Abstract for: You meant what? Socially constructing meaning with ongoing interactions

Begun as a consulting project to resolve “disconnects” within large aerospace programs, this research effort asserts that we can gain new perspectives on innovative knowledge-work through simulations that represent the causal relations suggested by George Mead’s foundational theory of how we create shared meaning. In Mead’s interactionism we find principles and assumptions that underlie comprehensive social theories of structuration and practice as well as many studies on knowledge work, cognition, sense-making, and decision-making. In earlier work, we produced a formal theory represented in a simulation model of what exacerbates and reduces “disconnects” among four organizations interdependent in their innovative work. Here we describe how we collected and analyzed qualitative data in which the model was grounded; identified constructs in the data and literature relevant to the presenting problem; and proceeded with model-building and analysis, particularly detailing how we “traversed” from rich, qualitative empirical data to themes and higher-level abstractions useful as constructs in a theoretically informed simulation model. We now carry theory-building a step further by revisiting sociological theories of meaning-creation and knowledge-construction to probe how they inform and re-form our understanding and provide new insights about managing knowledge-work.