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From the Edge of Chaos: Dialogues amongst Social Theory and Practice.

From the Edge of Chaos: Dialogues amongst Social Theory and Practice by Subhash Sharma and Michael Zirkler (Ed) IBA Publications, Bangaluru, 2016, Pages 136, Price Rs. 500/--

Making accurate predictions in social sciences is difficult terrain, as, unlike the subject matter of natural sciences, the unit of interest in social sciences is relatively non-homogeneous and easily alterable. This makes bridging the gap between theory and practice one of the major challenge a social scientist faces while working in his/ her domain. In the edited volume From the Edge of Chaos, Dr. Sharma and Dr. Zirkler provide a forum to initiate, in their own words, a 'dialogue between theory and practice'. The book is a collection of the papers presented at the Conference titled International Dialogue amongst Research and Practice: Getting Insight and Focusing Action, School of Applied Psychology, Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Zurich, held on September 1-3, 2014.

The book encompasses thirteen articles from academicians and practitioners from India, England, France, Switzerland, and China. The articles focus on diverse topics such as meditation, consciousness, organizational interventions, research methods, and experience sharing.

While the editors have not attempted any classification, the articles may be categorized in five major drifts:

1. Bridging theory and practice: Sharma sets the tone of the discourse by discussing several models to understand the gap between theory and practice and the way to bridge these. In their essay, Eva Tov and others propose a model to facilitate knowledge sharing and communication among theoreticians and practitioners by building Communities of Practice, and discuss how specific IT innovations can facilitate such networking.

2. Social Theories: Papillon explores the dynamics of the human dialogue and how the mind evolves from reason to vision. Schildberger, in his discourse, adopts a unique approach to discuss key concepts by integrating them into a dramatic form. In another paper, Sharma discusses the merit of the creative meditative research methodology and key concepts of his own theory of knowledge generation.

3. Organizational Practices: Narasimha explores how cultural synergy helps in the growth of an organization, touching upon area such as leadership, quality of communication, and bilateral learning. Mohankrishnan, in his article, on the other hand, utilizes the metaphor of a tribal person to explain how tacit knowledge management may emerge as a technique for OD intervention.

4. Teaching Practices: Foremost in this category is the fascinating article by Michael Zirkler, where he describes the use of cooking as an activity to promote conversation, building cohesiveness and promoting involvement and creativity in training programmes, conferences, and work groups. Another interesting article is that by Yung-Pin Lu, who discusses a classroom game of hoola-hoop to teach teamwork and leadership.

5. Therapeutic Practice: Sharma delineates in detail the technique of Moon Ocean Meditation or Osmotic Meditation as a novel way to expand one's consciousness. Chlopczik describes the use of the prototyping tool based on the Theory U methodology, to explore one's motivation and goal for personal and professional lives.

Given its nature, an eclectic collection of diversified thought, From the Edge of Chaossuffers from the tendency to be somewhat chaotic at times, more so because the focus varies dramatically at times from one paper to the next. However, the editors do a commendable job of bringing together thoughts that are striking in their novelty and precision. The reader is taken through a whirlwind ride of relatively less-known practices of meditation, eadership strategies, training methods, and other knowledge-based interventions. Special appreciation is due for the many illustrations and schematic diagrams that help take the narrative forward. The lucid and detailed practice-oriented articles are especially useful to practitioners and researchers, who are on the lookout for new techniques to adopt in their respective fields of work.

In all, despite the absence of a sense of continuous discourse, From the Edge of Chaos is remarkable for the novel ideas, approaches, and state-of-the-art practices it manages to capture within the span of thirteen chapters. To the social scientist open to exploring new domains, From the Edge of Chaos is a thought-provoking read, likely to open up new avenues into the development of social theories and practices.

Bishakha Majumdar

Assistant Professor, FORE School of Management, New Delhi.
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Author:Majumdar, Bisakha
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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