Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it possible to conduct a qualitative study using the analytical view? If so, what would it look like?
- If the knowledge creator is studying a phenomenon and, say, expert interviews indicate that there is no such phenomenon, how is the knowledge-creator to handle this?
- What is abduction?
- Is it possible to work with explanations and understanding in one and the same study?
- Why is it not possible to combine the different methodological views just like that?
- Is it possible to see finality, causality and dialectics as basically the same thing but at different levels?
- What is meant by a study being explorative?
- What does it mean that the systems view talks about being holistic and structural in its orientation.
- The actors view has several explicit knowledge ambitions. What would these ambitions mean in relation to for example the analytical view?
- Why does an operative paradigm look so different in the three methodological views?
- What makes a technique be called a method?
- What are first hand expressions?
- What does the Arbnor/Bjerke Methodological Principle of Complementarity mean?
- Isn’t it a problem that work of Business and Competitive Intelligence often makes too much use of analytical thinking and quantitative analysis?
- The meaning of the concept implementation differs between the various views, why?
- Is it possible to always be objective in research?
- What is it that makes a dialogue so unique in the actors view?
- Is it possible to use a qualitative research method when one has a population of, say, 50 companies?
- Is it necessary to work with hypotheses when using an analytical view? Is it not possible to use analytical view to create something new using theory and empirics?
- I think that the borderlines between the three different views might be a bit unclear. How is it possible to decide where the borders are? Is it important to know which view one works with in all situations? Is it possible to use more than one specific view successfully in the same study?
- Is it ethically defensible not to mention, for instance, the company asking for the study to be done when interviewing a respondent?
- Is the systems view still aiming for explanation, even if it uses the actors view for analysis, or is it then closer to understanding?
- Should we in the section of methodology in a student report specify in which contexts our analyses can be used by another party in another system/context if the systems view is used? Or is this something that should be left to the reader to decide?
- To what extent is it possible to generalize a qualitative study based on a sample which is not statistically representative?
- How does the creator of knowledge relate to the tacit knowledge of man? And how does the creator of knowledge relate to his/her own tacit knowledge?
- Is it possible starting from the actors view to use the analytical view?
Is it possible to conduct a qualitative study using the analytical view? If so, what would it look like?
To conduct a qualitative study in the meaning of the analytical view is possible, of course. It is then usually done as pilot studies in an explorative fashion (se question 7 below). However, the actor view, and to some extent the systems view as well, asserts that this is an impossibility for a view that tries to break up the qualitative essence of human phenomena into summative variables. They claim that the difference between quantity and quality is and remains to be a matter that is to be treated in its complex totality (see “The Arbnor Uncertainty Principle” Figure 6.1. in the book).
It is possible, however, to imagine that the analytical view, as operative transformer within the framework of a methodology of complementarity, can conduct something which has more of the character of a qualitative study the way it is understood by the other views than the above mentioned pilot studies in an explorative spirit (see Figure 13.2. and Chapter 14 in the book).
If the knowledge creator is studying a phenomenon and, say, expert interviews indicate that there is no such phenomenon, how is the knowledge-creator to handle this?
In such a case the knowledge creator must of course search thoroughly his/her own arguments as well as those he/she hears from the experts. The knowledge creator may be mistaken, of course, but so may the experts be as well.
If we assume that the experience and knowledge of the experts are of an inductive and deductive nature, the knowledge-maker may, from an abductive (see question 3 below) analytical way of working, have come up with something that has no immediate support from the experts, but may later change even their knowledge.
If the knowledge creator has started from another methodological view than that which is ruling the experts being asked, the probability is quite high that he/she may come up with divergent conclusions and results.
Finally one may say that in the question there is an inbuilt potentiality of anomalies and radical thinking having even paradigmatic consequences - which makes the whole thing interesting of course. If the knowledge creator believes strongly enough in his/her experiences and has the power to continue, the situation is similar to those which have triggered many great discoveries (see Chapter 1 in the book). But it might not be so, of course! The knowledge creator may simply have misled him/herself and imagine things which others do not see. This is a very delicate situation for a knowledge creator indeed!
What is abduction?
Abduction is connected to the analytical view but also, partly, to the systems view and has relations to concepts like induction and deduction. The concept was coined by Peirce (1839-1914) and describes one way of thinking and acting when you are facing some individual case which is difficult to explain through traditional inductive and deductive thinking. One may also say that abduction is commonly connected to pragmatism (see the Appendix of the book A.1) and is, in this respect, closer to the methodical procedures and methodics of the systems view (see Chapter 7 in the book). The focus is on, in a process of searching, to generate hypotheses around cases difficult to explain, which are placed against a number of different kinds of facts which may on probable grounds verify or falsify the hypotheses. This way, the abductive process becomes more of a way of renewing knowledge than deepening it.
Is it possible to work with explanations and understanding in one and the same study?
If you work with the systems view this may seem quite natural with its definition of ”understanding.” The analytical view starts always from the ideal of explaining, while the situation is exactly the opposite for the actors view where the ideal of understanding is ruling. At the end of the book, we present a Methodology of complementarity, where this issue is dissolved and transgressed to something completely new (see Chapter 13 and 14 in the book).
The great difference between an everyday and a scientific conceptualization of explaining and understanding is by which awareness, insight and critical look, and by what openness, one is acting. Within the scientific community there are also certain rules for what is called ”explanation” versus ”understanding.” In everyday life these two concepts may sometimes seem so close to each other that they are experienced by some as synonymous, while within social sciences and their philosophies there are definitely several distinct differences (see the Appendix of the book A.3).
Why is it not possible to combine the different methodological views just like that?
It would be the same thing as trying to believe in two things at the same time as one is trying to accomplish one. Like trying to find the correct road for the car at the same time as one is using two maps which are showing two completely different kinds of roads. Or like navigating at sea using two different basic methods, partly one based on that Earth is flat and that we try not to fall over the edge, partly another one which is based on that Earth is a globe and that we can sail around it. These very simplified experiments show that behind maps and navigation methods there are ultimate presumptions operating as a kind a premises for thinking and acting.
The result of a knowledge-creating effort is normally placed against the ultimate presumptions that the study is resting on, and then it becomes somewhat difficult to present one’s results if they rest on that there is a factive of us independent reality at the same time as it is seen as socially constructed. The situation then becomes a bit schizophrenic.
We have clarified in the book that we do not think it is possible to combine our three methodological views just like that, because that would lead to an eclectic maze - a lack of consistency, stringency and credibility when creating knowledge. Unfortunately, there are still too many theses, public and consultant investigations, papers, and more in which it seems that the creator of knowledge has taken, depending on the taste of the day, one concept here, another technique there, and a further model over there. Being confronted with reports in which a creator of knowledge attempts to prove statements by using results arrived at through methods based on ultimate presumptions that only a few pages back were criticized and refuted as untenable, does not feel good.
In the book, therefore, we present as an alternative to this eclectic maze a Methodology of complementarity, where this issue, like question 4 above, is dissolved and transgressed to something new (see Chapter 13 and 14 in the book).
Is it possible to see finality, causality and dialectics as basically the same thing but at different levels?
They are the same thing in the sense that they describe connections/relations/change. But that they should concern the same thing but at different levels we should look at as an unreasonable thought. These three concepts, furthermore, are describing very well the different ideas of reality in the three methodological views. To have a causal orientation provides a completely different result from if the connection/relation/change is seen as, for instance, dialectic. (See Box 3.5 and 3.7 in the book)
What is meant by a study being explorative?
Sometimes the knowledge of some part of a study area at hand is not enough to even formulate a possible problem. In order to be able to go on in such a case is to conduct an explorative study.
What does it mean that the systems view talks about being holistic and structural in its orientation.
A holistic orientation means that without placing things and phenomena in a larger context we cannot explain and/or understand all important aspects of them; to have a structural orientation means that by looking at the pattern of things and phenomena, we will explain and/or understand them better.
The actors view has several explicit knowledge ambitions. What would these ambitions mean in relation to for example the analytical view?
Concerning knowledge ambitions, see Figure 6.2. in the book. For instance, while the actors view is looking for “what is different in what is similar,” the analytical view is looking for “what is similar in what is different”. Other examples are: “understanding” contra “explanation”, “creating action” contra “forecasting”, “chaos frequency distribution” contra “normal frequency distribution.”
Why does an operative paradigm look so different in the three methodological views?
Mainly, their different conceptions of reality, which to a large extent determine the development of an operative paradigm.
What makes a technique be called a method?
A technique that through a methodical procedure is subordinated for knowledge creating in the relation between a methodological view and a study area becomes a method.
What are first hand expressions?
First hand expressions are contemporary with the experience itself. If one asks somebody through a questionnaire, for instance, about an experience the respondent in question has formulated him/herself about before, the answer in the questionnaire becomes an expression for the first expression, that is, a second hand expression, which is not the same as the experience itself but an expression for an earlier expression. “First hand expressions” as a concepts is connected to the actors view, and that’s why dialogues are so central in this view as through them, experiences and expressions will grow in immediacy between the creator of knowledge and actors (see also question 17 below).
What does the Arbnor/Bjerke Methodological Principle of Complementarity mean?
“The potential interdependency in opposite methodological opinions of similar problems is to be used for excellent explanations and/or understanding of them. The principle implies that there are many such problems with this kind of inherent interdependency, which cannot fully be treated by only one of the approaches, in question. Therefore, it is possible and desirable to use complementarity in studies faced with multifaced problems”. (See Box 13.2. in the book)
Isn’t it a problem that work of Business and Competitive Intelligence often makes too much use of analytical thinking and quantitative analysis?
By lacking complementary thinking (see question 13 above) and having a relatively one-sided analytical focus in these two branches of intelligence, it becomes problematic to make complex situations, requiring a more holistic perspective, intelligible. One is at the same time missing that understanding which can be developed by the insight about how the different methodological views also give different results. Apart from this there is another problem with its relatively one-sided focus on quantitative data. This focus tends to reflect what is similar among dissimilar phenomena too much, and there is then a risk that one is missing what is odd, different, unique which never needs to be too small to carry information about something much bigger.
The meaning of the concept implementation differs between the various views, why?
The analytical view and the systems view look at a process of creating knowledge as a kind of before/after relation. First is something researched and then the result is presented, for instance, as a suggestion to an organization. That stage where the new suggestion is to be introduced and function is called implementation. The actors view is normally not talking about implementation in this meaning. Change (“implementation”) takes place as a continuous dialogical process in a kind of contemporarity with creating knowledge. The decisive point in the ultimate presumptions of the different views concerning these procedures is their conception of reality (see Box 3.3 in the book).
Is it possible to always be objective in research?
There are different opinions ruling here, everything from that you can never be to that you should always try to be. The question has many answers and those different answers are also directly connected to the ultimate presumptions of the different methodological views described in the book (see Chapter 7 “The problem of objectivity”).
What is it that makes a dialogue so unique in the actors view?
Dialogue is different from discussion as well as debate by having completely different intrinsic purposes. This can also be read from the language origins of the different concepts.
Dialogue comes from Latin dia, which means through and logos which means words. Discuss comes from dis which means apart and cutere which means cut (dash to pieces). The purpose of the discussion is similar to the analytical approach to divide - to cut apart. Debate comes from battere, which means battle. The purpose of the debate is to beat your opponent with arguments and rhetoric tricks. Here we get one winner and one loser. (For a thorough penetration of the purpose of dialogue, se Chapter 7 ”The actors approach and dialogue”)
The opinion of the actors view is to look at the dialogue as the most important technique for “looking for truth” and groundbreaking acts. It is important to understand that dialogue in the sense of the actors approach is not only about agreeing on a kind of friendly intimacy but also about the very master key in construction of new social reality.
Is it possible to use a qualitative research method when one has a population of, say, 50 companies?
Here one should first ask oneself why one wants 50 companies in the study. If the ideas are related to representativity of some kind, then the question is on a wrong footing from the start (see question 24 below). If one really attempts to conduct a qualitative study, one is looking for depth and unicity and not generality. One is also looking for creating understanding and not explanation. The starting points for a qualitative study therefore makes the question about 50 companies illogical (see also Chapter 7 “Techniques for selecting units of study” and Chapter 14 “The study area in theory - Complementary procedures”).
Is it necessary to work with hypotheses when using an analytical view? Is it not possible to use analytical view to create something new using theory and empirics?
It is possible, of course, to use analytical view to create something new, but it is not contradicting working with hypotheses. Abduction, which is a directly renewing way of working within the analytical view, is known to use just hypotheses as one important instrument for verification/falsification (see question 3 above).
I think that the borderlines between the three different views might be a bit unclear. How is it possible to decide where the borders are? Is it important to know which view one works with in all situations? Is it possible to use more than one specific view successfully in the same study?
The borderlines between the ultimate presumptions as far as the different views are concerned are relatively clear. And the clearer one is of this as a creator of knowledge, the less unclear the distinctions become in a practical application, even if it might be different to exactly pointing out where the borderlines are.
Whether it is important to know which view one works with, the answer can only be that it is the very prerequisite for conscious and excellent knowledge-creating. To exemplify the paradoxical in the question we might analogically ask ourselves: Is it important to know whether you are in an airplane or a car when you intend to do an abrupt brake and go into a skid by an U-turn, in order to park?
As far as the last part of the question is concerned, whether one can use more than one view in the same study, the answer becomes “yes” given that it takes place within the framework of a methodology of complementarity (see question 4 and 5 above, and Chapter 13 and 14 in the book).
Is it ethically defensible not to mention, for instance, the company asking for the study to be done when interviewing a respondent?
This must be decided on a case-by-case basis. If you may suspect that it might detrimentally influence the answer of the respondent, without in any way hurting the respondent, it might be defensible not to mention the commissioning company. But, as said already, this is an issue which cannot be determined normatively. The only generally answer to give is to always act in an honest way and with as open card as possible in all cases of creating knowledge.
If we talk about Business and Competitive Intelligence, however, some hidden agendas may exist in creating knowledge, which is partly in the nature of the two concepts. However, we want to warn even here to pass the border of ethics. There is so much information to collect openly and honestly without having to “play a spy” in these contexts.
Is the systems view still aiming for explanation, even if it uses the actors view for analysis, or is it then closer to understanding?
The person asking the question seems to mix up the concepts in a way that the book has warned against, a way that would lead to an eclectic maze - a lack of consistency, stringency and credibility in knowledge creating work (se question 5 above).
Should we in the section of methodology in a student report specify in which contexts our analyses can be used by another party in another system/context if the systems view is used? Or is this something that should be left to the reader to decide?
It should probably be difficult to specify all possible contexts where the results could be of relevance. Then it is probably better to be careful by specifying under which circumstances the study in question has been done and leave to the reader to interpret for him/herself in relation to some new and different situation. There is, of course, nothing wrong in a methodology section to provide ideas of how these analyses been made can be used considering how they methodologically have come up.
To what extent is it possible to generalize a qualitative study based on a sample which is not statistically representative?
The question is asked based on the premises and explanatory ideal of the analytical view and concerns the ideal of another view - to create understanding - and its conception of reality. This makes the question a bit absurd. Like asking: To what extent is there a risk to fall over the edge of the flat Earth when navigating at sea using navigating methods based on a round Earth (see also question 5 above, where the example is developed further).
Or, let us turn the question around, the absurdity of it is even clearer: “To what extent is it possible to find what is unique and qualitative in a quantitative study using a statistically representative sample in order to look for generality”?
To say, for instance, that a qualitative study is of no interest because it is not possible to generalize, is about as smart as claiming that boats are to be condemned because they do not roll as good as cars on a road. The very point with a qualitative study is for the creator of knowledge to get away from superficiality of generalization - and instead go deeper and vivify a complex phenomenon. Where the unique role of a human being becomes visible! And by starting in this, create an understanding for the complex phenomenon at hand. (See Chapter 14 “The study area in theory - Complementary procedures” in the book)
How does the creator of knowledge relate to the tacit knowledge of man? And how does the creator of knowledge relate to his/her own tacit knowledge?
This question is mainly of interest to the actors view. The analytical and the systems views have not directly made a point of the phenomenon “tacit knowledge,” i.e., the inner quality which we have problems to articulate but which is there just as a kind of master talent.
The actors oriented creator of knowledge in searching in every possible way for the inner quality of those masterpieces he/she is facing. And at the same time, he/she takes pains to recreate this quality within him/herself in order to able to understand the masterpieces and bring the experience forward. He/she is listening to the “harmony” of the actors, follows their rhythms and tries to distil the essence of the quality of the whole thing.
For the actors creator of knowledge it is necessary here to enter a dialogue with a reality that he/she identifies him/herself with at the same time, in order to emotionally, imaginative and qualitatively look for what is unique, what is “tacit knowledge”. And make this quality intelligible using first hand expressions of the actors and the procreative concepts of shaping of the creator of knowledge. (See “The Arbnor Uncertainty Principle” Figure 6.1. in the book)
Is it possible starting from the actors view to use the analytical view?
The question is best answered by studying Chapters 13 and 14 in the book (see also questions, 1, 4 and 13 above).