The Skills Required for Action Science and Organizational Learning

Good AS practice focuses heavily on group process skills. In the interventions we have observed by some action scientists, we have been impressed by certain skills they develop. For one thing, they are very patient and persistent with the processes. The calm, persistent, clear, and supportive role interveners play does much to create the space in which the kind of AS inquiry leading to changes in group process can be developed. It is our sense that AS insists that practition­ers discipline themselves to wait longer, persist more, and remain calm perhaps more than most other approaches. Perhaps this is part of the therapeutic legacy of this tradition.

Another important feature of AS intervention is the way in which practi­tioners learn not to feel threatened by silences and vacuums in group processes. Rather than rushing in to fill awkward spaces with sound and action, they keep uncomfortable spaces open longer, confronting the participants with the need to examine their actions in part out of the discomfort caused by the process of standing still.

At every turn, AS practitioners challenge participants to be explicit and to explain their actions, and they repeatedly make explicit their own reactions and explanations as a model for this behavior. This quasi-Socratic intervention often leads participants to make their own analytical breakthroughs rather than allowing them to hide in the interstices of group process. This requires skill in confronting people without silencing them, being strong yet open, sym­pathetic yet critical, and unusually attentive to the details of speech and action. Again, these are legacies of the therapeutic tradition and are worthy of study and emulation in AR processes.

Source: Greenwood Davydd J., Levin Morten (2006), Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd edition.

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