Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning
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Collaborative Strategic Improvement through Network Action Learning

The Path to Sustainability

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan

Improvement is fundamental to the competitiveness of networks and requires the participating firms to collaborate in identifying and introducing changes. This book presents collaborative strategic improvement as a cycle of activities in which firms in a network can engage together. Drawing on actual cases, authors link this cycle with disciplined action learning as a means of building upon experience generated through collaborative action. They describe how a network can learn from experience and deploy that learning in the marketplace.
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Chapter 11: Action Learning Research in Inter-organizational Settings

Paul Coughlan and David Coghlan


165 Correspondingly, Antonacopoulou (2004) notes a growing focus on the scholarship of practice and, in an associated way, Raelin (2007) writes of the epistemology of practice. ‘The new production of knowledge’, as articulated by Gibbons and his colleagues (1994), is a network activity different from a model embedded in the expertise of isolated individuals operating from a top-down expert model. This network activity, known as Mode 2 research, is characterized by: knowledge that is produced in the context of application, trans-disciplinarity, heterogeneity and organizational diversity, social accountability and reflexivity. Quality control is structured in the context of application and set with reference to a wide set of criteria (Gibbons, Limoges, Nowotny, Schwartzman, Scott, and Trow, 1994). A number of the features attributed to Mode 2 are applied to such established action-oriented approaches as action learning and action research (MacLean, MacIntosh and Grant, 2002; Gustavsen, 2003). Action-Oriented Research Action-oriented research is a generic term that encompasses a variety of approaches to research that are grounded in participative and pragmatic values (Coghlan, 2010). These approaches seek to contribute both to practice and to knowledge simultaneously. Action-oriented research can be contrasted with positivist science. The aim of positivist science is the creation of universal knowledge or covering law, while action-oriented research focuses on knowledge in action. Accordingly, the knowledge created in positivist science is deemed to be universal while the knowledge created through action-oriented research is particular, situational and out of praxis. In action-oriented research the data are contextually embedded and interpreted while...

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