Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge

Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge

Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge

Reasons and Rationalizations: The Limits to Organizational Knowledge

Synopsis

What is the purpose of social science and management research? Do scholars and researchers have a responsibility to generate insights and knowledge that are of practical and implementable value and validity?

Excerpt

Early in my career, I made two choices: first, to design and help implement liberating alternatives for human beings and organizations; and second, to do so through scholarly inquiry and research.

I begin this book by citing the literature that documents executives' and employees' use of defensive reasoning mind-sets that practically assure that the liberating alternatives they espouse will not be implemented. When the practitioners are pressed as to why they act in ways that are counterproductive to their intentions and goals, they claim that they are victims, helpless in the face of the demands of others and of organizations. These are not conditions favorable to the non-trivial changes that are required to produce liberating alternatives.

Turning to scholarly research on organizations, we have a puzzle. It is the scholars who document the practitioners' defensive reasoning mind-sets and organizational defensive routines. It is the scholars who show that these features have a counterproductive effect on human beings and organization. The puzzle is that these same scholars do not conduct research designed to mitigate these counterproductive consequences. Why?

The scholars' typical answers are, I suggest, incomplete and may be misleading. I hope to show that we as scholars have our own defensive reasoning mind-sets and that the scholarly communities that we create are full of defensive routines. The most powerful defenses, I will suggest, are the ideas in good currency about theory creation and research methodologies.

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