Chris Argyris and Donald Schön’s theory of action is a descriptive and normative framework that explains and prescribes behavior at the individual, group, and organizational levels. The intellectual roots of the theory of action are John Dewey’s theory of inquiry and Kurt Lewin’s formulations of action research. In particular, the theory of action aspires to the Lewinian ideal of contributing simultaneously to basic knowledge of human behavior and practical action in everyday life. In so doing, the theory of action integrates science and application to an extent that is unparalleled in the organizational behavior literature.

Espoused Theory Versus Theory-in-Use

At its core, the theory of action maintains that, for virtually everyone, there is a discrepancy between what people say and believe is motivating their actions and what ...

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