Back to the Future: Grounding Practice in Subjectivism and First-Person Research

Doyle, Eleanor (2014) Back to the Future: Grounding Practice in Subjectivism and First-Person Research. In: 4th International Conference on Professional Doctorates, 10th and 11th April, The Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales.


The orientation of the DBA (Business Economics) Programme at the School of Economics, University College Cork, Ireland, is towards enhancing effectiveness in professional business practice. Over several decades, Economics has become increasingly formal, and some would argue more precise, yet too often in contexts of less and less importance especially to those with a practice orientation. This paper delves into the rich conceptual past of Economics to identify the theme of Subjectivism as one holding promise for research into practice. Subjectivism allows practitioners to ground research on foundational concepts where emphasis is required on images and meanings made of events and circumstances as these are what governs practice. A key foundational thinker, Penrose (1959), offers conceptual depth to be applied by practitioners both in new business practice and in reflection on practice. Penrose’s insights reveal four conceptual underpinnings of growing firms related to meaning-making capabilities of managers. More recent research into Economics-related first-person research (Arnsperger, 2010) provides the method by which self reflection and new practice can generate valid ‘data’ for investigations of effectiveness in practice, highlighting the complementary natures of first-, second- and third-person research. Thus, subjectivism and first-person research are key elements underpinning the programme pedagogy which is outlined in this paper offering a range of fruitful research directions.

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