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Peter Bednar’s Paper Proposal

Contextual Inquiry and Socio-Technical Practice

Co-author(s): Christine Welch

When Change Magicians (or business analysts) engage a business organization they enter a environment where professionals are already acting in the context of their business and work. The problem spaces engaged in are often seen as both complex and uncertain. When those same professionals are not only continuing to work as knowledgeworkers in their ordinary jobs but also engage in a pursuit of purposeful and desireable change activity they are making an effort to create and sustain an ongoing double helix of action and reflection. A change magician involved has a role of facilitator who is supporting the organizational actors in their efforts to create and sustain this double helix process so it becomes a natural part of their ongoing practices. For many organizations big as well as small, the use of a Socio-Technical Toolbox can come in handy as it both can be easily understood from a pragmatic perspective as well as it supports reflection in ways which are not normally discussed or questioned.


  1. I love the term “Change Magicians”.

    You are addressing a very important question (and one that is basic to second order cybernetics). I shall be very interested to hear more about how you address it.

    I wonder if Bateson’s double loop learning might help.

    I’m sure you are familiar with Wicked Problems.

  2. I would like to make a comment that may be relevant. While the organisational actors are the experts in their own field, the ‘change magicians’ are experts in the ‘change field’. They also have the benefit of looking at the organisation from the ‘fresh’ perspective of that of an outsider. They are able to perceive what those concerned may have numbed to perceiving. That may be beneficial as it can reveal deeply engrained practices that are not questioned any more. Should all unquestioned practices be questioned? They may have evolved over time into their current state and are robust and versatile.

    The outsiders perspective might also result in some difficulties, as even though the change activity is meant to be purposeful and leading to desirable change, some of those concerned might regard advice for change from an outsider as unqualified or inappropriate. For all they know they are the experts in their professional work. How can the advice from the outsider be made acceptable? How can change be regarded as a natural part of their ongoing practices?
    I think this is a fascinating situation. The advantage of the outsiders perspective is a kind of disadvantage at the same time.

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