In the humanities scholars often work independently. However, in many organizational settings our research takes place in a larger setting. Even in the academic environment scholars are surrounded by peers that, while they may not know the specific topic, know much about related issues and the process of research itself. There are many benefits to a more conversational, collaborative and developmental approach to research. For example, research can benefit from collective experience and knowledge, researchers can become aware of prior work in the field faster, research can be divided up based on expertise, and mid-course reflections have the potential to improve the research process even as it is in progress.
In What Designers Know Jon Whipple discusses how his design agency works like this in what he calls a distributed research model. While the analogy is not perfect, and this approach is not appropriate for all types of research, there is much that can be learned from this article about research that aims at practical change in one’s own organization.