Journal Article

Using abstract concepts in impact-focused organisational research: An empirical example deploying ‘hospitality’


Purpose This paper conceptualises and examines the processes through which abstract concepts, or abstractions, can be utilised in co-creating knowledge within ‘impactfocused’ organisational and business research i.e. applied research that primarily seeks to promote change in practice rather than principally aiming to make theoretical contributions to academic debates. The paper uses the abstraction ‘hospitality’ as an empirical example and discusses the techniques used to ‘operationalise’ this concept i.e. make it understandable for research participants enabling researchers to use it within data generation and the creation of practical insights in organisational enquiry. Design/methodology/approach The study employed two methods: firstly, participant generated photos; and secondly, two interactive workshops with 38 practitioners where the abstract concept ‘hospitality’ was used to generate practical organisational insights. Findings The paper distinguishes between four stages: the elaboration of abstraction; concretisation of abstraction; probing perspectives on abstraction; and exploring experiences of abstraction. It is argued that utilising specific techniques within these four stages facilitates: a) recognisability: the extent to which organisational stakeholders understand the content and meanings of the abstraction; and b) relatability: the extent to which stakeholders appreciate how the abstract concepts are relevant to interpreting their own practices and experiences. Research limitations/implications This is an exploratory study, used to develop and refine elicitation techniques, rather than to draw definitive conclusions about the applicability of specific abstract concepts. Nevertheless, reflecting on the processes and techniques used in the utilisation of abstractions here can help to operationalise them in future impactfocused research. Originality/value The paper conceptualises the processes through which abstract concepts can be made apprehendable for non-specialist, non-academic practitioners. In doing so, it discusses how various elicitation techniques support the utilisation of abstractions in generating insights that can support the development of constructive, context-specific practices in organisations and businesses.

Attached files


Lugosi, P

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Business\Oxford School of Hospitality and Management


Year of publication: 2017
Date of RADAR deposit: 2017-02-10

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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