Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Management Studies

Reform by Reflection: Schön's Legacy to Management Practice in Times of Uncertainty

Academic journal article Iranian Journal of Management Studies

Reform by Reflection: Schön's Legacy to Management Practice in Times of Uncertainty

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)


The idea of reflective practice is in good currency (e.g., Raelin, 2011; Vince, 2012). In professions and academic disciplines as diverse as public policy, urban planning, health and medicine, teaching and education, psychotherapy, and management it has become common for individuals to ask such questions: how can we develop training programs, processes, and tools to facilitate and foster critical reflection and thinking among individuals (e.g., De DeaRoglio & Light, 2009)? How can we move from an individual level of reflection and intuition to a collective one (e.g., Mirvis, 2008; Sadler-Smith & Shefy, 2007)? How effective are our individual reflections or collective inquiries, and adequate to the challenges that confront us (Putnam, 2009)?

On the other hand, there has been the alarming experience of contemporary managers that the world they are creating and encountering is growing in discontinuity and surprises (Christensen, Anthony & Roth, 2014; Power, 2007). Uncertainty increasingly appears to be central to their activities (Latour, 2015). Problems are interlocked and do not follow pre-existent, clear-cut techniques and theories (Lester & Piore, 2014). Means and ends are acknowledged to be fuzzy (Grint, 2007). The nonlinear, puzzling realities of management practices appear to defy pre-defined tasks and tactics (Mintzberg, 2014) .

Arguably, management profession and programs such as MBA are suffering as the rate of uncertainty increases; unexpected shifts (e.g., change in oil price), manufactured risks (e.g., the credit crunch and toxic assets; Beck, 1992), and technological imbroglios (e.g., toxic toys) (Latour, 2015). In the case of credit crunch, for example, although no single group can be blamed for the economic meltdown, a number of high-profile MBAs have been implicated .

Too much is happening to the field of management, its standards, values and norms within the span of one executive's professional life to relax on established certainties or to be confident about their projection into the future. It appears, as if overnight, that the seemingly unthinkable becomes an idea in good currency for executives and a generation of change is telescoped into a single year. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that in recent times management professionals rapidly exercised their seemingly well-established certainties for a while only to realize that they are in fact ephemeral (Bauman, 2006).

In Drucker's (1992) terms, the field of management is now experiencing an 'age of discontinuity' in its established strategies, traditions, and norms; and history provides little previous similarity and experience. For any or all of these reasons, one can observe a "crisis of confidence" in management education and training programs such that concern with the direction, relevance, and effectiveness of many learning processes and policies has also been on the rise (Feldman, 2015; Kleinrichert, 2015; Mintzberg, 2014). In many areas, it seems that one cannot design programs or make predictions that will be valid for the next decade. There is less certainty about 'the line' of the future and, as options proliferate, they are faced with the dilemma of what social scientist Giddens (2009: 4) calls a "plurality of future scenarios ."

Donald Alan Schön (1930-1997), whose work best predicts and portrays such problematic situations, devoted his academic life to providing an actionable schema for tackling them, as well.

It is the argument of this paper that in order to cope reasonably well with uncertainty, management scholars and professionals as reflective practitioners require a new interpretation of Schön's work (what we call Schön's schema) as an intellectual map or cognitive schema, making sense of and improving their tacit personal style in a problematic situation. We seek to revisit Schön's inquiry about uncovering and enhancing this personal style useful under conditions of uncertainty and how it can further our understanding of management practice, education, and learning in times of uncertainty. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.