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What is Reflection-In-Action? A Phenomenological Account


  • Dvora Yanow
  • Haridimos Tsoukas


Building on the work of Donald Schön and phenomenological treatments of practice, we propose a phenomenological theory of reflection-in-action that develops this concept further, thereby transcending a number of limitations we find in his theorizing. Our theory includes: an appreciation for the evaluative dimensions built into competent practice that encourage, if not require, reflecting; a further theorizing of the character of surprise; and a fuller delineation of the character of improvisation in relation to practice and its surprises. We begin with a phenomenological account of cognition in relation to work, especially in its form of professional practice. We reframe Schön's arguments in phenomenological, especially Heideggerian, terms and take account of relatively recent theorizing about knowledge-based work, illustrating these discussions with a vignette drawn from field research in the world of practice. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these arguments for practitioners as well as for further theorizing. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2009.

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  • Dvora Yanow & Haridimos Tsoukas, 2009. "What is Reflection-In-Action? A Phenomenological Account," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(8), pages 1339-1364, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:46:y:2009:i:8:p:1339-1364

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Raghu Garud & Arun Kumaraswamy & V. Sambamurthy, 2006. "Emergent by Design: Performance and Transformation at Infosys Technologies," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(2), pages 277-286, April.
    2. David Barry & Claus Rerup, 2006. "Going Mobile: Aesthetic Design Considerations from Calder and the Constructivists," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(2), pages 262-276, April.
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    6. Philip H. Mirvis, 1998. "Variations on a Theme—Practice Improvisation," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 9(5), pages 586-592, October.
    7. Mary M. Crossan, 1998. "Improvisation in Action," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 9(5), pages 593-599, October.
    8. Eli Berniker, 1998. "Working the Jazz Metaphor: Musings Driving Down I-5 Past Midnight," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 9(5), pages 583-585, October.
    9. Peter Madsen & Vinit Desai & Karlene Roberts & Daniel Wong, 2006. "Mitigating Hazards Through Continuing Design: The Birth and Evolution of a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 17(2), pages 239-248, April.
    10. Paul R. Carlile, 2002. "A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 13(4), pages 442-455, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sanna Hilden & Kati Tikkamäki, 2013. "Reflective Practice as a Fuel for Organizational Learning," Administrative Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(3), pages 1-20, July.
    2. Dusya Vera & Mary Crossan & Claus Rerup & Steve Werner, 2014. "‘Thinking Before Acting’ or ‘Acting Before Thinking’: Antecedents of Individual Action Propensity in Work Situations," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 603-633, June.
    3. In Cho, 2015. "Facebook discontinuance: discontinuance as a temporal settlement of the constant interplay between disturbance and coping," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 49(4), pages 1531-1548, July.
    4. Arts, Bas & Behagel, Jelle & Turnhout, Esther & de Koning, Jessica & van Bommel, Séverine, 2014. "A practice based approach to forest governance," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 4-11.
    5. Mary Crossan & Daina Mazutis & Gerard Seijts, 2013. "In Search of Virtue: The Role of Virtues, Values and Character Strengths in Ethical Decision Making," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 113(4), pages 567-581, April.
    6. Manning, Stephan & Reinecke, Juliane, 2016. "A modular governance architecture in-the-making: How transnational standard-setters govern sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 618-633.
    7. repec:bla:stratm:v:38:y:2017:i:3:p:626-644 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Alfons Van Marrewijk & Marcel B. Veenswijk, 2016. "Changing institutional practices in the Dutch construction industry," International Journal of Project Organisation and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 8(1), pages 44-62.
    9. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:10:p:1839-:d:114823 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Sally Maitlis & Scott Sonenshein, 2010. "Sensemaking in Crisis and Change: Inspiration and Insights From Weick (1988)," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 551-580, May.
    11. Yina Mao & Chi-Sum Wong & Kelly Peng, 2013. "Breaking institutionalized corruption: Is the experience of the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption generalizable?," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 1115-1124, December.
    12. M. Laura Frigotto & Marco Zamarian, 2013. "Resilience and specialization in volatile environments:evidence from the Italian Air Force Tornado crews learning practices," DEM Discussion Papers 2013/17, Department of Economics and Management.

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