Clinical Inquiry/Research

Fundamentals of Organization Development

Edgar Schein

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  • The basic purpose of this chapter is to show that useful data can be gathered in situations that are not initiated by the researcher. Gathering data, building concepts and developing theory is the result of a research attitude , a desire to clarify what is going on and communicate that clarification to other researchers. It is my argument that some of the best opportunities for such inquiry actually arise in situations where the setting is created by someone who wants help, not by the researcher deciding what to study. Gathering useful data in settings that are defined by ‘clients’ who are seeking help is what I mean by clinical inquiry/research (Schein, 1987a, 1999a, 1999b, 2003, 2004). The major implication of this way of thinking is that knowledge production is a byproduct of helping rather than a primary goal. The use of the word ‘clinical’ is therefore appropriate inasmuch as the inquiry always starts around some problem or issue that a client brings to a helper (therapist, consultant, coach, counselor). Even if the goal is couched in positive terms such as would be advocated by the proponents of appreciative inquiry (see Chapters 12 and 19), there is always under the surface some…

    Clinical Inquiry/Research’, EdgarH.ScheinP.Reason and H.Bradbury (eds), Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice,
    2nd edition
    (London: Sage, 2008), pp. 266–279. Published by Sage Publications Ltd. Reprinted with permission.

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