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Towards Open Theory: How to Bridge the Theoretic Gap Between Academia and Practice
Mälardalen University, School of Business, Society and Engineering, Industrial Economics and Organisation. (Nya Managementpraktiker)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6823-4925
2017 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

A gap between theories used in business and theories used in research on business implies that theories used by one side are not viewed as relevant or interesting enough for the other side, and one may not only ask why but also if we can do something about it? Building on a participative perspective and collaborative innovation the paper stress a more open approach in order to collaborate on theories in constant change – open theories, written in open collaboration, where the paper has been given the following aim: To provoke reflection on how we through an open approach can make better use of theory.

The paper draws from theories of knowledge activism (Nonaka, Toyama, & Konno, 2000; Nonaka, Von Krogh, & Voelpel, 2006) for initiating and driving a collaborative activity of open theorizing encompassing abstracting, generalizing, relating, selecting, explaining, synthesizing, and idealizing (Weick, 1995). Through knowledge activism and responses to a mutual problem an interlinked knowledge space (cf. "ba" in Nonaka et al., 2000) will emerge, consisting of complementary problems, stories and ideas on how to handle and think about a problem. Open theory texts, constructed in this process will, just like the expanding communicative knowledge space they are built through, be in motion, in perpetual reconstruction, and consist of mutable association patterns around a theme, thus defining them as both theories and ideas in the public domain.

The quality of open theory is more concerned with the usability of a text than its validity as it is traditionally defined; usable in the sense that it liberates us from ideas and other structures that binds us to a problem; helping us to think better about business. The practice and theories created in open collaboration will be especially suitable for emancipatory knowledge interests in line with Habermas ([1968] 1972) reasoning on critical social sciences, giving them a different epistemological status than traditional theories on business. If our knowledge interest is to free ourselves from structures, a text that helps us in this process is more useful than one that do not. By doing this we will be moving away from a debate between how we know and what we know towards theories on how we can free ourselves from our problems by thinking better through provoked reflection.

The process will in time create a common language for business and research on business, favouring more central concepts for different open theories, thus also closing the gap between business and academia. Some concepts and ideas of an open theory will be temporarily stabilized, indicating a more profound reference point in that theory, whereas others change quicker, indicating less relevance or flaws.

The text ends with a first sketch of the Open Theory logic as well as reflections on this logic and suggestions for how to proceed from here.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keywords [en]
Open theory, open theorizing, innovation, collaborative innovativeness, critical social science, organized intelligence work
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-37408OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-37408DiVA, id: diva2:1163553
Conference
After Methods, Västerås, Sverige, 2017
Available from: 2017-12-07 Created: 2017-12-07 Last updated: 2018-01-09Bibliographically approved

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