Chapter 2 – Understanding Theory

“Theory development is really about discovering patterns, recognizing similarities in things that appear dissimilar to others, i.e., making unexpected connections.” – Henry Mintzberg

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

If the meaning of theory is understood then the meaning of quality will follow.

 ______________________________________

As a student I always dreaded any lecture that focused on theory. I thought that learning about theory was a waste of time and energy. The lectures always seemed to leave something out, some critical connection, order if you will.  However, reasoning eventually prevailed; an effectively explicated theory had just eluded me.  After completing research for this chapter I came to the conclusion that, perhaps, certain aspects of a theory are only spotlighted in some lectures and thus fail the student in providing the opportunity to achieve a level of understanding that only a comprehensively explained theory can provide. It would be like explaining how to drive a car to an alien and leave out the purpose of the steering wheel.

But, I can assure you that we don’t, in reality, understand the meaning of various aspects of the world unless we comprehend them from the purview of theory. Theory is inherently about connection, order and understanding of phenomenon.  If profound, meaningful understanding is the objective, then theory is the tool of preference by learned men and woman.

My objective in this chapter is to help the reader understand why I have structured the book as presented in the content section of this blog. All the chapters are necessary for developing the Theory of Quality presented in the final chapter. In my book, this chapter presents the subject of theory from six perspectives in thirty-two pages.

Perspective One: I will identify principles of theory development from the perspectives of five authorities on the subject.

Perspective Two: I will summarize an article written by Dr. David Whetten, editor, Academy of Management Review (AMR). The article is entitled, What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution?

Perspective Three: We will examine an article published by the editors of AMR entitled, Editor’s Comments: Developing Novel Theoretical Insight from Reviews of Existing Theory and Research

Perspective Four: Comments will be considered, once again, made by the editors of AMR regarding; The Challenges of Building Theory by Combining Lenses.

Perspective Five: We will examine an article accepted by AMR as constituting a theoretical contribution.. The article was a collaboration written by Dr John C, Anderson, Dr. Manus Rungtusanatham, and Dr. Roger G. Schroeder. The article was titled, A Theory of Quality Management Underlying the Deming Management Method.

Perspective Six: We will look at theory development from the point of view of Dr. Henry Mintzberg.  Dr. Mintzberg was asked to contribute to Great Minds in Management, the Process of Theory Development, edited by Ken G. Smith and Michael A. Hitt, 2005. Mintzberg’s contribution was chapter seventeen, Developing Theory about Development of Theory.

In this blog, it will simply not be practical to present the entirety of all six perspectives. Instead I will answer the question, “What is Theory?” and provide a recipe for success based on the material in my book.

 

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What is Theory? – from Chafetz

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

But, what is theory?  I can assure the reader that a definitive prescription does not exist and there is a vast warehouse of scholarly opinions. Let us foretaste scholarly thoughts about theory in the following description by citation.

“Like maps, theories, are conceptual systems (Jaccard & Jacoby, 2010:15) that bring order to the experienced world (Dubin, 1978:6:) through the use of assumptions, definitions of concepts and a series of propositions (Chafetz, 1978:81) that attempt to describe an idea ( Reynolds, 1971:43).”

Let us expand the thoughts of each author in the citation.

What is Theory? –  Janet Saltzman Chaftez, author of A Primer on the Construction and Testing of Theories in Sociology.

  • Theories are systems of explanation; they help to answer the question “why?”
  • A typical theory is comprised of assumptions, definitions of concepts, several propositions which collectively purport to explain some aspect of reality.
  • Assumptions are statements accepted as known and not subject to direct verification.
  • Theories consist of concepts whose definitions are often built upon one another and thus comprise a system of interrelated concepts.
  • Probably the best means available to avoid a major problem often encountered in definitions is to employ the age old form develop by Aristotle.  An Aristotelian definition consists of two parts. The first part, called the genius proximum tells what the phenomenon in question shares with a larger class of phenomena.  The second part, genus specifica, tells what is peculiar to phenomena in question.
  • Concepts provide the content and building blocks of theory that consist of words that are relatively high in level of abstractness.
  • Concepts play a critical role in theories and careful attention must be paid to their development and precise definition; solid edifice cannot arise from weak, faulty or carelessly put together building blocks.
  • Explanation, the reason for all theories, is conveyed through a series of statements called propositions.
  • Propositions are the substance of theories.
  • A proposition is a statement that links two or more concepts by stating relationships.

My next post will explore – What is Theory? –  from the perspective of Robert Dubin, author of Theory Building, revised edition.

What is Theory? – from Dubin

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

 

What is Theory? – Robert Dubin is author of Theory Building, revised edition.

  •  A typical theory addresses two distinct goals of science one prediction and one understanding.
  • A proposition is not necessarily a true statement about the real world the model represents but they are true logical statements about the theoretical system..
  • Propositions are truth statements that can be used for a theory that has its concepts, laws of interaction among the concepts, boundaries, and system states specified.
  • The criterion of the system of logic by which the theorist thinks makes all the propositions about the theory he or she builds true.
  • Understanding is knowledge about the interaction of concepts in a system.
  • To achieve understanding of a system we need to know the interaction processes in it and the outcome that was generated by those processes.
  • Theories help us find order in our world by explaining the booming bustling confusion that is in the realm of experience.
  • A theoretical model is the scientific model if and only if its creator is willing to subject it to an empirical test otherwise it falls in the realm of philosophy or theology.
  • Truth insofar as a theoretical model is “true” rests exactly on that slender base of expert consensus.

My next post will explore the thoughts of  James Jaccard and Jacob Jacoby, authors of Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills.

What is Theory ? – from Jacarrd and Jocoby

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

 What is Theory? – from James Jaccard and  Jacob Jacoby, authors of Theory Construction and Model-Building Skills.

  • Theories comprise a system of interrelated concepts and accordingly are a set of statements about relationship(s) between two or more concepts or constructs.
  • Higher order concepts are called constructs because they refer to instances that are synthesized from concepts at lower levels of abstraction and hence require precise definition.
  • Some scientists believe that pursuing theory construction without engaging in participant observation or obtaining qualitative data is folly.
  • A theory can lead to identifying, organizing or predicting some delimited portion of the experienced world.
  • Answering the question “why?” involves moving to deeper levels of understanding by generating ideas about new explanatory constructs and the relationships between them, with the answers to such questions representing explanation.
  • Basic research is characterized as research that is not directly focused on pressing real-world problems, tends to rely on concepts that are relatively broad in scope, and produce findings with the intent of contributing to and extending our basic understanding of the phenomenon in question.
  • Regardless of how detailed, and dynamic by themselves, conceptual systems such as theories are not scientific only pre-scientific.  To be fully scientific they need to be subjected to empirical testing.
  • Empirical systems make little sense without a corresponding conceptual system for purposes of organization.
  • At its core science can be thought of as consisting of a conceptual realm, on the one hand, and an empirical realm, on the other.
  • The conceptual realm entails the development of a conceptual system consisting of concepts, constructs and their relationships that can be communicated unambiguously to others.
  • The empirical realm refers to the process whereby the worth of the conceptualization is assessed through the conduct of scientific studies.
  • Abstract concepts have to be defined as precisely as possible, but even seemingly obvious concepts frequently require explication.
  • Understanding encompasses identifying, describing, organizing, differentiating, predicting, and explaining.

In my next post we will hear from David A. Whetten, editor of the Academy of Management Review

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Acknowledgements: James Jaccard and Jacob Jacoby

What isTheory? – David Whetten

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

Probably the most didactic approach on the subject of writing good theory was an article published in 1989 by David A. Whetten; editor of the Academy of Management Review, entitled What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution.

Per their Website – The Academy of Management Review (AMR) is ranked among the top five most influential and frequently cited management and business journals. AMR is a theory development journal that publishes the highest quality conceptual work being done in the field. Articles challenge conventional wisdom concerning all aspects of organizations and their role in society, and provides new theoretical insights.

Whetten commented “My experience has been that available frameworks are as likely to obfuscate, as they are to clarify, meaning.  Besides exposure to works of Kaplan, Dubin and others varies widely across the academy.” His general approach was concerned with what he referred to as “building blocks of theory.” Specifically, every theory must contain three essential elements: What, How and Why.

What: Which factors (variables, constructs, concepts) logically should be considered as part of the explanation.  The author must consider comprehensiveness and parsimony.

How:  How are the factors (variables, constructs, concepts) related? This step adds conceptualization by explicitly delineating patterns. How is often put in the form of a theoretical statement and is graphically represented. Relationships are the domain of theory.

Why:  Why constitutes the theories assumptions and propositions, the theoretical glue that welds the theory together. The key here is why should the reader give credence to the theory?   Propositions link concepts in ways that result in something testable. However, only hypotheses require measures.

Together these three elements provide the essential ingredients of a simple theory: description and explanation.

 In out last post regarding  – What is Theory?  – we will peruse the thoughts of  Henry Mintzberg.

Dr.  Mintzberg earned his Master’s degree in Management and Ph.D. from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1965 and 1968 respectively  and has NOT written a book about developing or writing theory.  He is currently the Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he has been teaching since 1968.

 

What is Theory? – from Mintzberg

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

 

We must seek out wisdom, but first we must recognize it. As the author of this blog, I offer to you, the reader, the wisdom of Henry Mintzberg

  • When I think about it (theory) I see explanation along a continuum, from lists (categories), to topologies (comprehensive lists), to impressions of relationships among factors (not necessarily “variables”: that sounds too refined for many of the factors I work with), to causations between and patterns among these relationships, to fully explanatory models (which interweave all the factors in question).
  • Theory is insightful when it surprises, when it allows us to see profoundly, imaginatively, unconventionally into phenomena we thought we understood.  No matter how accepted eventually, theory is of no use unless it initially surprises – that is, changes perceptions.
  • Theory is about connections, and the more, and the more interesting the better.
  • We need all kinds of theory, – the more the better.  Researchers, teachers and scholars are obligated to stimulate thinking, and a good way to do that is to offer alternate theories, multiple explanations of the same phenomena.
  • Inventing explanations about things, not finding them – that’s truth, we don’t discover theory, we create it.
  • Theories can be assessed without numbers, just as numbers can be used to induce theories. There is an impression that “quantitative” research is somehow “scientific”- even if it contributes no insight, while qualitative research is something to be tolerated at best.  This is the double standard that pervades our academic journals to their terrible discredit.
  • Hard data may suggest some relationship, but, it is rich description that best helps to explain it.  Anecdotal data is not incidental to theory development; it is an essential part of it.
  • No matter how we think about our theories, ultimately we have to convey them to other people in linear order, and that means mostly in words. Theory is belief; an outline helps to get beliefs down on paper.
  • Aristotle said that “The soul…never thinks without a picture.” I use diagrams because I like to see things altogether at a single glance.
  • Theory development is really about discovering patterns, recognizing similarities in things that appear dissimilar to others, i.e., making unexpected connections.
  •  It is rarely the insight that makes for an interesting theory.  That usually comes from the weave together of many insights, many creative leaps, most small and perhaps a few big.

In Summation – What isTheory?

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

Clarity may escape conclusions because authorities have not suggested a comprehensive recipe, or guideline for writing and developing a theory.  Components that are needed or required have been suggested and described individually. Some authorities have suggested ways to improve theory.  There is actually a good reason for this.  Theory development among authorities is very much a paradigm.  There are rules, but they may or may not be expressed in writing, the rules are understood and communicated verbally and in writing as critiques of other theorist’s work. Decades of critiques have yielded a substantial knowledge bank shared only among the participants.  Perhaps I can present a few conclusions of my own as a non-participant, but,  soon to be one.

 Clearly, learning about theory is not a waste of time if a theory in its entirety is presented to the interested party. Theory is a structured way of communicating. It helps to achieve an unprecedented level of understanding that explicates and orders experience, if a recipe is followed.  A theory is essentially an idea, a result of the imagination, a belief. It focuses our experience and knowledge about a question or phenomena in order to achieve order in a chaotic history of events and complex world.  A theory forces the theorist to state assumptions for communicating what is known and accepted as given about the phenomena; this is critical because we must always start from the foundation of knowledge or wisdom on the subject.

Concepts describe our world to us and in that depiction we encounter concrete and abstract portrayals. Abstract concepts can be defined with concrete concepts if we use the process of instantiation. We must think of concrete concepts as being allied to the abstract. Concepts can also be combined to create constructs.  Constructs help formulate a more dynamic description. Discovering the links and relationships among concepts and constructs is critical to good theory that is consummated with propositions.

Propositions link two or more concepts or constructs.  Propositions are the stuff that research is made of; research validates the truthfulness or soundness of the backbone of the theory. However, research may not be needed to make a theory useful if the theory provides insight and utility for creating a greater understanding of the phenomena of interest. The critical component of any theory is the complete explication of “What”, “How”, and “Why”.  If any of these components are missing the theory is not complete and will fail to gain acceptance or be understood.

We are well on our way to a recipe.

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The Recipe – Preparation – Identifying a Phenomenon of Interest: Step 1

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

A recipe is not a prescription. The former lists raw materials with brief specifications and describes how to process them.  The latter is a description of something used to treat, cure a disease (a problem) or alleviate symptoms. One is a process and the other is a remedy.  A recipe results in a finished product, a prescription can have undesirable side effects and may not work. A recipe always works if it is well written and nothing critical is left out, but the finished product may not be popular.  In any event, the finished product of this chapter is a recipe for developing a theory. We will start with preparation and move on to a list of ingredients and their specifications. A good recipe lists the ingredients in order of importance and for those creative chefs may include some surprises.

Here I turn to a paper written by David McDonald and Scott Schneberger entitled Scientific Inquiry – Theory Construction: A Primer (2006). They presented three approaches for identifying a phenomenon of interest, in a concise manner.

 #1 Research – Then – Theory – This approach selects a phenomenon that is an integral element of a research project. The process lists all the characteristics of the phenomenon, measures all the characteristics, analyzes the resulting data and then formalizes the results in to patterns as theoretical statements.

#2 Theory – Then – Research – This approach develops a theory either in the axiomatic or process description form, compares statements with the results of empirical research, designs a research project to test the statements correspondence with empirical research, makes appropriate changes in the theory depending on statements and empirical data, selects further statements if there is no correspondence.

#3 Composite Approach – A composite approach divides scientific activity into three stages.

Stage One: Exploratory. Research is designed to allow an investigator to just “look around” some phenomenon, looking for ideas.  There should be some structure to the research in order to provide guidance to stage two.

Stage Two: Descriptive.  The goal is to develop careful descriptions of patterns suspected from the exploratory research – developing empirical generalizations or intersubjective descriptions.  A generalization that is considered worth explaining is worth a theory.

Stage Three: Explanatory.  This stage develops explicit theory to explain the generalization formed in stage two.  It is actually a continuous cycle of theory construction, testing, and reformulation.

McDonald and Schneberger had this to say about the composite approach.

This approach seems to contain all the advantages and avoid all the disadvantages of the first two approaches. Resources are not wasted in gathering a massive amount of information expecting to find laws by searching through the data.  Theories are not invented until there is information about the phenomenon that will help in the development of a useful initial theory. Finally when a theory is ready to be tested, a wealth of experience in doing research on the phenomenon allows for a sophisticated comparison of the theory with the empirical world.

In my next post, Step 2 – The Recipe – Preparation – Goals

 

 

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Acknowledgements: David McDonald and Scott Schneberger

The Recipe – Preparation – Goals: Step 2

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

The goals of a theory involve the characteristic of “How” the theorist is going to convey the knowledge that is the essence of the theory. The editors at AMR provided us with the worthy and, perhaps, lofty goals.

  • Challenge or clarify existing theory.
  •  Identify and delineate a novel theoretical problem.
  • Synthesize recent advances and ideas into a fresh new theory.
  • Reveal significant inconsistencies in a particular theory or theories that have been used to explain a phenomenon.
  • Provide evidence that existing theories are significantly deficient in their ability to explain a particular phenomenon.
  • Provide a theoretical structure that was not there before.
  • Clearly convey significance, shortcomings and challenges.
  • Should be an interesting and important theoretical puzzle that requires a novel theoretical resolution.
  • Help readers develop broader understanding of the concept or process.
  • Create synergies from the integrated research such that insight from the integration comes across as being novel and important even to those who might be quite familiar with the relevant bodies of literature.
  • If integrative, provide insights that each perspective alone cannot provide.
  • Force a more detailed consideration of assumptions.
  • Fill in gaps in understanding through the combination of perspectives.
  • Accommodate far apart areas of research with incompatible underlying assumptions.
  • Theoretical integration should reflect an elaborate system of relationships among specific concepts that is theoretically grounded and internally consistent.

Certainly no theory can accomplish all of the goals outlined above. Accomplishing any of them may be worthy of an acceptable product.  The objective of this book is not necessarily an acceptable product but complete explication. To accomplish that objective, many of the goals above must be achieved.  They will be revisited in the final chapter.

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The Recipe – Preparation – Experience: Step 3

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

 “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”  – Immanuel Kant

Kant (1724 –1804) was a German philosopher who is widely considered to be a central figure of modern philosophy. He argued that human concepts and categories structure our view of the world and its laws (Wikipedia).

Mankind most likely starts accumulating experience at birth.  The paths we choose during life dictate the nature of the experience that we acquire. We become highly experienced by years of practice. Education does not provide experience. There is one common thread; whether we are carpenters or college professors, we learn from others. A hunter is not born a hunter. The knowledge about hunting is passed down and when the novice is successful utilizing that knowledge the novice becomes an experienced hunter.

The very nature of a literature review, put in the context of assumptions, relies on the knowledge of others. If we follow references and citations back to a point of origin we find that we have connected decades of knowledge.  Theory is about connecting knowledge with a new idea thrown in to provide a new connection. Experience is a key element related to the preparation for developing a theory. Knowledge, when applied, becomes experience. If we do not apply what we have learned then we waste our knowledge and do not become experienced.

Ideally, our theories should come from those that have knowledge and experience.

Next post – Imagination – another key for preparation?

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The Recipe – Preparation – Imagination: Step 4

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

 

In chapter four we will pay tribute to Alex Osborn, the author of Applied Imagination, Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem-solving. He quoted Albert Einstein on the cover of the 31st printing and 3rd revised edition, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Alex Osborn is known as the father of “Brain Storming”, but his contribution in the area of imagination and creativity is germane to the subject matter of this book. Osborn writes that the synthesis of concepts and ideas cannot occur without analysis, hunting, combining and change. As a fan of John Dewey (American philosopher), he pointed out that our creative thinking will improve as we relate the new fact to the old, and all facts to each other. Osborn felt that we need analysis to discover relationships, relate our facts and thus enhance our ability to form a pattern – a pattern which can serve as a map in our search for solutions.

For Osborn, creative imagination has two functions. One is to hunt; the other is to change what is found. In its hunting function, our talent can serve us as a searchlight with which we can find that which is not really new, but is new to us, this is discovery rather than invention.

On the flip side – McDonald and Schneberger provided us with a snippet of information from Hadamard, author of The Psychology of Invention in the Mathematical Field (1945), who asserted emphatically that invention is really discovery, that initial theory would come from logic and systematic reasoning.  Hadamard, asserted four stages of invention applicable to theories; 1) preparation by gathering information, 2) incubation by intense thought (imagination), 3) illumination after unconscious work and 4) verification and precise definition.

In my last post regarding the elements of preparation I will address ABILITY- step 5.

 

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The Recipe – Preparation – Ability: Step 5

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

How would we describe someone with the “right” kind of ability to apply their experience for developing ideas leading to a theory?  We will turn to Thomas Kuhn, for the answer:

Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922 – 1996) was an American physicist, historian, and philosopher of science whose controversial 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was deeply influential in both academic and popular circles, introducing the term “paradigm shift”, which has since become an English-language staple (Wikipedia).

  1. They are characterized by Individuality.  The necessity for explicitly communicating ideas in any group endeavor, implicitly hampers the development of radically new ideas.  Any new idea will not be easy to describe in terms of existing vocabulary or existing ideas; the requirement to discuss ideas as they develop may inhibit the development of new and incommunicable ideas, i.e., most major paradigms have been attributed to single individuals working alone (Reynolds, 1971c).
  2. They have an ability to understand “Good and Bad Ideas”.  Bright solitary thinkers in the past appeared very adept at identifying a good idea from a bad idea; they are highly discriminating.  They ignore the bad ideas and concentrate on the good ideas.
  3. They have significant knowledge in their fields.  Although working alone, they have a high degree of knowledge of existing theories in the field of interest; they know when a good idea is a new idea.
  4. They are not dogmatic.  New ideas seem to come more readily to those who are not steeped in or slave to existing paradigms, theories, or ideas.  In fact, the greatest advances in the physical sciences have come from either the very young or from older individuals who were new to the field – both with little commitment to dogma.
  5. They are close to the phenomenon.  New theories apparently come from individuals who are deeply engrossed in the subject matter, so engrossed that an intuitive or incommunicable new idea with relationships appears more substantial in thought than other, unrelated interests.

Next post…synthesis of PREPARATION.

 

In Summation – Preparing to Develop a Theory

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

I have outlined five critical steps of preparation that should be considered prior to moving on to addressing the ingredients of Theory.

# 1: Identify a Phenomenon of Interest

I will be utilizing the composite approach suggested by McDonald and Schneberger based on my experience and education to I identify, describe and explain the fields of knowledge that encapsulate quality and key concepts that are needed to understand each field. The key concepts are; MEANING, THEORY, CONCEPTS, PRINCIPLES, and PARADIGMS.  Please see the concept map of the book by clicking “About My Book” and scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

#2: Establish Goals

The editors of AMR provided us with nineteen goals that can be considered when approaching theory development. We will focus on the following subset:

  • Identify and delineate a novel theoretical problem.
  • Provide a theoretical structure that was not there before.
  • Should be an interesting and important theoretical puzzle that requires a novel theoretical resolution.
  • Help readers develop broader understanding of the concept or process.
  • Create synergies from the integrated research such that insight from the integration comes across as being novel and important even to those who might be quite familiar with the relevant bodies of literature.
  • If integrative, provide insights that each perspective alone cannot provide.
  • Force a more detailed consideration of assumptions.
  • Fill in gaps in understanding through the combination of perspectives.

#3: Experience is a Requirement

#4: Imagination is Needed to Form Patterns

#5: Ability

According to Thomas Kuhn the theorist should be characterized by individuality, have the ability to understand “Good and Bad Ideas”, have significant knowledge in their fields,      should not be dogmatic and should be close to the phenomenon. Kuhn is describing the educated person with years of experience and the unique characteristic of unbiased innovative thought.

In my next post we will move on to identifying, describing and explaining the key ingredients of Theory.

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The Ingredients of Theory

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

 ______________________________________

 

Now that we are aware of the necessity to be prepared prior to developing a theory let us move on to the ingredients.

The ingredients can be gleaned from Chaftez, Dubin, Jaccard and Jacoby, Whetten and Mintzberg. The ingredients are: ( I have added purpose)

  • Purpose – Why
  • Assumptions – Why
  • Concepts – What
  • Concept Definitions – What
  • Patterns – What
  • Relationships – How
  • Propositions – Why

Purpose: The purpose of a theory is a rational stated motive for an expected state.  A theories purpose explains or justifies why something happened that was caused by some previous phenomenon. Purpose represents a likely final state, achievement or result and is associated with the process of logical thinking as a consequence of another action, condition, or event that solves a problem or explains how to solve a problem. Purpose is the reason for which something exists, or for which it has been done or made, and is manifested as an anticipated outcome that is intended or guides planned actions to achieve a desired result.  (Pattern Engine – Purpose n=12  ©2013)

Assumptions:  Assumptions are statements accepted as known and, not subject to direct verification and help explain some aspect of reality.  Assumptions are the theoretical glue that welds the theory together and constitutes the “Why?” aspect.  My assumptions are principles.

Concepts: Basic research is characterized as research that is not directly focused on pressing real-world problems, tends to rely on concepts that are relatively broad in scope, and produce findings with the intent of contributing to and extending our basic understanding of the phenomenon in question – QUALITY. Concepts provide the content and building blocks of theory that consist of words that are relatively high in level of abstractness. Understanding is knowledge about the interaction of concepts in a system. Theories comprise a system of interrelated concepts and accordingly are a set of statements about relationship(s) between two or more concepts or constructs. Higher order concepts are called constructs because they refer to instances that are synthesized from concepts at lower levels of abstraction and hence require precise definition. Theories consist of concepts whose definitions are often built upon one another and thus comprise a system of interrelated concepts. The ConPriDigm is a construct.

Concept Definitions: Concepts play a critical role in theories and careful attention must be paid to their development and precise definition; solid edifice cannot arise from weak, faulty or carelessly put together building blocks. Probably the best means available to avoid a major problem often encountered in definitions is to employ the age old form develop by Aristotle.  An Aristotelian definition consists of two parts. The first part, called the genius proximum tells what the phenomenon in question shares with a larger class of phenomena.  The second part, genus specifica, tells what is peculiar to phenomena in question.

Conceptual Patterns: The development of conceptual patterns will be my contribution to the final theory presented in this book. I have developed a Pattern Engine based on Aristotelian concept definitions and the decomposition and reconstruction of principles.

Relationships:  Answering the question “why?” involves moving to deeper levels of understanding by generating ideas about new explanatory constructs and the relationships between them, with the answers to such questions representing explanation. The conceptual realm entails the development of a conceptual system consisting of concepts, constructs and their relationships that can be communicated unambiguously to others. Relationships also help to answer the question ‘how?”.  How are the factors (variables, constructs, concepts) related? This step adds conceptualization by explicitly delineating patterns. How is often put in the form of a theoretical statement and is graphically represented. When I (Mintzberg) think about it (theory) I see explanation along a continuum, from lists (categories), to topologies (comprehensive lists), to impressions of relationships among factors (not necessarily “variables”: that sounds too refined for many of the factors I work with), to causations between and patterns among these relationships, to fully explanatory models (which interweave all the factors in question).

Propositions:  Propositions are the substance of theories. Explanation, the reason for all theories, is conveyed through a series of statements called propositions. Propositions are truth statements that can be used for a theory that has its concepts, laws of interaction among the concepts, boundaries, and system states specified. The criterion of the system of logic by which the theorist thinks makes all the propositions about the theory he or she builds true. Propositions link concepts in ways that result in something testable. However, only hypotheses require measures.

This post will conclude our adventure that seeks to answer the question “What is Theory?”.  Needless to say, theory provides the methodology to express the DNA and meaning of Quality.

In the next chapter we will explore the concept of a Concept.  Defining concepts accurately and objectively is critical for developing a theory with explanatory power.

 

Flashback in Theory Chapter

The Mind or Concept Map for Chapter Two

THEORY CMAP

 

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