How to Make Collaborative Research Generative? Play the Cards!

(cc by alegri /

(cc by alegri /

[Editor’s Note: We are very excited to welcome Arne Carlsen as a guest editor of Management Ink. Dr. Carlsen collaborated with Gudrun Rudningen and Tord F. Mortensen on their article “Playing the cards. Using Collaborative Artifacts With Thin Categories to Make Research Co-Generative.”]

Are you looking for ways to make collaborative research more generative for both researchers and practitioners? Want to escape the rigor-relevance gap and more fully engage practitioners in theory building?

A recent paper suggests a surprisingly easy and effective way of accomplishing that: Try condensing your tentative findings into thin categories where you combine brief stories, definitions and evocative quotes from theory and practice with images. Then produce physical cards with such categories, drop the overarching model – and play the cards. These are the kinds of collaborative processes that are recently documented and reflected upon in the paper “Playing the cards. Using Collaborative Artifacts With Thin Categories to Make Research Co-Generative”, now online in Journal of Management Inquiry.

The authors explain how playing the cards led to a radical redefinition of the processes of collaborative research. One counter intuitive insight was that thinning of research findings resulted in thickness of joint interpretation. Another is that getting physical and visual was key to participation in theory building. A third was that recruiting practitioners into discovery and wonder are sometimes at least as relevant as pointing to immediate practical utility.

From the abstract:

How can collaborative artifacts mediate processes of researcher–practitioner interactions to make JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointresearch more co-generative? Research on knowledge co-production has paid little attention to how joint theory building is socio-materially mediated and tends to downplay discovery and wonder as sources of generativity. This article provides an empirical investigation of the use of thin categories on hard-copy A5 cards, combining brief texts and images to communicate tentative theoretical categories and involve practitioners in theorizing. Playing these cards opened up a new discursive space in the dialogue, making it an event of tactile engagement, ludic interaction, and power symmetry. We discuss how the transformed dialogue can be understood as processes of (a) dealing–touching–receiving collaborative artifacts that invite participants into rating, comparing, and combining, and (b) thickening of thin categories by recognition/appropriation and expansion/search. The article implicates a new vocabulary for mediating collaborative research, combining visual and material elements with notions of social poetics.

Read “Playing the cards. Using Collaborative Artifacts With Thin Categories to Make Research Co-Generative” in Journal of Management Inquiry by clicking here. Make sure to sign up for e-alerts and stay up to date on all the latest articles from Journal of Management Inquiry by clicking here.

This entry was posted in Communication, Creativity and Innovation, Engagement, Quantitative Research, Scholarship and tagged , , , by Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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