In this paper we set out to explore the notion of ‘practice' from a perspective that is informed by American Pragmatism. In adopting this position, we endeavour to take a critical view of practice as a theoretical construct. Specifically, we distinguish practice - that is, what people actually do - from the broader notion of process, which we take to imply any time-dependent sequence of events that may not necessarily even involve people. In our view, it is human actions such as thinking, talking, feeling and doing that define practice. The Pragmatists in their thinking also accord a central role to human action, especially its creative aspects, drawing linkages between actions and the social construction of meanings. We will argue, therefore, that Pragmatism provides a useful lens through which to gain fresh theoretical insights into the nature of practice in organization. Although the Pragmatists covered a vast scope in their thinking, the central argument around which they cohere is that we are all active participants (practitioners) in the world, so it is not possible for us to stand back and take a spectator's view of events. In this paper, we have chosen to focus our attention specifically on the works of John Dewey and George Herbert Mead, who developed these general Pragmatist principles in ways that directly inform practice. Dewey concentrated particularly on relational dynamics, emphasising the continuous transactions between subjects and worlds in the situated construction of meanings. He argued that inquiry, which he saw as synonymous with critical and reflective thinking, is the foundation of all constructive activity, and that creative thinking and action are generated by a forward-looking, anticipative mode of inquiry. Mead contributed considerable analytical detail to the rich descriptive models developed by Dewey. He maintained that all human activity is ultimately concerned with the creative construction and elaboration of the social self. This self, he saw as an emergent product of the interplay between an embodied, objective ‘me' and a performative, subjective ‘I'. Without the ‘I' principle, the self would be nothing more than an impression of social structure, and there would be no potential for creative or reconstructive activity. This paper presents a detailed review of the Pragmatist position as it relates to practice. Our argument is informed by recent developments in the organizational learning literature that reflect a shift from a merely epistemological view of knowledge and learning, towards an altogether more ontological perspective in which learning is regarded as a process of being and becoming. Drawing on this literature as an exemplar, we will extract the key dimensions of a dynamic theory of creative practice. We will also explore the implications of this theory for the practice of both research and management.
amerikansk pragmatisme; kreativitet; Læringsspil, spilbaseret læring, seriøse spil; George Herbert Mead; John Dewey; praksisbaseret forskning; American Pragmatism; creativity; Learning games, Serious games, game based learning; practice-based studies
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The Second Organization Studies Summer Workshop on 'Re-turn to Practice: Understanding Organization as it Happens', 2006