The constructive developmental impact of effectuation on practice

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Lyons Coakley, Maria
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University College Cork
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Effectuation is a non-predictive decision-making logic of control in uncertain situations, that begins with given means and is a set of techniques, principles and criteria to generate and select between possible outcomes that can be created with the means (Sarasvathy 2001, 2008). This Portfolio focuses on the constructive developmental impact of effectuation on practice, where constructive development was utilised as an apparatus of thought. Research was conducted through first-person action research to address the research question, which focused on the growth in complexity of meaning-making and impact on lived experience through effectuation. Merging the concepts of effectuation and constructive development is novel. The combination represents a contribution linking personal and professional development to action and practice. Through understanding the adaptive challenges of transitioning to effectuation, insight is generated on how the transition was made and its impact on practice. Impact is identified by analysing changes across four domains i.e. cognitive, inter-personal, affective and intra-personal (psychological quadrants). The Portfolio is organised into three essays, reflecting phases in the action research cycles and professional development journey. Essay One is a professional development review and is the pre-step and construction phase of the action research, which defines the research question and reveals the developmental focus. This essay demonstrates the forming and dominance of a causal and reductionist way of knowing. A developmental agenda of challenging and expanding meaning-making through exploring the perspectives of effectuation and systems-thinking is identified. Essay Two reports on the planning and observation phase of the action-research. It demonstrates how actively engaging with complexity, uncertainty theories and effectuation through the lens of systems-thinking challenged meaning-making. Engaging with these perspectives recognises the limitations of causal logic, particularly in a VUCA world. It identifies the strength of the practitioner attachment to goal-orientation such that practicing effectuation was a developmental challenge. Essay Three reports on the transforming practice phase of the action-research inquiry, which involved challenging assumptions, goal-orientation and domination of internal and external authorities. Through practicing effectuation, Essay Three demonstrates constructive-developmental and phenomenological differences between operating and being effectual. The Portfolio concludes with key findings for practitioners, including how being effectual supports development of mental complexity in modern and post-modern VUCA environments. It reports on how practitioners may underestimate how self-created constructs, external influences and the intra-personal quadrant are lenses impacting on their view of the world. Those interested in professional development may think that the external authority is the one to focus on, to develop an independent way-of-knowing, however this research found the subjective internal authority was also restrictive. The research has implications for organisations, such that liberating leaders and teams to be effectual could have an impact on developing a culture of innovation, adaptability, exploration and creativity.
Effectuation , First person action research , Practitioner , Constructive development
Lyons Coakley, M. 2020. The constructive developmental impact of effectuation on practice. DBA Thesis, University College Cork.