Chris Corrigan writes about the tension between theorising and doing – in the context of change in organisations:
Traditionally academics are suspicious of practitioners who fly by the seat of their pants who don’t ground their experience in theory and who tell stories that validate their biases. Practitioners are traditionally suspicious of academics being stuffy jargony and inaccessible, too much in the mind and engaged in indulgent personal research projects. Secretly I think, each has been jealous of the other a bit: academics coveting the freedom of practice and practitioners wanting the legitimacy of academics.
He points to a new book about dialogic organisation development. The (free) introductory section of that book explores the contrast between what it calls diagnostic and dialogic approaches. Diagnostic approaches assume that the practitioner or consultant knows – at some level – what the problem is, and designs interventions to fix it. The dialogic approach sees the process as more organic, creating conversations between all participants to explore change and how it happens.
I’m simplifying a bit, but this dialogic approach resembles our thinking in Nothing is Written. In there, we’re pushing back against conventional teaching by the knowing expert, and towards more shared, exploratory methods that embrace ambiguity.