Jan 15, 2011

Research Musings

Note: This is a copy of my posting for one of my classes, Research Methods.

When preparing my previous posting I thought of something else I wanted to share but decided it was a bit off-topic. So, I'm sharing it here.

I have discovered something over the past couple of semesters that continues to surprise me on so many levels. Feeling a bit out-of-place in the program considering my work background and future goals, starting back in my first May Seminar I started to embrace, rather than struggle against, the other activities in the program. That's when I discovered it...that surprising thing that continues to amaze me. I discovered that I can find commonalities in the most unusual places.

For example, I was paired with Rhonda Stanton in our "speed dating" exercise where we shared out backgrounds and research interests with small groups of people over and over again. The more I heard her talk about her interests in generational differences in the workplace, the more I realised that our interests have a lot in common...a lot more than I would have guessed. She is seeking definitions of the different groups that are useful in preparing them to work together, effectively, in the workplace. I am seeking definitions of a workforce with diversities of another kind, but still looking for things useful in preparing them to work together, effectively, in the workplace. The more I heard her talk about her concerns, questions, and ideas the more I realised that some of those were so very similar to mine. Could it really be that Rhonda and I are sharing thoughts and ideas from such diverse projects that could help us both in our own pursuits? I could go on and on with this one example, but won't.

I have tried the same technique in my readings as well. (Note: I have always been somewhat aware of what I am calling here a "technique" but have only recently begun to pursue it more formally, more consistently, more contientiously.) Before I begin a reading, I think about what things I am pursing in my own work and what questions I need to be answering. As I begin to read, I try to frame what I am reading in two ways. And yes, this is a challenging technique in that I am constantly pursing two trains of thought as I read...that which was intended by the author, and that which is reframed to my own situation. For example, when I began reading Johnson's "User-Centered Technology", from the very beginning I thought about this user-centeredness in my own work. As I tried to understand Johnson's views about allowing the user to be a part of the design and implementation of effective instruction and training for computer manuals, I tried to reframe the ideas as if he were talking about creating standard operating procedures (SOPs) for truckers in PNG. As I read, I find myself embracing and discarding arguments presented framed in this new context, but better than that, I found myself actually considering them thoughtfully. Is it really possible to design SOPs that are focused on the training needs of the organisation rather than established to prove to outsiders (ExxonMobil, OSL, etc.) that we are capable and organised? Is it really possible to allow the users to determine what is useful, adequate, proper, correct, etc? Can I really convince the rest of the organisation that writing top-down procedures is counter-productive and that writing them from the inside-out, not only from a users' perspective (something I adopt when I try to "put myself in their place") but rather from the actual users themselves is where we really need to be going? When I reframed the reading in this new context, I found I could not put the book down! (I am almost finished with it now and getting ready to start again from the beginning.)

I guess I am saying that you should not be surprised if I ask to team up with some of you on different projects when it seems our interests lie so far afield from each other. I guess I am engaged in a larger "experiment" here because I am beginning to find linkages and commonalities in the most unusual places, and I like it!

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