Having grown up with – and mostly shucked off – the mythology of the objective researcher, some conceptual artefacts remain. One that I have been wrestling with is, how much of my valence theory model would, should, or could my individual participants know about beforehand? Traditionally, by which I mean, researcher-dominant, one-way flow of information from subject (sic) to researcher, the participants are kept relatively in the dark about the researcher’s objectives and hypotheses so that their responses aren’t tainted by any attempt to please the researcher, or feed expected answers. In this situation, the ideal would be to attach an information vacuum nozzle to the subjects’ ears, and suck out all the necessary information from their brains. The answers in this case are thought to be honest and not influenced by the researcher’s frame of reference, expected outcomes, or any critical considerations. Or so goes the mythology.
This view, of course, is diametrically opposite from my research approach and indeed, from my specific, custom methodology. In general, I believe that research participants are, in effect, co-researchers, with the ability to learn and benefit from participating in the research as I will from facilitating and enabling it. To this end, I tend to share my own experiences in what I hope is more of a conversation than an interview. But I’m still hung up on how much of my specific research questions I should share, or at least make available, beforehand – it’s hard to completely shake off one’s early conditioning.
But, let’s face it: my Valence Theory is no secret. For anyone interested in the approach I take, it’s all here on the blog, not to mention the now dozens and dozens of conversations I’ve had with all sorts of people who have taken a keen interest in what I am doing, and have contributed to my thinking by sharing their own experiences, anecdotes, insights, and relevancies. (And to each and every one of you that has granted me the privilege of listening to my ideas and sharing yours, I offer a sincere thank you!). My eventual research participants, assuming they’re interested in checking me out before sitting down to a one-to-two hour conversation with me, can gain a pretty fair idea of what I’m looking for by perusing my blog anyway. So, as the cliché goes, in for a penny, in for a pound. Here are some of the key, thematic research questions that I’m looking to explore through the empirical work over the coming months – with an invitation to you, gentle reader, to participate.
- Identification: What valence relationships exist in organization? How are they expressed and experienced?
- Effect-ive Theory: Are there particular configurations or interactions among valence relationships that lend themselves to an organization enacting effect-ive theories of action (that is, are the intentions of decisions actually expressed in the effects that are created, and are there feedforward processes that anticipate the effects)?
- Reciprocity: Are valence relationships necessarily reciprocal? Are there types of effects that tend to be associated with reciprocal vs. non-reciprocal valence relationships?
- BAH vs. UCaPP: Are there configurations of valence relationships, or characteristic complex interactions, or both, that tend to be associated with relatively more-BAH vs. relatively more-UCaPP organizations?
- Praxis for Organizational Change: How are organizational change challenges, strategies, issues, and problems affected within an organization that is framed in valence, as opposed to traditional, terms?
- Critical Concerns: How effectively are issues of power relations, control, discipline, resistance (anyone notice Foucault lurking here?), voice, marginalization, privilege, and subjectification surfaced, made explicit and negotiated in an organization framed in valence terms?
And now the invitation: What key thematic areas have I missed? If you were in my place, defining and investigating the nature and characteristics of Valence Theory, what would you be looking for? And, if you’re one of my research participants and are indeed checking me out, what would you ask me about if our roles were reversed? What do you think is important for me to know about, or seek out, in the process that lies ahead? Please let me know in the comments.
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