When the Practice of Theorizing Meets the Theorizing of Practice. Social Knowledge Making in Organization Science Academia and Managerial Communities

Ungureanu, Paula (2013) When the Practice of Theorizing Meets the Theorizing of Practice. Social Knowledge Making in Organization Science Academia and Managerial Communities, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Direzione aziendale, 25 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/5555.
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The aim of the present work is to contribute to a better understanding of the relation between organization theory and management practice. It is organized as a collection of two papers, a theoretical and conceptual contribution and an ethnographic study. The first paper is concerned with systematizing different literatures inside and outside the field of organization studies that deal with the theory-practice relation. After identifying a series of positions to the theory-practice debate and unfolding some of their implicit assumptions and limitations, a new position called entwinement is developed in order to overcome status quo through reconciliation and integration. Accordingly, the paper proposes to reconceptualize theory and practice as a circular iterative process of action and cognition, science and common-sense enacted in the real world both by organization scholars and practitioners according to purposes at hand. The second paper is the ethnographic study of an encounter between two groups of expert academics and practitioners occasioned by a one-year executive business master in an international business school. The research articulates a process view of the knowledge exchange between management academics and practitioners in particular and between individuals belonging to different communities of practice, in general, and emphasizes its dynamic, relational and transformative mechanisms. Findings show that when they are given the chance to interact, academics and practitioners set up local provisional relations that enable them to act as change intermediaries vis-a-vis each other’s worlds, without tying themselves irremediably to each other and to the scenarios they conjointly projected during the master’s experience. Finally, the study shows that provisional relations were accompanied by a recursive shift in knowledge modes. While interacting, academics passed from theory to practical theorizing, practitioners passed from an involved practical mode to a reflexive and quasi-theoretical one, and then, as exchanges proceeded, the other way around.


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