Re: Introduction

Gary Blanchard (
Fri, 24 May 1996 14:49:57 -0700

David Sims wrote:
> Dear Folks,
> Several things conspire to make me take the time to introduce myself. There
> was Lois Shawver's suggestion that we use the quiet period after the flames
> of a few weeks ago to declare ourselves; a good idea, and I have built up
> enormous electronic respect for Lois not only for the interesting things
> she has said on this list, but for a wonderfully rich and insightful vein
> of commentary from her on the Narrative list last year. Then Devi Jankowicz
> referred to some of the work that Colin Eden, Sue Jones and I did way
> back, using Kellyan principals to underly our research on and with
> cognitive mapping, and a number of other people have commented on that
> since.
> I suppose I have been shy because I lack the time and inclination to get my
> head around some of the methodological debates that are current, and
> because my PCP reading is out of date. But never mind, perhaps the other
> kids in the playground will not call me nasty names and throw sand in my
> face. PCP informs much of my teaching and research.
> My research is on how agendas form in organizations; how issues or topics
> come to be taken seriously, to be seen as worthy matters for discussion.
> With colleagues, I currently have a project looking at this in a
> manufacturing organization, a hospital and a university department. Our
> approach in this has been more narrative than constructive, but I think
> this may be a false opposition; we have been piecing together the stories
> people tell and that they appear to live by in these organizations. Story
> telling has been a major way both of hearing about agenda formation, and of
> understanding what people are doing in their agenda formation. We remember
> our agendas through stories, we tell ourselves and others stories to
> express those agendas and to influence others (and ourselves), we write
> ourselves into the plots of our stories in particular ways. Stories may be
> inconsistent and to an outsider incoherent; they may take elements from
> others' stories, and they are told, remembered etc. through constructs. As
> the discussion of group constructs is what drew me out, I would comment on
> Boje's notion of multi -authored stories; where we know people well, we may
> pass stories around, another person may contribute to them, or take them
> over, and there may be parts that can be left unsaid because we know that
> we are in the company of others who know that part of the story. Stories
> are personal constructs with connective tissue; cognitive maps, at least in
> the form that we used and use them, are a particular way of telling a story
> about personal constructs, through a spacial metaphor.
> My teaching includes an option on 'managing differences', which includes
> some on time looking at the process of differentiation via construct theory
> and repertory grid.
> I have run out of time, you have run out of patience. I edit (with Yiannis
> Gabriel) the journal, 'Management Learning', published by Sage (advisory
> board includes Devi). I will resist the temptation to give a precis of the
> notes for contributors or the subscription blurb, but will not resist
> pointing out that management learning as a phenomenon is widespread,
> flourishing and could have a lot to do with personal constructs.
> Anyone share these interests?
> All the best,
> David
> **********************************************************************
> David Sims
> Professor of Management Studies
> Brunel University
> Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK
> Tel: 01895 274000 ext. 2458. Fax: 01895 203149
> E-Mail:
> **********************************************************************

Dear David-

Thanks for your overcoming-reticence posting.

Yes, I share your interests. And your high opinions of Lois' comments
and manner.

I warn you, though, to expect differences from me, not agreement with
your least, not all of them.

I am schooled on a different variety of constructivism, as you may have
gathered if you have been reading some of the recent conversations here.
And, evidently, they are not popular.

What I seem to have done is wander into a (polite) Ford dealer's showroom
and begun talking about how wonderful my Chevy is. This is , I believe,
what Kuhn/Barker would refer to as a Paradigm Clash or at least Conflict.

The only thing intelligent people can do when this happens, whether
within a family , a business, or a friendship, is adopt a learning manner
toward the other. I believe that this is where it becomes apparent if
one basically is habituated to a Modernist or a Postmodernist ethic /
metanarrative / paradigm. If I understand the distinction accurately,
Modernists are authoritarian and dogmatically defensive in their response
to a challenge; Postmodernists are open, reflective and, where
appropriate, adopting in their response.

Incidentally, the above, in my view, are learned reactions...not inborn.
But for some of us, in some cases, the learning is long, difficult, and
not always successful.

So there you have it. I have spent years in Organization Behavior work,
in a variety of settings and roles; and years learning about
Constructivism from the viewpoint of the Ontology of Language (Maturana &
Varela; autopoiesis), although I am by no means an expert. I do,
however, seek to be both fearless and rigorous in my efforts.

If my interest interests you, I propose that we begin by me reformulating
your original message/definition of the problem. I have learned from my
teachers that this often results in resolving a problem not by solving
it, but by dis-solving it.

Looking forward to hearing from you, either,Gary (Blanchard)
Performance Improvement
Westampton, NJ