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Productive misunderstandings between organisation science and organisation practice: the science-practice relation from the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic systems


Seidl, D (2009). Productive misunderstandings between organisation science and organisation practice: the science-practice relation from the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic systems. In: Magalhães, R; Sanchez, R. Autopoiesis in Organization Theory and Practice. Amsterdam: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 133-148.

Abstract

Many recent studies have voiced the growing concern that the body of knowledge that springs from organisation science is hardly taken notice of in management practice. In most of the existing literature one can identify three main reasons for the observable lack of connection between organisation research and practice: research is not sufficiently focused on the ‘real’ problems of practitioners, research results are not properly disseminated to practitioners and the language of science is not properly translated into the language practitioners use. The underlying assumption is that if scientists redressed these shortcomings their findings would be utilised by practitioners and thus the gap between theory and practice would be bridged. The aim of this chapter is to contrast this recent debate on the relation between science and practice with an analysis from the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic systems. According to this perspective, the lack of any transfer of scientific knowledge to practice needs to be understood as the inevitable result of the differentiation between organisation science and the so-called ‘management practice’, which function according to different logics. This impedes the transfer of knowledge from the field of science to that of practice. Hence, from this perspective the practical irrelevance of management science is not a problem that can be resolved. On the contrary, only because of this differentiation, and thus, the impossibility of any direct transfer of meaning, can science be as productive as it is. The idea of organisation studies as an ‘applied science’ is a mere illusion.

Abstract

Many recent studies have voiced the growing concern that the body of knowledge that springs from organisation science is hardly taken notice of in management practice. In most of the existing literature one can identify three main reasons for the observable lack of connection between organisation research and practice: research is not sufficiently focused on the ‘real’ problems of practitioners, research results are not properly disseminated to practitioners and the language of science is not properly translated into the language practitioners use. The underlying assumption is that if scientists redressed these shortcomings their findings would be utilised by practitioners and thus the gap between theory and practice would be bridged. The aim of this chapter is to contrast this recent debate on the relation between science and practice with an analysis from the perspective of Niklas Luhmann’s theory of autopoietic systems. According to this perspective, the lack of any transfer of scientific knowledge to practice needs to be understood as the inevitable result of the differentiation between organisation science and the so-called ‘management practice’, which function according to different logics. This impedes the transfer of knowledge from the field of science to that of practice. Hence, from this perspective the practical irrelevance of management science is not a problem that can be resolved. On the contrary, only because of this differentiation, and thus, the impossibility of any direct transfer of meaning, can science be as productive as it is. The idea of organisation studies as an ‘applied science’ is a mere illusion.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Business Administration
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:25 Feb 2010 20:29
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 00:19
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Series Name:Advanced series in management
Number:25
ISBN:978-1-84855-832-8
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1108/S1877-6361(2009)0000006008
Official URL:http://books.emeraldinsight.com/display.asp?K=9781848558328
Related URLs:http://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?fn=search&mode=Advanced&vid=ZAD&vl%28186672378UI0%29=isbn&vl%281UI0%29=contains&vl%28freeText0%29=978-1-84855-832-8

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