The Process of Discovery


Leo Smyth

Professor of Management, National University of Ireland

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

They need to be aware of their own frames. In some respects they need to be aware that the goals are not preset. The process is so important, and this actually puts a certain demand, it seems to me, on the third party.  It's one thing to be in a position of power and to say, "Ok, I'll go in and mediate this or I'll negotiate this," and, "I'm the kind of person who's been through this several times. I know where they're going to wind up. I know what the issues are. I'll just help them with the process till they get to where I know they're going to get to in the next period of time."

It's much more demanding if you actually go into one of these situations where you say, "I don't know really what the outcome is. I have some ideas, but the goal is unclear to everybody, including myself, in fact the nature of the problem we still haven't really figured out." There's an intriguing phrase from two guys

in the organizational literature and they said, "Change develops meaning through the process by which it occurs." I still am trying to get my head around that everyday.  It continues to challenge me because our conception of rationality is so strongly goal driven. I'm not saying that this is irrational, I don't think it is, but I do think it is a sort of discovery. It's a voyage of discovery towards a destination that actually nobody may know. And that's pretty scary, both for the participants themselves and also for the 3rd party, to be able to have that kind of definition.