Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

If you want an innovative organization, dream big and collaborate often: An empirical test of the validity of Frank Barrett's appreciative learning cultures model
by Ewert, David K., Ph.D., Benedictine University, 2009, 111; 3367129
Abstract (Summary)

In his classic work on appreciative learning cultures, Frank Barrett (1995) claims that consistent organizational innovation requires generative (as opposed to adaptive) learning, which involves an appreciative approach. He proposes that organizations with appreciative learning cultures develop a specific set of competencies necessary for them to flourish and survive. They include: (1) Affirmative competence—the capacity to appreciate positive possibilities by selectively focusing on current and past strengths, successes, and potentials; (2) Expansive competence—the capacity to challenge habits and conventional practices, provoking members to experiment in the margins, make expansive promises that stretch them in new directions, and evoke values and ideals that inspire them to passionate engagement; (3) Generative competence—the capacity to construct integrative systems that allow members to see the consequences of their actions, to recognize that they are making a meaningful contribution, and to experience a sense of progress; (4) Collaborative competence—the capacity to create forums in which members engage in ongoing dialogue and exchange diverse perspectives.

This study uses Q-sort techniques, multidimensional scaling, and hierarchical clustering to test the validity of Barrett's four competencies, with the goal of beginning the process of creating a validated instrument to measure appreciative learning cultures in organizations.

The results confirm the validity of Barrett's expansive and collaborative competencies but call for further development of his affirmative and generative competencies. In addition, the study offers an intriguing finding about the limitations of traditional survey methods used to measure appreciative dynamics in organizations. Negatively worded items in the Q-sort rarely clustered with their positively worded counterparts. This suggests that to measure the presence of a positive aspect of culture with a negative indicator may be invalid, thus lending support to a fundamental premise of appreciative inquiry: that appreciative inquiry and problem-solving are two distinct modes of knowing. Problem solving may be effective for making something negative go away, but it is ineffective for bringing something new into being. The implications of these findings for research and practice are elaborated.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ludema, James
School: Benedictine University
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Management
Keywords: Appreciative inquiry, Appreciative learning cultures, Barrett, Frank, Learning organizations, Organizational culture
Publication Number: 3367129
ISBN: 978-1-109-26573-6
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