A "TRANSITION-MODEL" LABORATORY FOR RESEARCH ON CULTURAL CHANGE*
John L. Kennedy
ONE OF the serious problems in studying organizations is the gap between the results of field experiments on cultural change, such as those described by Holmberg,1 and those of traditional laboratory studies. This gap seems so big that very few traditional laboratory methods are directly useful to the experimenter and observer in the field. Is it possible to close this gap between "pure science" and "field science" so that laboratory results can be used to understand and predict similar phenomena in the expanded context of field conditions?
The answer seems to be -- speaking generally -- in the design of the laboratory model and, more particularly, in the level of abstraction of the concepts embodied in the model.
This problem has been faced, and solved, in a simpler form in the physical sciences. I would like to introduce the "transition-model" concept by describing how similar gaps between laboratory studies and experiments in the field have been dealt with in designing aircraft. In this case the subject of study is a complex community of mechanical and electronic components rather than a complex community of human beings. (But I would like to point out that, as helpful as this analogy is, it breaks down rather quickly.)
Elaborate "base-line" studies of the system, as well as the results of continuing "pure research" on the properties of components, are available to the designer of a new aircraft. A new alloy has appeared since the old model was designed, new advances in understanding metal fatigue have____________________