• Jorge Iván Velez-Castiblanco, PhD and faculty member at EAFIT´s School of Management developed the ‘boundary games' with the purpose of researching how intention affects intervention processes. • It is a method which was successfully used to analyze the behavior of decision makers in an organization in which the researcher identified six types of interactions.
The faculty member Luz Maria Rivas- Montoya carried out successful fieldwork with the ‘boundary games’ created by her colleague Jorge Ivan Velez-Castiblanco, which included non-participant observation in management meetings to analyze the interactions within the top management team of Suramericana, as a multi-business firm.
"I think ‘boundary games’ are a useful and flexible analysis method that can be creatively used by researchers interested in interactions, particularly those existing across actors’ talks," says the associate faculty member of the Department of Organization and Management of EAFIT´s School of Management.
The researcher Luz Maria also assures that using ‘boundary games’ as a method to analyze interactions within the top management team allowed her to define managerial knowledge as a complex adaptive system, i.e. a system in which different levels of the organization interact without a central controller.
The method was so important for her doctoral thesis: Managerial Knowledge in Multi-business Firms, Suramericana S.A. Study Case that she even presented the paper ‘Using Boundary Games’ to analyze actor’s interactions at the annual meeting of the International Society for the Systems Science-ISSS held in Washington D.C, 2014.
Trained as an engineer, with a master´s degree in the use of systemic thinking for problem solving in organizations, a graduate certificate in semiotics in communicative interaction from Universidad EAFIT and a Ph.D in Administration, Velez-Castiblanco became interested in finding existing tools to reflect on language and interaction.
The EAFIT graduate started his research based on the work of the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas on the three types of interests that nurture knowledge: firstly, the technical interest, which provides information from the empirical-analytical method, the most widely used method in natural and social sciences to deepen the study of phenomena; secondly, the practical interest, which seeks to create shared meanings about the meaning of the world and finally, the emancipatory interest, which comes to reflective analysis to look for fairer participation conditions for the interlocutors involved in a situation.
Habermas's work showed Professor Jorge Ivan that there are different perspectives to address problems. He also involves the Austrian philosopher and linguist Ludwig Wittgenstein, who first suggested that language is a representation of reality, and crucial to Velez´s work, that language can be understood as a tool.
Language is not only descriptive but has different uses and manifestations; i.e. it has a plurality of meanings that Wittgenstein calls language games. Therefore, the meaning of a word is determined by its function in a given situation within those language games.
Based on Wittgenstein´s approaches, Professor Velez-Castiblanco saw that in this way, he would be able to get results from his research and, as the field of interaction and language was so broad, he chose to focus on intention according to language games.
"For example, you can say ‘hello’ with different intentions. It can be a warm, friendly or an annoying, insulting ’hello’... whatever the person wants to express. Intention is what really counts. For this reason, the way of using a word differently is studied”, says the researcher.
With this in mind, Professor Velez began to study the effect of those intentions in situations where people discuss, debate and try to find the way of dealing with a problem. For 10 months, while doing his doctorate in New Zealand, he observed a group of researchers and social scientists who helped a community to manage its water resources. He went with them to their office and interviewed them. He listened, recorded and transcribed their arguments trying to understand the effects of these interactions.
Moreover, he took the concept of boundary from the systems theory. It suggests that the way of understanding a problem is affected by the way a person understands the boundary. "Defining the problem highly changes the way of dealing with it. The concept of boundary comes from this idea, which is applied in the systems context”, says the researcher.
From all this conceptual review, Professor Velez-Castiblanco built the term 'boundary games' by combining the systems theory with Wittgenstein’s approach on language, thus allowing him to propose that any intervention methodology is a game with different rules.
"Based on Wittgenstein, it could be said that giving a pat on someone’s back is a game one would try when interacting. When a person is involved in a situation and tries to improve it, he/she uses methodologies: a theoretical or philosophical discussion, the summary of the soap opera he/she watched the day before, the football game or a pat on the back. These are tools that can affect the boundary: it may be weakened, expanded or shortened. I call that 'boundary games', hence the name of the methodology”, Velez-Castiblanco says.
Once the concept 'boundary games' was founded, Jorge Ivan Velez-Castiblanco looked into the philosopher Karl Popper, who stated that a theory is invented and it is then contrasted with reality to check if it works. From this point of view, "I acted as Popper would. I analyzed interactions and developed a set of moves, which are called so because it is a game", says the Professor.
Therefore, to analyze the behavior of decision makers in an organization and how this interaction affects the boundary, Jorge Ivan conceptualizes six moves, each with a name and visual representation:
With these representations, Velez-Castiblanco analyzes interaction, makes notes with symbols and shows the flow of the conversation and how boundaries are gradually being affected.
Alejandro Gómez ValenciaJournalist – Information and Press Area – Universidad EAFITPhone: 2619500 Ext 9931.Email: email@example.com