is an underlying conviction that action-research has the potential to be to the postindustrial era what “scientific management” was to the industrial. Just as scientific management provided the philosophical and methodological legitimacy required to support the bureaucratic organizational form (Clegg & Dunkerly, 1980; Braverman, 1974), action-research may yet provide the intellectual rationale and reflexive methodology required to support the emergence of a more egalitarian “postbureaucratic” form of organization. Unlike scientific management however, which provided the means for a technorational science of administration, action-research holds unique and essential promise in the sociorational realm of human affairs. It has the potential to become the paradigmatic basis of a truly significant-a humanly significant-generative science of administration.
In the first part of the essay it is suggested that the primary barrier limiting the potential of action-research has been its romance with “action” at the expense of “theory.” This tendency has led many in the discipline to seriously underestimate the power of theory as a means for social-organizational reconstruction. Drawing largely on the work of Kenneth Gergen (1978; 1982), we reexamine the character of theoretical knowledge and its role in social transformation, and then appeal for a redefinition of the scientific aims of action-research that will dynamically reunite theory and practice. The aim of science is not the detached discovery and verification of social laws allowing for prediction and control. Highlighted here instead, is an alternative understanding that defines social and behavioral science in terms of its “generative capacity,” that is, its “capacity to challenge the guiding assumptions of the culture, to raise fundamental questions regarding contemporary social life, to foster reconsideration of that which is ‘taken for granted’ and thereby furnish new alternatives for social actions” (Gergen, 1978, p. 1346).
Assuming that generative theory is a legitimate product of scientific work and is, in fact, capable of provoking debate, stimulating normative dialogue, and furnishing conceptual alternatives needed for social transformation, then why has action-research till now so largely downplayed creative theorizing in its work with organizations? Here we will move to the heart of the chapter and argue that the generative incapacity of contemporary action-research derives from the discipline’s unquestioned commitment to a secularized problem-oriented view of the world and thus to the subsequent loss of our capacity as researchers and participants to marvel, and in marvelling to embrace, the miracle and mystery of social organization. If we acknowledge Abraham Maslow’s (1968) admonition that true science begins and ends in wonder, then we immediately shed light on why action-research has failed to produce innovative theory capable of inspiring the imagination, commitment, and passionate dialogue required for the consensual re-ordering of social conduct.
Appreciative inquiry is presented here as a mode of action-research that meets the criteria of science as spelled out in generative-theoretical terms. Going beyond questions of epistemology, appreciative inquiry has as its basis a metaphysical concern: it posits that social existence as such is a miracle that can never be fully comprehended (Quinney, 1982; Marcel, 1963). Proceeding from this level of understanding we begin to explore the uniqueness of the appreciative mode. More than a method or technique, the appreciative mode of inquiry is a way of living with, being with, and directly participating in the varieties of social organization we are compelled to study. Serious consideration and reflection on the ultimate mystery of being engenders a reverence for life that draws the researcher to inquire beyond superficial appearances to deeper levels of the life-generating essentials and potentials of social existence. That is, the action-researcher is drawn to affirm, and thereby illuminate, the factors and forces involved in organizing that serve to nourish the human spirit. Thus, this chapter seeks to enrich our conception of administrative behavior by introducing a “second dimension” of action-research that goes beyond merely a secularized problem-solving frame.
The proposal that appreciative inquiry represents a distinctive complement to traditional action-research will be unfolded in the following way: First, the role of theory as an enabling agent of social transformation will be considered; such consideration can help to eliminate the artificial dualism separating theory from practice. Second, we will challenge the problem-oriented view of organizing inherent in traditional definitions of action-research, and describe an affirmative form of inquiry uniquely suited for discovering generative theory. Finally, these insights will be brought together in a general model of the conceptual underpinnings of appreciative inquiry.
TOWARD GENERATIVE THEORY IN ACTION-
RESEARCH
The current decade has witnessed a confluence of thinking concerning the paradigmatic refiguration of social thought. As Geertz (1980) notes, there is now even a “blurring of genres” as many social scientists have abandoned without apology the misdirected quest to mimic the “more mature” physical sciences. Turning away from a Newtonian laws-and-instances-type explanation rooted in logical empiricist philosophy, many social theorists have instead opted for an interpretive form of inquiry that connects organized action to its contextually embedded set of meanings, “looking less for the sorts of things that connect planets and pendulums and more for the sorts that connect chrysanthemums and swords” (Geertz, 1980, p.165).
In the administrative sciences, in particular, this recent development has been translated into observable movement away from mechanistic research designs intended objectively to establish universal causal linkages between variables, such as organizational size and level of centralization, or between technology, environment, and organizational structure. Indeed, prominent researchers in the field have publicly given up the logical positivist idea of “certainty through science” and are now embarking on approaches to research that grant preeminence to the historically situated and ever-changing “interpretive schemes” used by members of a given group to give life and meaning to their actions and decisions (Bartunek, 1984). Indicative of the shift away from the logical positivist frame, researchers are converging around what has been termed the “sociorationalist” metatheory of science (Gergen, 1982). Recognizing the symbolic nature of the human universe, we now find a flurry of innovative work supporting the thesis that there is little about human development or organizational behavior that is “preprogrammed” or stimulus-bound in any direct physical or biological way. In this sense, the social universe is open to indefinite revision, change, and self-propelled development. And, this recognition is crucial because to the extent to which social existence is situated in a symbolic realm, beyond deterministic forces, then to that extent the logical positivist foundation of social science is negated and its concept of knowledge rendered illusionary.
Nowhere is this better evidenced than in the variety of works concerned with such topics as organizational paradigms (Brown, 1978; McHugh, 1970); beliefs and master scripts (Sproull, 1981; Beyer, 1981); idea management and the executive mind (Srivastva, 1983; 1985); theories of action and presumptions of logic (Argyris & Schon, 1980; Weick, 1983); consciousness and awareness (Harrison, 1982; Lukes, 1974); and, of course, an array of work associated with the concept of organizational or corporate culture (Ouchi & Johnson, 1978; Schein, 1983; Van Maanen, 1982; Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Sathe, 1983; Hofsteede, 1980). As Ellwood prophetically suggested almost half a century ago, “This is the cultural view of human society that is [or will be] revolutionizing the social sciences” (Ellwood, 1938, p.561).
This developing consensus on the importance of the symbolic realm-on the power of ideas-by such independent sources embracing such diverse objectives reflects the reality of organized life in the modern world. However reluctantly, even the most traditional social thinkers are now recognizing the distinctiveness of the postindustrial world for what truly is-an unfolding drama of human interaction whose potential seems limited or enhanced primarily by our symbolic capacities for constructing meaningful agreements that allow for the committed enactment of collective life.
Never before in history have ideas, information, and beliefs-or theory-been so central in the formulation of reality itself. Social existence, of course, has always depended on some kind of idea system for its meaningful sustenance. The difference now, however, is that what was once background has become foreground. Today, the very fact that society continues to exist at all is experienced not so much mechanistically (an extension of machines) or even naturalistically (a by-product of fateful nature) but more and more humanistically as a social construction of interacting minds- “a game between persons” (Bell, 1973). And under these conditions-as a part of the change from an agrarian society to a goods-producing society at first and then to an information society-ideas and meaning systems take on a whole new life and character. Ideas are thrust center stage as the prime unit of relational exchange governing the creation or obliteration of social existence.
This line of argument applies no less potently to current conceptions of social science. To the extent that the primary product of science is systematically refined idea systems-or theory-science too must be recognized as a powerful agent in the enhancement or destruction of human life And while this presents an unresolvable dilemma for a logical empiricist conception of science, it spells real opportunity (and responsibility) for a social science that wishes to be of creative significance to society. Put most simply, the theoretical contributions of science may be among the most powerful resources human beings have for contributing to change and development in the groups and organizations in which they live. This is precisely the meaning of Kurt Lewin’s early view of action-science when he proposed: “There is nothing so practical as good theory” (1951, p. 169).
Ironically, the discipline of action-research continues to insist on a sharp separation of theory and practice, and to underrate the role of theory in social reconstruction. The irony is that it does so precisely at a time when the cultural view of organizing is reaching toward paradigmatic status. The sad and perhaps tragic commentary on action-research is that it is becoming increasingly inconsequential just as its opportunity to contribute is on the rise (Argyris, 1983).
Observers such as Rappaport (1970) and Bartunek (1983) have lamented the fact that action-researchers have come to subordinate research aims to action interests. Levinson (1972) has gone even further by branding the discipline “atheoretical.” And, Friedlander and Brown (1974) have noted that the definition of action-research in classic texts give virtually no mention to theory-building as an integral and necessary component of the research/diagnostic process, or the process of organizational change. Whenever theory is mentioned, it is almost always referred to as a springboard for research or diagnosis, not the other way around. Bartunek (1983, p.3-4) concludes that “even the most recent papers that describe action-research strategies tend to focus primarily on the process of action-research and only secondarily on the specific theoretical contributions of the outcomes of such research” (e.g., Frohman, Sashkin, & Kavanaugh, 1976; Shani & Pasmore, 1982; Susman and Evered, 1978; see Pasmore and Friedlander, 1982, for an exception). For those of us trained in the field this conclusion is not surprising. Indeed, few educational programs in organizational behavior even consider theory-building as a formal part of their curriculum, and even fewer place a real premium on the development of the theoretical mind and imagination of their students.
According to Argyris (1983), this lack of useful theorizing is attributable to two major factors. On the one hand practice-oriented scholars have tended to become so client-centered that they fail to question their clients’ own definition of a problem and thereby to build testable propositions and theories that are embedded in everyday life. Academics, on the other hand, who are trained to be more scientific in their bent, also undercut the development of useful theory by their very insistence on the criteria of “normal” science and research-detachment, rigor, unilateral control, and operational precision. In a word, creative theorizing has literally been assaulted on all fronts by practitioners and academic scientists alike. It must also be noted that implicit in this critique by Argyris (1983), and others (e.g., Friedlander & Brown, 1974), is an underlying assumption that action-research has built into it certain natural conflicts that are likely to lead either to “action” (consulting) or “research” (diagnosis or the development of organizational theory), but not to both.
The situation is summed up by Friedlander and Brown (1974) in their comprehensive review of the field:

We believe that research will either play a far more crucial role in the advancement of this field, or become an increasingly irrelevant appendage to it . . . . We have generally failed to produce a theory of change which emerges from the change process itself. We need a way of enriching our understanding and action synergistically rather than at one or the other’s expense-to become a science in which knowledge-getting and knowledge-giving are an integrated process, and one that is valuable to all parties involved (p.319).
 Friedlander and Brown concluded with a plea for a metatheoretical revision of science that will integrate theory and practice. But in another review over a decade later, Friedlander (1984) observed little progress coming from top scholars in the discipline. He then put words to a mounting frustration over what appears as a recurring problem:

They pointed to the shortcomings of traditional research and called for emancipation from it; but they did not indicate a destination. There is as yet no new paradigm that integrates research and practice, or even optimizes useful knowledge for organizations ….I’m impatient. Let’s get on with it. Let’s not talk it, write it, analyze it, conceptualize it, research it. Instead let’s actively engage and experiment with new designs for producing knowledge that is, in fact, used by organizations (p.647).
  This recurrent problem is the price we pay for continuing to talk about theory and practice in dualistic terms. In a later section in this chapter another hypothesis will be advanced on why there is this lack of creative theorizing, specifically as it relates to action-research. But first we need to look more closely at the claim that social theory and social practice are, indeed, part of a synthetic whole. We need to elaborate on the idea that scientific theory is a means for both understanding and improving social practice. We need to examine exactly what it means to merge the idea and the act, the symbolic and the sociobehavioral, into a powerful and integral unity.

The Sociorationalist Alternative
 As the end of the twentieth century nears, thinkers in organizational behavior are beginning to see, without hesitation, why an administrative science based on a physical science model is simply not adequate as a means for understanding or contributing in relevant ways to the workings of complex, organized human systems (see, for example, Susman and Evered, 1978; Beyer & Trice, 1982). Kurt Lewin had understood this almost half a century earlier but his progressive vision of an action science fell short of offering a clear metatheoretical alternative to conventional conceptions of science (Peters & Robinson, 1984). In-deed, the epistemological ambiguity inherent in Lewin’s writing has been cited as perhaps the critical shortcoming of all his work. And yet, in hindsight, it can be argued that the ambiguity was intentional and perhaps part of Lewin’s social sensitivity and genius. As Gergen (1982) suggests, the metatheoretical ambiguity in Lewin’s work might well have been a protective measure, an attempt to shield his fresh vision of an action science from the fully dominant logical positivist temper of his time. In any event, whether planned or not, Lewin walked a tightrope between two fundamentally opposed views of science and never did make clear how theory could be used as both an interpretive and a creative element. This achievement, as we might guess, would have to wait for a change in the intellectual ethos of social science.
That change, as we earlier indicated, is now taking place. Increasingly the literature signals a disenchantment with theories of science that grant priority to the external world in the generation of human knowledge. Instead there is growing movement toward granting preeminence to the cognitive processes of mind and the symbolic processes of social construction. In Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge (1982), Kenneth Gergen synthesizes the essential whole of this movement and takes it one crucial step beyond disenchantment to a bold, yet workable conception of science that firmly unites theory with practice-and thereby elevates the status of theoretical-scientific work. From a historical perspective there is no question that this is a major achievement; it brings to completion the work abruptly halted by Lewin’s untimely death. But more than that, what Gergen offers, albeit indirectly, is a desperately needed clue to how we can revitalize an action-research discipline that has never reached its potential. While a complete statement of the emerging sociorationalist metatheory is beyond the scope of this chapter, it is important at least to outline the general logic of the perspective, including its basic assumptions.
At the heart of sociorationalism is the assumption of impermanence-the fundamental instability of social order. No matter what the durability to date, virtually any pattern of social action is open to infinite revision. Accepting for a moment the argument of the social constructionists that social reality, at any given point, is a product of broad social agreement (shared meanings), and further granting a linkage between the conceptual schemes of a culture and its other patterns of action, we must seriously consider the idea that alterations in conceptual practices, in ways of symbolizing the world, hold tremendous potential for guiding changes in the social order. To understand the importance of these assumptions and their meaning for social science, let us quote Gergen (1982) at length:

Is not the range of cognitive heuristics that may be employed in solving problems of adaptation limited only by the human imagination?   One must finally consider the possibility that human biology not only presents to the scientist an organism whose actions may vary in an infinity of ways, but it may ensure as well that novel patterns are continuously emerging . . . variations in Hunan activity may importantly he traced to the capacities of the organism for symbolic restructuring. As it is commonly said, one’s actions appear to be vitally linked to the manner in which one understands or construes the world of experience. The stimulus world does not elicit behavior in an automatic, reflex-like fashion. Rather, the symbolic translation of one’s experiences virtually transforms their implications and thereby alters the range of one’s potential reactions. Interestingly, while formulations of this variety are widely shared within the scientific community, very little attention has been paid to their ramifications for a theory of science. As is clear, without such regularities the prediction of behavior is largely obviated . .  to the extent that the individual is capable of transforming the meaning of stimulus conditions in an indeterminate number of ways, existing regularities must be considered historically contingent-dependent on the prevailing meaning systems of conceptual structure of the times. In effect, from this perspective the scientist’s capacity to locate predictable patterns of interaction depends irnportanty on the extent to which the population is both homogeneous and stable in its conceptual constructions (pp. l-17).
While this type of reasoning is consistent with the thinking of many social scientists, the ramifications are rarely taken to their logical conclusion: “Virtually unexamined by the field is the potential of science to shape the meaning systems of the society and thus the common activities of the culture” (Gergen, 1978, p.1349). Virtually unexamined is the important role that science can-and does-play in the scientific construction of social reality.
One implication of this line of thought is that to the extent the social science conceives its role in the logical positivist sense, with its goals being prediction and control, it not only serves the interests of the status quo (you can’t have “good science” without stable replication and verification of hypotheses) but it also seriously underestimates the power and usefulness of its most important product, namely theory; it underestimates the constructive role science can have in the development of the groups and organizations that make up our cultural world. According to Gergen, realization of this fact furnishes the opportunity to refashion a social science of vital significance to society. To do this, we need a bold shift in attention whereby theoretical accounts are no longer judged in terms of their predictive capacity, but instead are judged in terms of their generative capacity-their ability to foster dialogue about that which is taken for granted and their capacity for generating fresh alternatives for social action. Instead of asking, “Does this theory correspond with the observable facts?” the emphasis for evaluating good theory becomes, “To what extent does this theory present provocative new possibilities for social action, and to what extent does it stimulate normative dialogue about how we can and should organize ourselves?” The complete logic for such a proposal may be summarized in the following ten points:

1. The social order at any given point is viewed as the product of broad social agreement, whether tacit or explicit.
2. Patterns of social-organizational action are not fixed by nature in any direct biological or physical way; the vast share of social conduct is potentially stimulus-free, capable of infinite conceptual variation.
3. From an observational point of view, all social action is open to multiple interpretations, no one of which is superior in any objective sense. The interpretations (for example, “whites are superior to blacks”) favored in one historical setting may be replaced in the next.
4. Historically embedded conventions govern what is taken to be true or valid, and to a large extent govern what we, as scientists and lay persons, are able to see. All observation, therefore, is theory-laden and filtered through conventional belief systems and theoretical lenses.
5. To the extent that action is predicated on ideas, beliefs, meanings, intentions, or theory, people are free to seek transformations in conventional conduct by changing conventional codes (idea systems).
6. The most powerful vehicle communities have for transforming their conventions-their agreements on norms, values, policies, purposes, and ideologies-is through the act of dialogue made possible by language. Alterations in linguistic practices, therefore, hold profound implications for changes in social practice.
7. Social theory can be viewed as a highly refined language with a specialized grammar all its own. As a powerful linguistic tool created by trained linguistic experts (scientists), theory may enter the conceptual meaning system of culture and in doing so alter patterns of social action.
8. Whether intended or not, all theory is normative and has the potential to influence the social order-even if reactions to it are simply boredom, rebellion, laughter, or full acceptance.
9. Because of this, all social theory is morally relevant; it has the potential to affect the way people live their ordinary lives in relation to one another. This point is a critical one because there is no such thing as a detached technical/scientific mode for judging the ultimate worth of value claims.
10. Valid knowledge or social theory is therefore a communal creation. Social knowledge is not “out there” in nature to be discovered through detached, value-free, observational methods (logical empiricism); nor can it be relegated to the subjective minds of isolated individuals (solipism). Social knowledge resides in the interactive collectivity; it is created, maintained, and put to use by the human group. Dialogue, free from constraint or distortion, is necessary to determine the “nature of things” (sociorationalism).

In Table 1 the metatheory of sociorationalism is both summarized and contrasted to the commonly held assumptions of the logical empiricist view of science. Especially important to note is the transformed role of the scientist when social inquiry is viewed from the perspective of sociorationalism. Instead of attempting to present oneself as an impartial bystander or dispassionate spectator of the inevitable, the social scientist conceives of himself or herself as an active agent, an invested participant whose work might well become a powerful source of change in the way people see and enact their worlds. Driven by a desire to “break the hammerlock” of what appears as given in human nature, the scientist attempts to build theories that can expand the realm of what is

 

Table 1.  Comparison of Logical Empiricist and Socio-Rationalist
Conceptions of Social Science
   Dimension for Comparison            Logical Empiricism                 Socio-Rationalism

1. Primary Function of Science

2. Theory of Knowledge and Mind
 

3. Perspective on Time

 

4. Assuming Stability of Social Patterns

5. Value Stance

6. Features of “Good” Theory

7. Criteria for Confirmation or Verification (Life of a Theory)

8. Role of Scientist

 

 

9. Chief Product of Research

10. Emphasis in the Education of Future Social Science Professionals

Enhance goals of understanding, prediction, and control by discerning general laws or principles governing the relationship among units of observable phenomena.
Exogenic–grants priority to the external world in the generation of human knowledge (i.e., the preeminence of objective fact). Mind is a mirror.
Assumption of temporal irrelevance: searches for transhistorical principles.

Social phenomena are sufficiently stable, enduring, reliable and replicable to allow for lawful principles.

Separation of fact and
values. Possibility of
objective knowledge through behavioral observation.

Discovery of transhistorically valid principles; a theory’s correspondence with fact.
Logical consistency and empirical prediction; subject to falsification.

Impartial bystander and dispassionate spectator of the inevitable; content to accept that which seems given.

Cumulation of objective knowledge through the production of empirically disconfirmable hypothesis.
Rigorous experimental methods and statistical analysis; a premium is placed on method (training in theory construction is a rarity).

Enhance understanding in the sense of assigning meaning to something, thus creating its status through the use of concepts. Science is a means for expanding flexibility and choice in cultural evolution.Endogenic–holds the processes of mind and symbolic interaction as preeminent source of human knowledge. Mind is both a mirror and a lamp.

Assumption of historically and contextually relevant meanings; existing regularities in social order are contingent on prevailing meaning systems.

Social order is fundamentally unstable. Social phenomena are guided by cognitive heuristics, limited only by the human imagination: the social order is a subject matter capable of infinite variation through the linkage of ideas and action.

Social sciences are fundamentally nonobjective. Any behavioral event is open to virtually any interpretative explanation. All interpretation is filtered through prevailing values of a culture. “There is no description without prescription.”

Degree to which theory furnishes alternatives for social innovation and thereby opens vistas for action; expansion of “the realm of the possible.”

Persuasive appeal, impact, and overall generative capacity; subject to community agreement; truth is a product of a community of truth makers.

Active agent and co-participant who is primarily a source of linguistic activity (theoretical language) which serves as input into common meaning systems. Interested in ‘breaking the hammerlock” of what appears as given in human nature.

Continued improvement in theory building capacity; improvement in the capacity to create generative-theoretical language.

Hermeneutic interpretation and catalytic theorizing; a premium is placed on the theoretical imagination. Sociorationalism invites the student toward intellectual expression in the service of his or her vision of the good.

 

conventionally understood as possible. In this sense the core impact of sociorationalist metatheory is that it invites, encourages, and requires that students of social life rigorously exercise their theoretical imagination in the service of their vision of the good. Instead of denial it is an invitation to fully accept and exercise those qualities of mind and action that make us uniquely human.

Now we turn to a question raised earlier: How does theory achieve its capacity to affect social practice, and what are some of the specific characteristics of generative theory?

 
The Power of Theory in Understanding Organizational Life
 The sociorationalist vision of science is of such far-reaching importance that no student, organizational scientist, manager, educator, or action-researcher can afford to ignore it. Good theory, as we have suggested, is one of the most powerful means we have for helping social systems evolve, adapt, and creatively alter their patterns over time. Building further on this metatheoretical perspective we can talk about five ways by which theory achieves its exceptional potency:

1. Establishing a conceptual and contextual frame;
2. Providing presumptions of logic;
3. Transmitting a system of values;
4. Creating a group-building language;
5. Extending visions of possibility or constraint.

 1. Establishing a Perceptual and Contextual Frame

To the extent that theory is the conceptual imposition of order upon an otherwise “booming, bustling, confusion that is the realm of experience” (Dubin, 1978), the theorist’s first order of business is to specify what is there to be seen, to provide an “ontological education” (Gergen, 1982). The very act of theoretical articulation, therefore, highlights not only the parameters of the topic or subject matter, but becomes an active agent as a cueing device, a device that subtly focuses attention on particular phenomena or meanings while obscuring others In the manner of a telescope or lens, a new theory allows one to see the world in a way perhaps never before imagined.
For example, when American eugenicists used the lens of biological determinism to attribute diseases of poverty to the inferior genetic construction of poor people, they literally could see no systematic remedy other than sterilization of the poor. In contrast, when Joseph Goldberg theorized that pellegra was not genetically determined but culturally caused (as a result of vitamin deficiency and the eating habits of the poor), he could discover a way to cure it (Gould, 1981). Similarly, theories about the “survival of the fittest” might well help executives locate “predators,” “hostile environments,” and a world where self-interest reigns, where it is a case of “eat or be eaten.” Likewise, theories of leadership have been known quickly to facilitate the discovery of Theory X and Theory Y interaction. Whatever the theory, it provides a potential means for members of a culture to navigate in an otherwise neutral, meaningless, or chaotic sea of people, interactions and events. By providing an “ontological education” with respect to what is there, a theory furnishes an important cultural input that affects people’s cognitive set. In this sense “the world is not so constituted until the lens is employed. With each new distinction the groundwork is laid for alterations in existing patterns of conduct” (Gergen, 1982, p.23).
As the reader may already surmise, an important moral issue begins to emerge here. Part of the reason that theory is, in fact, powerful is that it shapes perceptions, cognitions, and preferences often at a preconscious level, much like subliminal communications or even hypnosis. Haley (1973) talks about how Milton Erickson has made this a central feature of this psycho-therapeutic work. But Lukes (1974) cautions that such thought control may be “the supreme and most insidious exercise of power,” especially when it prevents people from challenging their role in the existing order of things and when it operates contrary to their real interests.

 2. Providing Presumptions of Logic

Theories are also powerful to the extent to which they help shape common expectations of causality, sequence, and relational importance of phenomena within a theoretical equation. Consider, for example, the simple logic underlying almost every formal performance-appraisal system. Stripped to essentials, the theoretical underpinnings run something like this: “If you want to evaluate performance (P), then you must evaluate the individual employee (E); in other words, ‘P = E’.” Armed with this theory, many managers have entered the performance-appraisal meeting shaking with the thought of having to pass godlike judgment on some employee. Similarly, the employee arrives at the meeting with an arsenal of defenses, designed to protect his or her hard-won self-esteem. Little genuine communication occurs during the meeting and virtually no problem-solving takes place. The paperwork is mechanically completed, then filed away in the personnel office until the next year. So powerful is this subtle P = E equation that any alternative goes virtually unnoticed, for example the Lewinian theory that behavior (performance) is a function of the person and the environment (in this case the organizational situation, the “OS” in which the employee works). Following this Lewinian line, the theory underlying performance appraisal would now have to be expanded to read P = E >< OS. That is, P # E. To adequately assess performance there must be an assessment of the individual in relation to the organizational setting in which he or she works and vice-versa. What would happen to the performance-appraisal process if this more complete theory were used as a basis for redesigning appraisal systems in organizations throughout the corporate world? Isn’t it possible that such a theory could help shift the attribution process away from the person-blame to systems analysis?3
By attributing causality, theories have the potential to create the very phenomena they propose to explain. Karl Weick, in a recent article examining managerial thought in the context of action, contends that thought and action are part and parcel of one another; thinking is best viewed as a kind of activity, and activity as the ground of thought. For him, managerial theories gain their power by helping people overlook disorder and presume orderliness. Theory energizes action by providing a presumption of logic that enables people to act with certainty, attention, care, and control. Even where it is originally inadequate as a description of current reality, a forceful theory may provoke action that brings into the world a new reality that then confirms the original theory. Weick (1983) explains:

Once the action is linked with an explanation, it becomes more forceful, and the situation is thereby transformed into something that supports the presumed underlying pattern. Presumptions [theories) enable actions to be tied to specific explanations that consolidate those actions into deterministic events.   The underlying explanation need not be objectively “correct.” In a crude sense any old explanation will due. This is so because explanation serves mostly to organize and focus the action. The focused action then modifies the situation in ways that confirm the explanation, whatever it is.

   Thus, the adequacy of any explanation is determined by the intensity and structure it adds to potentially self-validating actions. More forcefulness leads to more validation and more perceived adequacy. Accuracy is subordinate to intensity. Since situations can support a variety of meanings, their actual content and meaning are dependent on the degree to which they are arranged in sensible, coherent configurations. More forcefulness imposes more coherence. Thus, those explanations that induce greater forcefulness become more valid, not because they are more accurate, but because they have a higher potential for self-validation . . . the underlying explanations they unfold (for example, ‘This is war”) have great potential to intensify whatever action is underway (1983, pp.230-232).
 

Thus, theories are generative to the extent that they are forceful (e.g., Marx), logically coherent (e.g., Piaget), and bold in their assertions and consistency (e.g., Freud, Weber). By providing a basis for focused action, a logic for attributing causality, and a sequence specification that grounds expectations for action and reaction, a theory goes a long way toward forming the common expectations for the future. “And with the alteration of expectation, the stage is set for modification of action” (Gergen, 1982, p.24).

 3. Transmitting a System of Values

Beyond abstract logic, it is often the affective core of social theory that provides its true force and appeal, allowing it to direct perception and guide behavior. From the tradition of logical positivism, good “objective” theory is to be value-free, yet upon closer inspection we find that social theory is infused with values and domain assumptions throughout. As Gouldner (1970) 50 aptly put it, “Every social theory facilitates the pursuit of some, but not all, courses of action and thus, encourages us to change or accept the world as it is, to say yea or nay to it. In a way, every theory is a discrete obituary or celebration of some social system.”
Nowhere is this better exemplified-negatively-than in the role scientific theory played in the arguments for slavery, colonialism, and belief in the genetic superiority of certain races. The scientific theory in this case was, again, the theory of biological determinism, the belief that social and economic differences between human beings and groups-differences in rank, status, political privilege, education privilege-arise from inherited natural endowments, and that existing social arrangements accurately reflect biological limits. So powerful was this theory during the 1800s that it led a number of America’s highest-ranking scientific researchers unconsciously to miscalculate “objective” data in what has been brilliantly described by naturalist Steven Jay Gould (1981, p.54) as a “patchwork of fudging and finagling in the clear interest of controlling a priori convictions”. Before dismissing this harsh judgment as simple rhetoric, we need to look closely at how it was determined. One example will suffice.
When Samual Morton, a scientist with two medical degrees, died in 1851, the New York Tribune paid tribute saying, “Probably no scientific man in America enjoyed a higher reputation among scholars throughout the world than Dr. Morton” (in Gould, 1981, p.51). Morton gained this reputation as a scientist who set out to rank racial groups by “objectively” measuring the size of the cranial cavity of the human skull which he regarded as a measure of brain size. He had a beautiful collection of skulls from races throughout the world, probably the largest such collection in existence. His hypothesis was a simple one: The mental and moral worth of human races can be arrived at objectively by measuring physical characteristics of the brain; by filling skull cavities with mustard seed or lead shot, accurate measurement of brain size is possible. Morton published three major works which were reprinted repeatedly as providing objective, “hard” data on the mental worth of races. Gould comments:

Needless to say, they matched every good Yankee’s prejudices-whites on top, Indians in the middle, and blacks on the bottom; and among whites, Tuetons and Anglo-Saxons on top, Jews in the middle, and Hindus on the bottom. . . . Status and access to power in Morton’s America faithfully reflected biological merit (p.54).
  Morton’s work was undoubtedly influential. When he died, the South’s leading medical journal proclaimed: “We of the South should consider him as our benefactor, for aiding most materially in giving the Negro his true position as an inferior race” (in Gould, 1981, p.69). Indeed Morton did much more than only give “the Negro his true position,” as the following remarks by Morton himself convey:

Negroes were numerous in Egypt, but their social position in ancient times was the same as it is now, that of servants and slaves. The benevolent mind may regret the inaptitude of the Indian civilization . . . [but values must not yield to fact). The structure of his mind appears to be different from that of the white man, or can the two harmonize in social relations except on the most limited scale. (Indians) are not only averse to restraints of education, but for the most part are incapable of a continued process of reasoning on abstract subjects (in Gould, 1981, p.53).
The problem with these conclusions-as well as the numerical data which supported them-was that they were based not on “fact” but purely and simply on cultural fiction, on Morton’s belief in biological determinism. As Gould meticulously shows, all of Morton’s data was wrong. Having reworked it completely, Gould concludes:

 Morton’s summaries are a patchwork of fudging and finagling in the clear interest of controlling a priori convictions. Yet-and this is the most intriguing aspect of the case-I find no evidence of conscious fraud, indeed, had Morton been a conscious fudger, he would not have published his data so openly.   Conscious fraud is probably rare in science. .  . The prevalence of unconscious finagling, on the other hand, suggests the general conclusion about the social context of science . . . prior prejudice may be found anywhere, even in the basics of measuring bones and totaling sums (pp.
 55-56).

Morton represents a telling example of the power of theory. Theory is not only a shaper of expectations and perceptions. Under the guise of “dispassionate inquiry” it can also be a peddler of values, typecasting arbitrary value as scientific “fact.” Along with Gould, we believe that we would be better off to abandon the myth of “value-free” science and that theoretical work “must he understood as a social phenomenon, a gutsy, human enterprise, not the work of robots programmed to collect pure information” (Gould, 1981, p.21). Even if Morton’s data were correct, his work still could not be counted as value-free. His data and theories were not only shaped by the setting in which he worked; they were also used to support broad social policy. This is akin to making nature the source of cultural values, which of course it never can be (“What is” does not equal “what should be”).

 4. Creating a Group-Building Language

The sociorationalist perspective is more than a pessimistic epitaph for a strictly logical positivist philosophy. It is an invitation to inquiry that raises the status of theory from mere appendage of scientific method to an actual shaper of society. Once we acknowledge that a primary product of science-theory-is a key resource for the creation of groups, the stage is set for theory-building activity intended for the use and development of human society, for the creation of human options.
Students of human behavior have been aware of the group as the foundation of society since the earliest periods of classical thought. Aristotle, for example, discussed the importance of bands and families. But it was not until the middle of the present century that scientific interest in the subject exploded in a flurry of general inquiry and systematic interdisciplinary research (for a sample review of this literature see Hare, 1976). Among the conclusions of this recent work is the crucial insight that:

The face-to-face group working on a problem is the meeting ground of individual personality and society. It is in the group that personality is modified and socialized; and it is through the workings of groups that society is changed and adapted to its times (Thelen, 1954, p. vi).
  Similarly, in the field of organization development, Srivastva, Obert, and Neilsen (1977) have shown that the historical development of the discipline has paralleled advances in group theory. And this, they contend, is no accident because:

 Emphasis on the small group is responsive to the realities of social change in large complex organizations. It is through group life that individuals learn, practice, develop, and modify their roles in the larger organization. To enter programmatically at the group level is both to confront and potentially co-opt an important natural source of change and development in these systems (p.83).
  It is well established that groups are formed around common ideas that are expressed in and through some kind of shared language which makes communicative interaction possible. What is less clear, though, is the exact role that science plays in shaping group life through the medium of language. However, the fact that science frequently does have an impact is rarely questioned. Andre Gorz (1973) offers an explosive example of this point.
In the early 1960s a British professor of sociology by the name of Goldthorpe was brought in from a nearby university to make a study of the Vauxhall automobile workers in Luton, England. At the time, management at the factory was worried because workers in other organizations throughout the United Kingdom were showing great unrest over working conditions, pay, and management. Many strikes were being waged, most of them wildcat strikes called by the factory stewards, not by the unions themselves. Goldthorpe was called in to study the situation at Vauxhall, to find out for management if there was anything to worry about at their factory. At the time of the study there were at Vauxhall no strikes, no disruptions, and no challenges by workers. Management wanted to know why. What were the chances that acute conflict would break out in the “well-managed” and “advanced” big factory?
After two full years of research, the professor drew his conclusions. Management, he said, had little to worry about. According to the study, the workers were completely socialized into the system, they were satisfied with their wages and neither liked or disliked their work-in fact, they were indifferent to it, viewing it as boring but inevitable. Because their job was not intrinsically rewarding, most people did it just to be done with it-so they could go home and work on other more worthwhile projects and be with their family. Work was marginal and instrumental. It was a means to support other interests outside the factory, where “real life” began. Based then on his observations, Goldthorpe theorized that management had nothing to worry about: Workers were passively apathetic and well integrated into the system. They behaved according to middle-class patterns and showed no signs of strength as a group (no class-consciousness). Furthermore, most conflict with management belonged to the past.
The sociologist’s report was still at the printer’s when some employees got hold of a summary of his findings. They had the conclusions copied and distributed reports to hundreds of co-workers. Also at around this time, a report of Vauxhall’s profits was being circulated, profits that were not shared with the employees. The next day something happened. It was reported by the London Times in detail:

Wild rioting has broken out at the Vauxhall car factories in Luton. Thousands of workers streamed out of the shops and gathered in the factory yard. They besieged the management offices, calling for managers to come out, singing the ‘Red Flag,’ and shouting, ‘String them up!’ Groups attempted to storm the offices and battled police which had been called to protect them (quoted in Gorz, 1973).
 The rioting lasted for two days
All of this happened, then, in an advanced factory where systematic research showed workers to be apathetic, weak as a group, and resigned to accept the system. What does it all mean? Had the researchers simply misread the data?
To the contrary. Goldthorpe knew his data well. He articulated the conclusions accurately, concisely, and with force. In fact, what happened was that the report gave the workers a language with which to begin talking to one another about their plight. It brought them into interaction and, as they discussed things, they discovered that Goldthorpe was right. They felt alike, apathetic but frustrated; and they were apathetic because they felt as individuals working in isolated jobs, that no one could do anything to change things. But the report gave them a way to discuss the situation. As they talked, things changed. People were no longer alone in their feelings, and they did not want things to continue as they were. As an emergent group, they now had a means to convert apathy into action, noninvolvement into involvement, and individual powerlessness into collective strength. “In other words,” analyzes Gorz, “the very investigation of Mr. Goldthorpe about the lack of class-consciousness helped tear down the barriers of silence and isolation that rendered the workers apathetic” (p.334).
The Vauxhall case is an important one for a number of reasons. At a general level it demonstrates that knowledge in the social sciences differs in quality and kind from knowledge generated in the physical sciences. For instance, our knowledge of the periodic chart does not change the elements, and our knowledge of the moon’s orbit does not change its path. But our knowledge of a social system is different. It can be used by the system to change itself, thus invalidating or disconfirming the findings immediately or at some later time. Thus the human group differs from objects in an important way: Human beings have the capacity for symbolic interaction and, through language, they have the ability to collaborate in the investigation of their own world. Because of our human capacity for symbolic interaction, the introduction of new knowledge concerning aspects of our world carries with it the strong likelihood of changing that world itself.
Gergen (1982) refers to this as the “enlightenment effect” of scientific work, meaning that once the formulations of scientific work are made public, human beings may act autonomously either to disconfirm or to validate the propositions. According to logical positivist philosophy, potential enlightenment effects must be reduced or-ideally-eliminated through experimental controls. In social psychology, for example, deception plays a crucial role in doing research; enlightenment effects are viewed as contaminants to good scientific work. Yet there is an alternative way to look at the reactive nature of social research: it is precisely because of the enlightenment effect that theory can and does play an important role in the positive construction of society. In this sense, the enlightenment effect-which is made possible through language-is an essential ingredient making scientific work worthwhile, meaningful, and applicable. It constitutes an invitation to each and every theorist to actively participate in the creation of his or her world by generating compelling theories of what is good, and just, and desirable in social existence.

5. Extending Visions of Possibility

The position taken by the sociorationalist philosophy of science is that the conduct of inquiry cannot be separated from the everyday negotiation of reality. Social-organizational research is, therefore, a continuing moral concern, a concern of social reconstruction and direction. The choice of what to study, how to study it, and what to report each implies some degree of responsibility. Science, therefore, instead of being considered an endpoint, is viewed as one means of helping humanity create itself. Science in this sense exists for one singular overarching purpose. As Albion Small (1905) proposed almost a century ago, a generative science must aim at “the most thorough, intense, persistent, and systematic effort to make human life all that it is capable of becoming” (pp.
36-37).
Theories gain their generative capacity by extending visions that expand to the realm of the possible. As a general proposition it might be said that theories designed to empower organized social systems will tend to have a greater enlightenment effect than theories of human constraint. This proposition is grounded in a simple but important consideration which we should like to raise as it relates to the unity of theory and practice: Is it not possible that scientific theory gains its capacity to affect cultural practices in very much the same way that powerful leaders inspire people to new heights? Recent research on the functioning of the executive mind (Srivastva, 1983; 1985) raises a set of intriguing parallels between the possibilities of a generative science and the workings of the executive mind.
The essential parallel is seen in the primary role that ideas or ideals play in the mobilization of diverse groups in the common construction of a desired future. Three major themes from the research stand out in this regard:

a.  Vision: The executive mind works largely from the present and extends itself out to the longer-term future. It is powerful to the extent that it is able to envision a desired future state which challenges perceptions of what is possible and what can be realized. The executive mind operates beyond the frontier of conventional practice without losing sight of either necessity or possibility.
b.  Passion: The executive mind is simultaneously rational and intuitive, which allows it to tap into the sentiments, values, and dreams of the social collectivity. Executive vision becomes “common vision  to the extent that it ignites the imaginations, hopes, and passions of others-and it does so through the articulation of self-transcending ideals which lend meaning and significance to everyday life.
c.  Integrity: The executive mind is the mental muscle that moves a system from the present state to a new and different future. As such, this muscle gains strength to the extent that it is founded upon an integrity able to withstand contrary pressures. There are three dimensions to executive integrity. The first, system integrity, refers to the fact that the executive mind perceives the world (the organization, group, or society) as a unified whole, not as a collection of individual parts. The second type of integrity is moral integrity. Common-vision leadership is largely an act of caring. It follows the “path of the heart,” which is the source of moral and ethical standards. Finally, integrity of vision refers to consistency, coherence, and focus. Executive vision-to the extent to which it is compelling-is focused and unwavering, even in the midst of obstacles, critics, and conflicting alternatives.

Interestingly, these thematic dimensions of the executive mind have their counterparts in recent observations concerning the utilization of organizational research. According to Beyer and Trice (1982), the “affective bonding” that takes place during the research largely determines the attractiveness of its results and generates commitment to utilize their implications. For example, Henshel (1975) suggests that research containing predictions of an appealing future will be utilized and preferred over research that points to a negative or repelling future: “People will work for predicted states they approve of and against those they detest” (p.103). Similarly, Weiss and Bucavalas (1980) report that results which challenge the status quo are most attractive to high-level executives be-cause they are the persons expected to make new things happen, at least on the level of policy. And, with respect to passion and integrity, Mitroff (1980) urges social scientists to become caring advocates of their ideas, not only to diffuse their theories but also to challenge others to prove them wrong and thus pursue those ideas which have integrity in action.
This section has explored a number of ways in which social theory becomes a powerful resource for change and development in social practice. The argument is simple. Theory is agential in character and has unbounded potential to affect patterns of social action-whether desired or not. As we have seen, theories are not mere explanations of an external world lying “out there” waiting to be objectively recorded. Theories, like powerful ideas, are formative. By establishing perceptual cues and frames, by providing presumptions of logic, by transmitting subtle values, by creating new language, and by extending compelling visions of possibility or constraint-in all these ways social theory becomes a powerful means whereby norms, beliefs, and cultural practices may be altered.

 
REAWAKENING THE SPIRIT OF ACTION-RESEARCH
The key point is this: Instinctively, intuitively, and tacitly we all know that important ideas can, in a flash, profoundly alter the way we see ourselves, view reality, and conduct our lives. Experience shows that a simple economic forecast, political poll, or technical discovery (like the atomic bomb) can forever change the course of human history. Thus one cannot help but be disturbed and puzzled by the discipline of action-research in its wide-ranging indifference to theory. Not only does it continue to underrate the role of theory as a means for organizational development (Friedlander & Brown, 1974; Bartunek, 1983; Argyris, 1983) but it appears also to have become locked within an assumptive base that systematically distorts our view of organizational reality and inadvertently helps reinforce and perfect the status quo (Brimm, 1972).
Why is there this lack of generative theorizing in action-research? And, more importantly, what can be done to rekindle the spirit, excitement and passion required of a science that wishes to be of vital significance to organizations? Earlier we talked about a philosophy of science congenial to the task. Sociorationalism, it was argued, represents an epistemological point of view conducive to catalytic theorizing. Ironically though, it can be argued that most action-researchers already do subscribe to this or a similar view of science (Susman & Evered, 1978). Assuming this to be the case, it becomes an even greater puzzle why contemporary action-research continues to disregard theory-building as an integral and necessary component of the craft. In this section we shall broaden our discussion by taking a look at some of the metaphysical assumptions embedded in our conventional definitions of action-research-assumptions that can be shown to govern our thought and work in ways inimical to present interests.

Paradigm I: Organizing As A Problem to be Solved
 The intellectual and spiritual origins of action-research can be traced to Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist of German origin who coined the term action-research in 1944. The thrust of Lewin’s work centered on the need to bridge the gap between science and the realm of practical affairs. Science, he said, should be used to inform and educate social practice, and subsequent action would then inform science: “We should consider action, research, and training as a triangle that should be kept together” (Lewin, 1948, p.211). The twofold promise of an action science, according to Lewin, was to simultaneously contribute to the development of scientific knowledge (propositions of an if/then variety) and use such knowledge for bettering the human condition.
The immense influence of Lewin is a complete puzzle if we look only to his writings. The fact of the matter is that Lewin published only 2 papers-a mere 22 pages-concerned directly with the idea of action-research (Peters & Robinson, 1984). Indeed, it has been argued that his enduring influence is attributable not to these writings but to the sheer force and presence of the man himself. According to biographer Alfred Marrow (1968), Lewin was a passionate and creative thinker, continuously knocking at the door of the unknown, studying “topics that had been believed to be psychologically unapproachable.” Lewin’s character was marked by a spirit of inquiry that burned incessantly and affected all who came in contact with him, especially his students. The intensity of his presence was fueled further by the belief that inquiry itself could be used to construct a more democratic and dignified future. At least this was his hope and dream, for Lewin had not forgotten his experience as a refugee from fascism in the late 1930s. Understanding this background, then, it is clear why he revolted so strongly against a detached ivory-tower view of science, a science that is immersed in trivial matters, tranquilized by its standardized methods, and limited in its field of inquiry. Thus, the picture we have of Lewin shows him to have been a committed social scientist pioneering uncharted territory for the purpose of creating new knowledge about groups and societies that might advance the democratic ideal (see, for example, Lewin, 1952). It was this spirit-a relentless curiosity coupled with a conviction of the need for knowledge-guided societal development-that marked Lewin’s creative impact on both his students and the field.
Much of this spirit is now gone from action-research. What is left is a series of assumptions about the world which exhibits little, if any, resemblance to the process of inquiry as Lewin lived it. While many of the words are the same, they have been taken too literally and in their translation over the years have been bloated into a set of metaphysical principles-assumptions about the essence of social existence-that directly undermine the intellectual and speculative spirit. Put bluntly, under current norms, action-research has largely failed as an instrument for advancing social knowledge of consequence and now risks being (mis)understood as little more than a crude empiricism imprisoned in a deficiency mode of thought. A quick sketch of six sets of assumptions embedded in the conventional view of action-research will show exactly what we are talking about while also answering our question about the discipline’s lack of contribution to generative theory:
Research equals problem-solving; to do good research is to solve “real problems.” So ingrained is this assumption that it scarcely needs documentation. Virtually every definition found in leading texts and articles equates action-research with problem solving-as if “real” problem solving is virtually the essence of the discipline. For example, as French and Bell (1978) define it, “Action-research is both an approach to problem solving-a model or paradigm, and a problem-solving process-a series of activities and events” (p. 88)4 Or in terms of the Bradford, Gibb, and Benne (1964) definition, “It is an application of scientific methodology in the clarification and solution of practical problems” (p.33). Similarly, Frohman, Sashkin, and Kavanaugh (1976) state: “Action research describes a particular process model whereby behavioral science knowledge is applied to help a client (usually a group or social system) solve real problems and not incidentally learn the process involved in problem solving” (p.203). Echoing this theme, that research equals problem solving, researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute in Social Research state,

“Three factors need to be taken into account in an organization development action-research effort: The behaviors that are problematic, the conditions that create those behaviors, and the interventions or activities that will correct the conditions creating the problems. What is it that people are doing or not doing, that is a problem? Why are they doing or not doing these particular things? Which of a large number of possible interventions or activities would be most likely to solve the problems by focusing on why problems exist?” (Hausser, Pecorella & Wissler, 1977, p.2). Click here to go to Part Two of this article

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