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Mary Casey and David Coghlan

Action research is an approach to research that integrates theory and practice through research in action. It is essentially emancipatory and collaborative and it engages those directly affected by the issues at hand as co-researchers. It generates actionable knowledge, that is knowledge that is useful for practitioners and robust for scholars. It is conducted in the present tense whereby it is enacted through cycles of planning, action and reflection. Action research is understood to be a family of approaches and is expressed through modalities, such as action learning, appreciative inquiry, cooperative developmental action inquiry, learning history and participatory action research to name some of the more common ones. It is practised in many settings – business, community development, education, health care, nursing, midwifery and each of these typically has its own application and literature.

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

Collaborative inquiry is defined in terms of conversations between those who are insiders to the organization and those who are outsiders with the aim of both addressing relevant organizational issues and creating practical knowledge about organizational change. The partnership and a dialogical process is fueled by creating generative images and developing shared understanding. It takes place in the present tense and the role of the researcher is that of an engaged scholar enacting humble inquiry. This chapter presents a conceptual framework of collaborative inquiry for organization development and change. The background and core constructs of organization learning, organization development within a social science philosophy, collaborative inquiry, the essence of partnership, Mode 1 and Mode 2 knowledge production and meaning creation in their historical OD context and how they have developed, a philosophy of practical knowing and inquiring in the present tense are introduced.

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

The collaborative inquiry in organization development framework builds on the view of organizations as social systems, organizations as learning systems, organization development and change within a social science philosophy, the essence of partnership, inquiry in the present tense, and an inquiry orientation that fit more within the domain of Mode 2 knowledge production process practice. It is enacted in the present tense and the role of the scholar-practitioner is that of an engaged scholar enacting humble inquiry. This chapter provides a synopsis of the theoretical foundations and theoretical grounding for each of the key elements in collaborative inquiry.

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

A general empirical method based on the operations of human knowing: be attentive to experience; be intelligent in envisaging possible explanations of the experience; be reasonable in preferring as probable or certain the explanations that provide the best account for the experience and be responsible for one’s actions is a framework for engaging with the different meanings that the participants may hold about their experience. It situates participants non-hierarchically with other inquirers and enables the creation and utilization of a space for inquiry and abductive among the members of a community of practice (the practitioner and researchers) to form a community of inquiry in order to improve a system’s performance and to add to the broader body of knowledge in the field of management and organizations. The dynamics structure of human knowing, abductive reasoning, the general empirical method, the process of collaborative inquiry, modalities of collaborative inquiry and, the ethical challenges of collaborative inquiry are discussed.

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

Both design and transformation play a critical role in the emergence and implementation of a change process. We explored how collaborative inquiry design orientation is crucial in providing a structural context for the engagement of all parties in the collaborative endeavor. Transformational change implies radical change in the organization’s identity, how the organization functions and how members of the organization perceive, think and behave. It entails second order change that includes changes in the organization’s mission and identity that trigger an organizational redesign of the way the organization works. Organization development scholar-practitioners, embedded in collaborative inquiry practice, utilize the depth and breadth of design and design process-oriented knowledge, and through conversations and dialogue with members of the organization a collective choice is made about the appropriate change and development process to follow.

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

Six phases are described: from preliminary conversations through initial framing and design, through collaborative re-framing of the purpose, scope, methodology and design of collaborative spaces through the research question/s, framing of the inquiry type, collaborative exploration of research methodology and the design of collaborative spaces through data collection, the development and capturing of systemic narratives, creating generative images, meaning creation, the design and facilitation of the data sense making process and continuous experimentation within the collaborative spaces, and; execution of the changes and the dissemination of the newly created knowledge in academic and professional outlets. The quality of collaborative inquiry may be judged in terms of four criteria: rigorous, reflective, relevant and resilient.

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Abraham B. Shani and David Coghlan

The distinctive nature of collaborative inquiry involves researchers in differentiated consciousness as they attend to the dynamics of building partnership, assessing performance standards, exploring the insiders’ experiences of the organization and working with them to transform the organization. The notion of interiority as enacted through the general empirical method enables researchers to hold both the science of change and the practice of changing without polarizing them. Through their interiority collaborative researchers can engage in and hold the different ways of knowing that occur in a project. Each of these ways of knowing produces different forms of knowledge as they work to bring privately held meanings into a shared space for joint exploration and the creation of collectively shared meaning. This is how theorizing takes place and it is a core skill for collaborative researchers to learn and be part of their education and training. The skills of the researchers, the essence of theorizing, the epistemological and methodological challenges, the emergent and interlevel perspectives and the role that generative images can play in the collaborative inquiry process are explored.