Sub-theme 04: (SWG) Fostering organizational and societal novelty through action research *

Marc Bonnet
University of Lyon 3, France
Olav Eikeland
University College of Akerhus, Norway
Thierry Nobre
University of Strasbourg, France

Call for Papers

Chris Argyris has argued that action science enables creativity and double loop learning in and around organizations. In a world where the ability to innovate is often seen as a prerequisite, many organizations in the public and private sectors have tried to foster creativity and innovation at the top of the hierarchy, in particular through leadership initiatives and the actions of senior management. However, such initiatives often succeed only in reproducing traditional solutions or in imposing the latest fads. It is much harder to challenge conventions and create new organizational patterns. Action-Research is one of the most potent ways of releasing the untapped potential of innovation in organizations and beyond because it is based on participative processes which are intended to foster interaction and creativity.

This sub-theme invites submissions focused on the part played by action research projects in enhancing the capacity for passion, creativity and innovation in organizations. Contributors are expected to reflect upon the (potential) contributions from a variety of action-research methodologies ranging from participative observation to intervention, collaborative research, practitioner research, and others. The organizers of the sub-theme team will foster also attempt to foster comparisons across countries, cultures and sectors.

Relevant issues related to action research may be:

  • Is action research particularly suited to foster innovation and creativity in organizations? How? Are any particular versions of action research better suited? Why or why not?

  • What kind of tools can action research provide in order to facilitate social and societal improvements?

  • How can AR processes prevent social withdrawal and enhance open-mindedness throughout society to foster novelty? (cf. Greenwood and Levin)

  • How does the AR "turn to practice" contribute to bridge the gap between academics and researchers and thus to reconcile academic with professional concerns? How does the action research approach relate to the ongoing debates on actionable knowledge and the actionability of knowledge, and practice-based approaches more generally?

  • How do Action Research processes positively affect organizations operations throughout? (see e.g. Robert MacIntosh)

  • How could AR enhance team-work even when actors are in conflict within organizations? How to proceed to bring actors together?

  • Any special impacts of action research on innovation processes in the public sector? How do AR methods contribute to its revitalization with a special focus on the health-care organizations?

  • How could AR processes help public government institutions to become more creatively responsive? Could AR processes re-energize the actors focused on red-tape and bureaucratic practices?

  • Networking and Action-Research: how can AR processes fertilize the soil for clusters and networks, in particular in cities and conurbations? (see e.g. Rupert Chisholm). Examples of AR processes at macro-level (see e.g. David Boje's trans-organisational game-board).

  • The revolutionary aspect of Action research: doing away with taken for granted framework? (see e.g. Thomas Kuhn)

  • How to reconcile economic and social objectives within organizations through AR processes? (e.g. Henri Savall and Véronique Zardet)

Marc Bonnet 
Olav Eikeland 
Thierry Nobre