Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview

2
The Need for an Action Research

Most scientific pundits claim that research exists to further the cause of science, answering questions with reliable and unbiased information.

This scientific activity can consume enormous amounts of time. Like a sail boat, it is also expensive. This research is also detailed, meticulous, and demands sometimes boring tabulations and observations. Further, the technical skills using mathematics, statistics, and computer programs must be integrated and allied with a scientific attitude and attention to detail.

Traditions which assist the evaluation and prediction process a anchor scientific research. These traditions include establishing experimental controls, replication, and precise measurements, while also guarding against invalidity and unreliability. The goal is to discover new facts, verify old facts, and to analyze their sequences, causal explanations, and the natural laws governing the data gathered.

Traditional science has achieved modes of success in trying to explain and solve societal and organizational problems. There is much that can be measured in society, and traditional science has done very well in accomplishing this task. It has been particularly relevant in chemistry, physics, biology and other fields some call the "hard" sciences.

Apparently, recognition is growing of the difficulties involved in using this traditional scientific research paradigm for practical organizational development problems. That is, "there may be an inherent incompatibility between practical problem-solving and "scientific research," and maximizing one may minimize the other." 1 Scientific research practices are often accused of being unfortunate impediments to effective action. Paradoxically, the traditional scientists are becoming more and more sophisticated, while the research users are demanding material which is simple, clear, and timely. Thus, there have been several suggestions that research procedures should recognize the dynamic nature of organizational problems. 2

-7-

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