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Engaged Scholarship: Useful Concept or Wishful Thinking?

Some see engaged scholarship as a useful conceptualisation aimed at bridging the gap between rigor and relevance. Others may see it as a buzzword that propagates an unattainable objective: that of academics, armed with compelling evidence, somehow changing the logic of decisions at profit (and power) seeking organisations. To them, the subtle patterns of reasoning which underpin organizational behaviour are aimed at propagating existing power structures and interests.

For those who count themselves as advocates, if not practitioners, of engaged scholarship it is worth pondering how their engagements have indeed helped solve vexing organisational problems in ways that reflect the interests (and competing aims) of more than one class of stakeholders (principally owners, managers, shareholders, employees).

To answer this question we’ll need to be first be clear about (a) what we mean by the term (b) how it is that we are practicing it, if at all; c) how to best apply its principles, and (d) whether we are truly able to transcend what Harvard Professor Chris Argyris referred to as ‘single loop learning’ and instead embrace “double loop learning.” Can academics and practitioners sidestep the logic of power and control in helping solve organisational problems?

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