Staying Mindful in Action: Socioanalytic Action Research


In 2012, I embarked on an Industrial PhD study to examine how leaders and followers can stay mindful in organizational turbulence and, in particular, stay mindful on what is happening in and between people – relationally and emotionally – when ‘in the middle of it all’. My study observes participants in business driven action learning programmes, mutual exploration of conscious and unconscious drivers of group and individual behaviour during the programme (via working notes), and diary studies and exploratory sessions (including drawing as a method) after the programme. Socioanalytic method is the study of groups from a perspective combining systems theory and psychoanalysis (equal to the term systems psychodynamics). This case study provides a narrative summary of the research project from research question to analysis, and takes the reader to the heart of some specific methodological issues that arose during the research. The case sheds light on the particular challenges (methodological, epistemological, and ethical) in exploring ‘below-surface’ dynamics – including not-noticed, unconscious, and often irrational dynamics – and argues for including such dynamics in qualitative research. The research design largely consists of methods that aim at opening up a path to the unconscious. Particular attention is paid to the use of working notes and drawings.

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