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"The world is not what I think, but what I live through" (Merleau Ponty)

Writing & Research - Our Research Approach

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Figure Ground Consulting

Our approach to research comes from an Action Research tradition. Whilst our work is guided by the needs of a client situation, we also undertake longer term studies centred on areas of specific interest. For example, our research into executive transitions and our new research stream into the issues and themes of the post-career careers (Transitions).

Our experience in connecting research and consulting has helped us develop the following principles:

  1. Contracting for clarity. We know the importance of being as clear as possible on the identity of the clients. We also understand that in many situations there are multiple clients and often it is ambiguous as to who the client(s) are. Whilst we work hard to get clarity on the aims of the research, we know from experience, that these may not always be crystal clear at the outset, but emerge and change as the research progresses
  2. Immersion. We immerse ourselves in the client system and orient ourselves along two aspects. Firstly, we engage fully with ideas and concepts, but also with the actual practices we observe, including the attitudes and emotions thrown up by the situation. Secondly, we focus on present experience. This includes ways in which the past and the future are present and influencing the current context. By combining these two dimensions we increase the richness of the engagement and get the most out of standard research processes, such as interviews, surveys or discussion/focus groups.
  3. Dialogue. We develop and test hypotheses with our clients. We aim to build a shared experimental attitude, so that the client’s curiosity for ongoing inquiry is sustained after the end of the research. Solutions emerge from cycles of developing and testing ideas in action, including further empirical study.
  4. Creative expression. So that the outcomes of research are engaging and have impact, we typically use creative ways to express our findings. Equally, we may vary the delivery of the outcomes according to the audience. We have used actors, graphic facilitators, large groups and other processes such as Constellations.
  5. Validation. Does the research enable the client’s situation to improve? We understand that tight connections between research outputs and client outcomes are not always possible, so we agree validity principles and/or design supplementary processes to review the effectiveness of the research.

For us, action research is a dynamic process and our goal is applying it so that it makes improvements in the client’s world.

Rob Farrands leads FGC’s research practice; he read for his PhD at the Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice (now centred at Ashridge Business School), using extensive Action Research principles and practices.

If you would like an exploratory discussion about your organization’s research needs, contact us