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Chapter 16 | Action Inquiry: Interweaving Multiple Qualities of Attention for Timely Action

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This chapter describes action inquiry, a kind of social science that can generate timely action. First, action inquiry studies not just the past, but also the present and future. Second, it is a form of research that is conducted simultaneously on oneself, the first-person action inquirer, on the second-person relationships in which one engages, and on the third-person institutions of which one is an observant participant. Third, it generates not just single-loop feedback that incrementally improves a stock of knowledge, but also double-and triple-loop transformations of structure, culture, and consciousness that influence ongoing interaction. The chapter describes how first-person action inquiry in the present explores four distinct but interweaving ‘territories of experience,’ which sometimes feel mutually aligned and sometimes dissonant. It further describes how second-person action inquiry on the emergent future crafts four distinct but interweaving ‘parts of speech’ to generate increasing shared vision and inquiring collaborative practice. It then offers and analyzes a few minutes of first-and second-person collaborative inquiry to illustrate these ideas. The chapter closes by introducing a third-person generalizable theory, and some of the quantitative empirical evidence supporting it, that describes how individuals, organizations, and science itself can transform to the point of practicing ongoing timely inquiry and action.

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