Crossing the Rubicon: From quantitative objectivism to transcendental phenomenology

Patrick Bradbery

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This paper describes the search for meaning engaged by the author in his research on the learning organisation. The research was undertaken as part of his Doctor of Business Administration degree, which has a requirement that it make a contribution to professional practice. What began as a rather straightforward attempt to quantify qualitative research carried out by Bill Torbert and colleagues, transformed into a transcendental phenomenological investigation of the essence of the experiences of learning, development and the learning organisation.The journey was catalysed by a struggle to make sense of the relationships among the three common components of a research paradigm ' ontology, epistemology and methodology. In the course of this struggle, the conventional wisdom of parallel alignment of these three components was challenged. This challenge inspired the development of a three-dimensional model of research paradigms, which is described in this paper.Resolution of the paradigm dilemma in this way provided the foundation from which the transformation of the research project could be launched. It allowed recognition that the ontology of the learning organisation was far from settled, and there was a clear justification for 'going back to the thing itself'. Furthermore, the more investigation of the meaning of the learning organisation proceeded, the clearer did it become that underpinning concepts like learning and development were shrouded in mystery.Encouraged by one of two supervisors, the Moustakas framework of transcendental phenomenology was applied to the three phenomena (learning, development and the learning organisation). This research eventually provided the basis for developing recommendations for enhancements to professional practice in management, education and research. However, as the research proceeded, there was an underlying unease on the part of the second supervisor. Although well-versed in qualitative research, his lack offamiliarit with the Moustakas framework, combined with concern about the professional practice outcomes caused ongoing concern, finally resolved only by the positive responses of examiners.The successful application of transcendental phenomenology to the clarification of the essence of the learning organisation and its underpinning phenomena demonstrated in this study provides encouragement for a similar application in other organisational and management research contexts. The methodology provided new insights into the phenomena investigated. These new insights provide a 'launching pad' for more meaningful research into the phenomena than was likely to occur prior to the investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECRM 2008 Proceedings
EditorsDan Remenyi
Place of PublicationKidmore End, UK
PublisherAcademic Conferences
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781906638023
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventEuropean Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies - Regents College, London, UK, United Kingdom
Duration: 19 Jun 200820 Jun 2008


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Research Methodology for Business and Management Studies
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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