Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview

5
Adjusting Research Methods for Organizational Problem Solving

The scientific method of gaining knowledge is a logical process of gathering data and making predictions, interpretations, and explanations. It assists different observers to rigorously collaborate in building a body of evidence.

Scientific endeavors have, for more than half a century, provided the hope for a better, healthier, and safer world. The benefits of science are visible in medicine, chemistry, engineering, and biology. Human illnesses are more possible to cure than they were years ago. Comforts of life in the home and community and expectations for a healthier work life have drastically improved over the years. Traditional science has contributed to a world that would have been hard to imagine before the turn of the century.

In the last decade, scientific achievements have produced several social consequences. The more efficient freeway and transportation systems have created concrete jungles of noise and air pollution. The destruction of life through technological and biological warfare is a very real possibility. Efficient industrial system have increased the levels of air, water, and soil pollution. Most of us are growing to believe that we are living in a period of crisis which is potentially more devastating than before. We sit amidst our achievements and wonder about the effects of global warming, the holes in the ozone layer, and the pollution problems in developing countries.

Warfare and social ills are not a result of science. In every generation of mankind's existence, we have had to adjust our cultural values and goals to respond to our scientific achievements. Traditional science has simply been better at creating physical achievements than it has in providing the knowledge to help societies and organizations adjust to them. The methods of traditional science are not equipped for organizational problem-solving. They are useful for providing solutions to specific problems that are definable, observable, and technical. While traditional science has been very good in creating our "great society," it probably is not equipped to provide the knowledge for solving organizational problems.

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