Emergent Action Research© (EAR), and Emergent Learning

Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC®) , Emergent Organizational Development® (EOD®) and Emergent Change® are under registered trademark, 2017. All writings are considered under copyright as per The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®, Patrick Trottier and Associates. Written permission is required.

By Patrick A. Trottier

Welcome to this write-up about Emergent Action Research©, and Emergent Learning


I have worked within different areas of Emergent Action Research© with different clients throughout the years.

This is a composite of such work to create an ‘Emergent Action Research©‘ Platform.

These are the things that worked, and brought ‘value’ to the client.

These are my incomplete thoughts, as my thinking and the EAR© platform will continue to emerge… as all things do.

We are within the beginnings of a new process of evolution (people, cultures, social norms, tools, information, life, work, families, community, business practices, planet, environments, education – you name it) driven by novel technologies, rapid change and complexity within organizations and world environments in this 21st Century.

There are no final answers to anything … everything emerges… such cannot help itself – it is the nature of the thing…


To begin…

Emergent Action Research© (EAR) is a core element of Emergent Organizational Development® (EOD). The Emergent Action Research© Platform is interwoven into the fabric of the overall ‘Emergent Organizational Development® Platform

EAR© is the next evolution of traditional Action Research (AR) which, as you know, is a core element of traditional OD.

It is important to understand and gain an appreciation of traditional OD Action Research as the ‘predecessor’ of EAR™.

The core thinking, processes and value of traditional Action Research is retained and enhanced under the thinking and processes within Emergent Action Research©.


A key difference between Emergent OD®/EAR© and traditional OD/AR:

– Emergent OD® and Emergent Action Research© focuses on
the ’emerging present’.

– Traditional OD/AR focuses mostly on
the past,
and some incantation of the future.


Diagram of Emergent Action Research© (EAR©):

Traditional Action Research – single and double-loop learning…
Emergent Action Research© (EAR©) – all of it...

EAR - gif complete B

In this write-up we will try to describe some key aspects of:

  • Traditional Action Research (AR)
  • Emergent Action Research© (EAR)
  • Emergent Learning

Traditional Action Research (AR)


“Kurt Lewin, then a professor at MIT, first coined the term “action research” in 1944. In his 1946 paper “Action Research and Minority Problems” he described action research as “a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action and research leading to social action that uses a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action and fact-finding about the result of the action“.

Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem-solving led by individuals working with others in teams, or as part of a “community of practice” to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. (Ernest T Stringer, 2014)

Action Research is an interactive inquiry process that balances problem-solving actions implemented in a collaborative context with data-driven collaborative analysis or research to understand underlying causes enabling future predictions about personal and organizational change (Reason & Bradbury, 2001).

To begin, and in brief, traditional Action Research’s (AR) answers these questions:

  • Are we doing things right?
  • Are we doing the right things?
  • What are our underlying assumptions, values and beliefs that ‘filter our incoming information’ and create our ‘perspectives in how we see our worlds that lead us to the answers to these questions.

This is called single and double-loop learning (see the diagram above).

Results Based – The ‘Pull’ Concept

Traditional AR gives us ‘result-based feedback’. ‘Results’ drive our perspectives, strategies and decisions.

We then adjust our planning / actions based on what the ‘results’ indicate, and what our ‘learnings’ indicate.

However, such ‘feedback results’ are usually based on the past, and it takes time to receive and interpret such – today, the world my change faster than getting the results.

Key value with traditional AR:

  • Re-directing and shifting our plans and actions based on the results obtained.
  • Good old ‘problem-solving’ – fits into a certain scope of issues – mostly technical in nature.
  • Bringing forth the awareness, understanding and implications of our underlying assumptions, values and beliefs in how we filter information through our ‘lenses’, and how we ‘see’ our ‘worlds’ in general. How such influences our interpretations, perceptions, goals, strategies, actions and results.

Key drawbacks with traditional AR in this day and age are:

  • Many times, traditional ‘results-based feedback’ takes various amounts of time to obtain, if at all. Such may not be current, nor reflect the current state of affairs or what is influencing that state of affairs.
    How many times have I heard that people already moved on to other things; “What ever happened to that culture survey we filled out?” – “These numbers do not relate to today’s performance.” – “These nation-wide customer feedback results are 4 months old – that was during the winter season.”)
    In these days of complexity and rapid rates of change, ‘results-based’ data can be outdated.
  • Much of ‘results-based feedback’ is what is called ‘flat data’, or specific data to a situation, rather than relational or emergent, pattern-based data that describes a a wider picture of what is going on.
  • The ‘context ‘of the situation (triple-loop learning) may be lost, or re-interpreted, or re-explained as memory shifts and emotions shift over time.
  • Focus is ‘reactive’ – after the fact.
  • ‘Pull’ based – results narrows one’s perspective within a small scope of linear, step-wise, ’cause-effect’ thinking.
  • ‘Pull’ based – results can be driven by the past and past ‘influencers’ which may not have current significance; keeps us in the past.

Emergent Action Research© (EAR©)

EAR© focuses on the ’emerging present’.

EAR© focuses on ‘continuous, real-time, performance feedback streams, value streams, real-time emergent learning, AI pattern display interfaces and open, continuous, real-time, integrated information streams that manifest our ability to emerge and evolve our assumptions, beliefs, values, thinking patterns, strategies and actions continuously in real-time with our internal and external environments (see diagram below).

Key value with EAR©:

  • EAR© gives immediate, real-time feedback patterns and control of such to the user.
  • The ‘context’ of the situation is current time.
  • Focus is ‘active’ – now – flow with the emerging present.
  • Bringing forth the awareness, understanding and implications of our underlying assumptions, values and beliefs in how we filter information through our ‘lenses’, and how we ‘see’ our ‘worlds’ in general. How such influences or interpretations, perceptions, goals, strategies, actions and results.
  • ‘Re-framing’ / evolving of our emotional and cognitive frameworks.
  • Continuous Emergent Learning based on:
    – real time continuous, integrated performance patterns,
    – understanding of ‘changing trends and patterns’ in one’s environments,
    – learning as you ‘do’ – people learn best by doing, and when they need to learn at
    their moment of need and readiness to experience, well – ‘learning’.
    (note: ‘learning’ is natural, innate and when experienced is ‘self-reinforcing’ as
    a ‘self-agency’. More on ‘Self-Agency’ in a future write-up.)
  • A certain degree of ‘wisdom’ is collected over time based on an understandings of ’emerging patterns’ relating similar and current patterns and ‘experiences’ to novel situations and associating such to continuous emergent learning.

Key drawbacks with EAR© in this day and age are:

  • The technology is here, but old systems still exist…
  • New thinking is here, but old thinking still exists…
  • People want ‘fast-food answers’…
  • ‘leaders’ still need their egos satisfied…
  • Still have industrial age silos of control which impedes performance and learning…
  • Still have industrial age thinking and concepts about organizations…
  • Still have ‘boxes’ to pigeon hole people, information and all sorts of things into…
  • Information is still isolated, segregated and used as ‘territorial property’ to protect one’s status, role, sense of importance, and territory.
  • Thinking is still based on the past, (which doesn’t exist) and the future (which doesn’t exist)…
  • You add one…

A more detail description of Traditional Action Research (AR), as a precursor to Emergent Action Research©, follows after this next section on EAR.

Again, it is important to understand and gain an appreciation of traditional OD Action Research as the ‘predecessor’ of EAR©.

The core value of Action Research is retained and enhanced under the thinking and processes within Emergent Action Research©.

Emergent Action Research© (EAR)

EAR - gif complete B

Emergent Action Research© and novel IT/IS/AI capabilities:

  • forms organizational integration and alignment with the business model(s), culture, business purpose, strategic and operational goals, as well as a passionate alignment to an organization’s ‘higher purpose and principles’,
  • manifest ‘value’ along business and systems processes (value streams) to enhance customer and market ‘experiences’ with products and services.
  • gains insights from situational contexts,
  • manifests technical and human collaborative networks,
  • creates an ‘open system’ of information streams,
  • form insights into ‘influencing patterns’ of emergent change itself,
  • develops a ‘comfort zone’ with shifting cognitive and emotional frameworks,
  • manifests emergent learning, innovation, and creative explorations and experimentation…
  • creates fluid ‘leadership’ opportunities,
  • manifest ‘seeing’ influencing patterns that impact performance.

I consider Emergent Action Research© (EAR) to be the next generation of traditional Action Research (AR) significantly based on novel technical IT/IS/AI capabilities to interweave, interconnect, and integrate ‘real-time’ information as ‘open, integrated information / value streams’ throughout an organization to everyone… and I do mean, everyone.

Let me offer an example based on some pretty primitive IT/IS technologies of the 1990s:

In the early 90s, I was working with a very large digital telecommunications company in California that made telecommunication systems and hardware. Senior management wanted everyone in the company to ‘think’ like a business person from Sr. Management to the programmers, to support people to gain a certain percentage of increasing profit margin to support their national growth strategies.

After a few months it was decided to open the financial, customer and marketing, operational executive summaries to everyone – everyone; management and non-management. Yes, accounting, finance, market development, and most managers were hesitant for it was traditional their territory, and a part of their control and status – but it got implemented as an ‘experiment’ of sorts.

What happened, you ask?

Well, some amazing things. People started to talk about the information itself, follow-it, track it, ‘game it’. People started to understand what they were doing in a business sense and related it to the bigger corporate picture. Also, people started to understand how their results were effected by other people’s work in other departments than just on a day-to-day ‘production task level’. Thus they started to relate their work and associate it with other people’s work in other departments. People talked at another level. People asked wider reaching questions at meetings. People asked better questions and gained better relations across functional departments – started to breakdown the boxes. People rallied around the mission to increase profit margins because they could understand how that worked – and they could relate to it in their minds, and in their work.  Everyone got bonuses. It just carried on and became normal. And, changes became normal because people had ‘the way’ to self-organize around common information and understandings.

Leaders and managers moved to another level of functioning, had less headaches and enjoyed people’s energy to implement innovations to get things done… and other good stuff.

Just think what can happen with the novel IT/IS/AI technologies of today… and tomorrow.

End of story…

Key Emergent Action Research© Elements  included in this write-up.

  • Integrated Information Streams
  • Pattern Display Interfaces
  • Pattern Thinking™
  • Pattern Display Recognition and Emergent Relationship Identification Learning
  • Action Research – The Forbearer Of EAR
  • Emergent Change.
  • Single, Double and Triple-Loop Learning
  • Emergent Learning.
  • Emergent Learning and Integrated Information Streams

Integrated Information Streams

One of the fundamental systems of EAR are ‘integrated information streams’.

Open, integrated information streams are the constant streaming of information that move throughout the organization in real time as an organization’s ‘central nervous system’ giving, gaining, replenishing and displaying information, as well as being an ‘experience generator’. Information streams function as being critical ‘inter-connectors’, and a common source of information, as such weaves and shares information streams amongst internal and external environments.

NervousSystem C

Why Emer Ogs can be created now
OK, so you may have a ‘Google Home’, or an ‘Amazon Alexa’ in your kitchen and are able to ask such to voice you a great recipe to make spaghetti for dinner, or how to fix your washing machine, or a thousand other questions and answers for your information, your curious and inquiring mind to delight.

Imagine, being at work  and you have your ‘Work Coach’ for your immediate inquiries where such technology coaches you, shares all sorts of integrated information, gives you an ‘experience of being listened to’, gives you immediate feedback to what you are doing, offers suggestion, ideas, advice, affirms you as a person, and reinforces you for your own personal success at work. Extend this to a team. Extend this throughout the whole organization. Extend this to all your internal and external environments.

Imagine the degree of real-time’ emergent learning that can take place.

Science fiction… I think not…
What are the possibilities… just imagine…

That is just a simple example of what I’m talking about in this write-up. Read on…

Pattern Display Interfaces

‘Visual, pattern display interfaces’ can significantly manifest real-time ’emergent learning’ in the 21st Century.

Reasons why our brain likes deep depth visual, pattern information display interfaces:


  • Our brain works as a neural hologram. (Karl H. Pribram, Holonomic Brain Theory)
  • Human are naturally visually wired –this is how our brain naturally works.
  • Almost 50% of our brain is involved in visual processing.
  • 70% of all our sensory receptors are in our eyes.
  • It takes 1/10th of a second to get a sense of a visual display to ‘get the picture’.
  • It takes 150 milliseconds for a symbol to be processed plus 100 milliseconds to attach a meaning to it.

Pattern Thinking

A unique element of EOD® is Pattern Thinking™ which is one foundation of Emergent Learning ⇒ how change patterns are occurring and how such ‘pattern influencers’ shape and effect a situation, a person, a thing…

EAR, Pattern Thinking™ and integrated, pattern display interfaces are a fundamental element in creating an Emergent Organization®.

Two key elements of ‘Pattern thinking™:

  • ‘Patterns’ interact with human information processing as a natural accommodation in the interplay with the human brain, thus more information can be processed in a short amount of time.
  • ‘Patterns’ can give humans both emotional and cognitive ‘experiences’.
    One example encompasses artificial reality (AR). Take a police officer  ‘in training’ to deal with ‘violence in a domestic argument’ (domestic incidents are considered a high danger situation in police work). AR makes the traninee ‘experience’ not just the issues of the situation itself, but also the emotional aspects of the situation be they internal to the trainee, between the parties themselves who are involved in the domestic confrontation, and even the chaos and sense of threat noticed within the ‘context’ of the situation.


Artificial intelligence and information technology has the capability to manifest emergent learning through integrated, pattern display interfaces in order to support, augment and enhance human information processing and the human experience.” (P. Trottier, 2013)


How many words, numbers, pages, static diagrams would it take to describe the weather displayed here? 500,000 words and numbers? 100 pages of raw data? How long would it take to begin to understand all those words and numbers?

But, how long does it take to begin to understand the ‘patterns’ occurring in this gify?

What unique pattern is displayed adjacent to the hurricane in this gify? What influence does it have on your thinking?

Through such a ‘pattern display interface’, the human brain can understand a lot of information in a few seconds.

It is said that we suffer from ‘information overload’.

We say that it is not the amount of information that is the issue,
it is the way information is displayed that is the issue.

Pattern Display Recognition and Emergent
Relationship Identification

Pattern display recognition and emergent relationship identification is simply a person’s, and/or a technology’s capability to recognize patterns – when do ‘attractors’ begin to form trends, which trends begin to form patterns, which ‘patterns’ have enough influence to develop novel forms which then may develop into determinants and so on…

How emrgent change occurs

There is an additional ‘awareness’ that comes from this type of ‘learning’ which is a greater understanding of the dynamics of natural, emergent change itself.  This is most critical in leadership and, well, everybody’s capabilities in dealing with rapid and complex changing environments.

This forms a different relationship amongst the organization  in terms of ‘Self-Agency’ where people are not depended on the traditional ‘parent-child’, management-employee relationship. Working with common understandings of integrated information and with understandings of the pattern change, people can self-organize and develop new strategies aligned to emerging patterns.

Why is this critical?

Generating a greater understanding of the dynamics of natural, emergent change itself  is critical because such develops a greater ‘comfort zone’ within people and organizations to deal with and understand what we call ‘chaos and complexity’ in rapidly changing environments. Such gives a person and teams a sense ‘of being in control’ vs. ‘being is a done to by percieved chaotic states’. (being proactive with the flow of change vs. being reactive and waiting for ‘management’ to become involved for parental-based decisions.)

Gaining an understanding of what is influencing what develops more effective strategies and an organization’s capability to progress with the flow of change more proactively. (vs. change management programs that are ‘behind the eight ball’ and become more ‘to-dos’ on the work list).

In other words if ‘change’ is not part of the fabric of the natural ways of the organization, it is a ‘program to get done’, and the task of adding another scheduled project.

Understanding natural, emergent change also gives rise to ‘seeing’ oneself differently, one’s organization differently, and what conditions are integral within an organization’s performance differently because people are seeing such through a different ‘lens’. A lens of evolution, adaptation, natural change and emergence which is developed over time.  This is called developing a ‘comfort with re-framing cognitive and emotional frameworks’.

This is relevant and has an influence with any element, or aspect, of an organization from leadership, to culture, to values, to norms, to finance, to market growth, to operational performance.

Thus, through practice, an emergent ‘lens’ starts to unfold and continually manifests as change becomes normal and comfortable.

This is critical to real and systemic ‘organizational, operational and cultural change’ itself.

InfoHumanics© – The EOD® Principle Regarding Novel Technologies such as AI

Novel technologies are forming from such aspects and elements as AI, Deep Learning, Big Data, Cloud computing, Virtual and Artificial Reality, computational integration, speed and cost optimization, predictive analytics, algorithmic self-learning, Artificial Neural Networks (ANN), pattern display interfaces, etc.

IT/IS/AI system designs, within the EODC® Platform, are guided by the concepts and constructs of the principle of ‘InfoHumanics© .

InfoHumanics©; Any information technology system and process designed to support, augment and facilitate human information processing and the ‘human experience’.
Marked by humanistic values, and a devotion to human and our planet’s well being. Human centered. (P.Trottier, 2013)


Imagine if organizations had ‘open information streams’ to everyone.



network explosion

Such ‘open information streams’ lead us

“from Industrial Age Hierarchical Silos to The Age of Integrated Collaborative Networks.”


Action Research – The Forbearer of EAR

Traditional Action Research (AR)

Traditional ‘Action Research’ (AR) has become the foundation for many ‘methods and tools’ to problem-solve issues on many organizational levels. As an example, ‘Gap Analysis’, used in many analytical methods, have AR as a foundation. We see many ‘group work’ initiatives using traditional Action Research as a basis with such tools and processes as Open Space, Future Search, World Café, Appreciative Inquiry, etc.

Such also became the foundation for many ‘business improvement’ approaches such as continuous improvement initiatives, business process improvement, individual and group improvement tools, methods and processes.

Traditional Action Research is a mixture of hard data and soft data analysis, idea generation, imagination, curiosity, generating alternatives, strategy building, decision-making, and follow-up action planning. (I am sure I left something out here.)

Such also was, and is, the foundation of many ‘change management’ approaches including change management models such as CM, Agile, ADKAR, Kotter’s 8-step change model, the Burke Litwin Change Model, the famous ‘unfreezing, changing and refreezing’ model, as well as many, many others.

Any feedback and improvement process uses degrees of traditional Action Research. Most facilitate ‘single-loop learning’ (problem-solving) whereas some include ‘double-loop learning’.

SystemsModelofActionResearchProcessCurrent tensions exists between users of Action Research:

  1. those who are more driven by the researcher’s agenda, and information.
  2. those who are more driven by the participants’ agenda, and information;
  3. those who are motivated primarily by instrumental goal attainment, or by the aim of personal, organizational or societal transformation; and
  4. 1st, to 2nd, to 3rd-person research, that is; my research on my own action aimed primarily at personal change; our research on our group (family/team) aimed primarily at improving the group, and research aimed primarily at theoretical generalization, or large-scale change. (McNiff, J.,Whitehead J., 2005)

Action Research Evolving In the Last 20 Years…

Planned Change – Statistical Data Analysis
In the last 20 years, the evolution of Action Research began challenging traditional social science by moving beyond reflective knowledge created by statistical sampling of discrete variables leading to ‘analysis and planned change’.

Community-of-Practices:  Event Change
Action Research has further evolved to a more active community-of-practices, current sharing of perspectives, conversations / stories, ‘what ifs’, information inquiry, asking good questions, exploring curiosities and hopefully moving toward ‘a community of understandings’ occurring while in the midst of a community event workshop. This has been called ‘event change‘.


It is not unusual for current ‘planned change / change management’, and ‘event change’ tools and practices to use a combination of statistical analysis and community-of-practice information.

Usually, planned change / change management, and event change is focused on the ‘past’ and/or the ‘future’.

Emergent Change

Emergent change is focused on the ’emerging present’ and real-time, emerging influencing patterns.

“Emergent change is the continuous forming of influencing patterns that continually create real-time change. Emergent change is the shaping of continuous ‘forms’ by internal and external influencing patterns and determinates.

Simple Emer Diagram

That which emerges may be further shaped into further continually evolving patterns and forms. Emergent change is universal, infinite, and the essence of creation.” (Patrick A. Trottier, 1995)

Emergent OD® focuses on the ’emerging present’, while traditional OD focuses mostly on the past, and some incantation of the future.


Action Research: Single, Double, Triple-Loop Learning

The concepts of Single, Double and Triple Loop Learning are explained by Chris Argyris, Robert Putnam, Diana McLain Smith, ‘Action Science’, Volume 13, Jossey-Bass, 1985

Joop Swieringa and André F. M. Wierdsma also describes what a learning organization does in their scholarly works; ‘Becoming a Learning Organization: Beyond the Learning Curve’, Addison-Wesley, 1992. Both are good reads.

A simple diagram of Single, Double and Triple Loop Learning:


Single-loop Learning

Single-loop learning is basic ‘problem-solving’.

In this form of learning, we are primarily considering our actions and related results to ‘fix-it’, or solve a problem. The focus is on ‘results’, and what creates such results. This is a ‘pull theory’ – ‘results’ drive the process and ‘the thinking’.

The challenge is to have a compete understanding of the issues and the scope / dynamics of those issues… and to move from ‘symptoms’ to the core, underlying issues. To explore and understand the issues and their dynamics ‘under the top of the iceberg’.


Small changes are made to specific practices, or behaviors, based on what has or has not worked in the past. This involves doing things better without necessarily examining or challenging our underlying beliefs and assumptions. The goal is improvements and fixes that often take the form of procedures, or rules. Single-loop learning leads to making minor fixes or adjustments, like making a better plan, or fixing a machine, or creating a strategy. Single-loop learning is mostly basic problem-solving.

Double-Loop Learning

Double-loop learning deals with our beliefs, values and assumptions that are internal influencers / filters in how we ‘see’ a person, a thing, a situation, a problem, an opportunity, …

How we ‘see’ another person, thing or situation is how we will act toward it, and on it.

perception - horn plyer

What do you see in the picture to the left?

Is this a woman’s face, or a horn player?

Would your thoughts and actions be different depending on what you ‘see’?

To ‘see’ both, the ‘eye-dot’ of the woman’s face is to the left of the mouth peace of the horn. The nose of the horn player forms the lower hair line of the woman just above her eyes.

Double-loop learning leads to insights about why a solution works, or does not work. In this form of learning, we are considering our actions in the framework of our operating beliefs and assumptions. This is the level of process analysis where people become observers of themselves, asking;

  • “What are our beliefs and assumptions in how we view something, or someone?”
  • “What are our beliefs and assumptions that underlie our decisions and activities to achieve results?

Here, we change the way we make decisions and deepen our understanding of our assumptions about ourselves and our environments. Double-loop learning works with major fixes or changes, like redesigning an organizational function, or structure, creating strategies to enhance customer service, or creating a new relationship with another group, or person.

Triple-Loop Learning

Triple-loop learning involves how the ‘context’ of a situation and our environments shapes our mental and emotional frameworks – how we ‘see’ things….

Triple-loop learning involves how a person ‘sees / frames’ people, places and things based on the ‘pattern influencers’ of the context and the environmental aspects of the situation, as well as how the person filters these contexts through their own biases and assumptions and thus, how and what a person perceives.

The learning goes beyond our own beliefs and assumptions in gaining insights into what we perceive and how we perceive it.

Kurt Lewin offered this formula: ‘B= f (P,E)

The formula states that behavior and our perspectives (B) is a function (f) of the person (P) and his or her environment (E).

This level of exploration and novel understandings can create a shift in our original understanding based on a shift on our mental and emotional frameworks.

‘Contextual explorations and learning’ supports an organization in their strategies and decision-making capabilities.

Emergent Learning

Shifting ‘perspectives’, or what I call ‘re-framing’ is a learning process of assimilation and accommodation. The deeper we reflect on our ‘experiences’, the more there is a possibility that we start to view ourselves and things through a different ‘lens’ – a different cognitive and emotional framework.

Emergent learning is a core process throughout the EODC® Platform.

“How we ‘see’ things is what we create.” (Trottier, 1970s)

What is Emergent Learning?

Emergent learning is ‘real-time learning’.

Emergent learning is based on ‘taking in’ new experience, and developing ‘a comfort zone’ with seeing people, places and things through a new ‘lens’.

In complex and changing situations, there are no right answers…, at least not for very long. Our answers are really hypotheses that represent our current best thinking based on a certain perspective, or ‘framework’ about what it will take to get the results we intend, or the experiences that we want / need.

Emergent Learning enables organizations, and networks, to adapt their strategies and action plans ‘in-process’ to achieve the results they want. Through Emergent Learning, know-how emerges in the course of doing work, and in one’s real-time interactions with one’s internal work environments and with one’s external environments. (in contrast to learning that happens away from work in a classroom setting).

Emergent Learning is pragmatic, so it means overcoming challenges, especially those that have no simple solutions, but require discipline, ongoing attention, learning through experience, and adaptation.

‘Emergent Learning occurs in many ways:

  1. Learning emerges from the work itself, because learning is built directly into the flow of, and the experience of work, encompassing various real-time feedback mechanisms and mediums.
  2. Know-how emerges and is refined through successive iterations. Over time, proficiency is built through repeated comparisons of intended and actual results through real-time feedback systems.
  3. By taking on each new challenge with the intention to learn, success starts to accumulate in one setting after another, creating a positive track record, ‘ownership’, self-organizing Agents, and a confidence that encourages groups to raise the bar on their own performance.
  4. By adapting decision-making strategies and actions based on one’s understanding of current changing ‘patterns’, influencers, novel forms, and determinates.
  5. By understanding the dynamics of change itself.
  6. By receiving ‘meaningful information’ through different mediums in ways that augment and support human information processing capabilities – and human experiences.
  7. By ’emergent learning networks’ both through mainly IT/IS/AI technical capabilities, or mainly human capabilities, or a combination of both.

Emergent Learning and Emergent Action Research™

EAR - updated final

Emergent Learning and Integrated Information Streams

Emergent Action Research™ focuses on the creation of information streams which have attributes such as:

  • Open systems.
  • Dynamic relational indicators.
  • Integrated, real time information.
  • User-friendly customized dashboards.
  • Continuous feedback loops.
  • Information based on internal and external analytics, functional performance feedback, and indicators of organizational, departmental, team, individual vitality and viability.
  • Flat, relative, relational and dynamic information.
  • Pattern interface displays.
  • Information that does not just display and share relevant information but also the related underlying values, beliefs, assumptions and link to the overall purpose and principles of the department and/or organization as a whole – throughout the organization to everyone.

Emergent Learning incorporates five areas:

    1. Learning new functional skills and capabilities in real-time on the job…
    2. Learning about things as ‘a whole system’ – relationships, influencers, and novel forms.
    3. ‘Pattern Thinking™ Learning about change itself as well as how changing patterns shape and influence a situation, a person, a thing…
    4. Collaborative learning networks using both ‘technical’ and ‘human’ sources for real-time continuous, emergent learning and development.
    5. Organizations continually align their strategies and actions to their Principles and Purpose of why the organization exists. This framework supports an organization in their decision-making and strategies to understand if they are doing the ‘right thing’.


  • EAR focuses on the ’emerging present’, while traditional AR focuses mostly on the past, and some incantation of the future.
  • AR is the precursor to EAR keeping the fundamentals and value of AR.
  • IT/IS/AI makes it possible to understand, work with and progress with ’emergent change’.
  • Emergent Learning is critical in rapidly changing, complex environments.
  • Collaborative, learning networks is critical to innovation, performance and organizational culture.
  • What we ‘see’, and how we see things, is what we create.

The Processes Of Emergent Action Research©

EAR - gif complete B

I do want to reiterate here:

“It is important to understand and gain an appreciation of traditional AR as the ‘predecessor’ of EAR. The core value of AR hopefully is retained and enhanced under the thinking behind EAR.”

It is important to recognize the people and their work, such as Kurt Lewin (the original), Chris Argyris (action science), Paulo Freire (participatory action research), William Barry’s (living educational theory), Wendell L. French and Cecil Bel (“organization improvement through action research”)… and, many, many others who blended Action Research into their thoughts and work.

Additional Stuff…

One last small diagram in regards to ‘approaches’ to ‘change’ for your perusal. As one moves from ‘the expert, or ‘doctor approaches’ coming in to fix things which may be appropriate for technical problems like fixing a printer or a broken pipe, more appropriate approaches are needed in regards to more dynamic and complex change depending on the scale and depth of what the organization needs.

Such requires ‘process and emergent’ approaches to change, or, to ’emergence’:


For more information on this, please go to:

Approaches to Consultation: The Four Basic Models


Over 28,00 people from over 60 nations around the world have viewed this OD article, so there must be sometime worth while there. And, it is probably time to up-date it as well, as everything emerges…

I hope you received some understanding from this brief write-up on Emergent Action Research™, and Emergent Learning.

Thank you for your time and consideration to these thoughts.




About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
This entry was posted in Action Research, AI, Artificial Intelligence, Change, Culture, Emergent Change, Emergent Learning, Emergent OD and Change, Emergent Organizational Development, Emergent Organizations, Human Information Processing, Integrated, Information Streams, Open, integrated IT/IS/AI Systems, Organizational Design, Organizational Development, Pattern Display Interfaces, Pattern Thinking, Patterns, Perception, Performance. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Emergent Action Research© (EAR), and Emergent Learning

  1. Kim says:

    I enjoyed this article on EAR. In complex world full of emergent change, best practices may no longer apply therefore it’s essential for leaders and organizations to develop a disciplined, principled process to assess, learn, and adapt. I agree this requires developing creative, growth mindset or learning organization (Senge, 2009). I look forward to learning more about your EAR model.

    • Patrick A. Trottier says:

      Hi Kim – your statement about ‘best practices’ is very important … thank you for your insights… certainly, a ‘different mindset’, actually, a continuous emerging mindset, is critical for organizations of the 21st Century…
      I am glad you enjoyed the write-up…
      Patrick :o)

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