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How Research Contributes to Meaningful Change

May 10, 2018

Sharing Experiences Becomes Part of a Larger Story

Written by Candace Bloomquist, MS, PhD

One of the distinctive features of Creighton’s Doctorate of Education in Interdisciplinary Leadership (EdD) program is its focus on practical application. We prepare students to design and use applied research to inform a problem of practice in their organization or community.


Elephants in an open field

There’s a story about six blind people and an elephant that helps illuminate how applied research can drive meaningful change in organizations and in the world. In the story, six blind individuals each touch a different part of an elephant. Unable to see what their hands were resting on, they are each asked to describe what they had touched.

The person who felt the side of the elephant said, “I touched a wall.”

The person who felt the elephant’s tusk said, “I touched a spear.”

The six individuals, each having touched a different part of a diverse being argued among themselves—was it a snake? A cow? A piece of rope?

Only when they worked together, sharing their different ideas and experiences, were they able to discover the truth.

Research helps us begin to see the whole elephant, and much more, in our organizations and communities. Research, as with any journey, has various purposes and contributions. It helps bring people together to talk and share ideas, perspectives, and understandings.

Findings from research can be used to develop guidelines, standards of care, appraisal tools, algorithms, and intervention protocols. Findings can also be used to start important conversations, make difficult or unpopular decisions, inform adaptations to practice, and legitimize current positions or practices.  

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for how to conduct or use research. In the EdD program, we work with you to build your capacity to design and select the best methods to achieve your specific research purpose.

We also help you learn how to apply your knowledge, learning, and experience to your understanding of your organization or community. This preparation includes recognizing and finding the balance between serving and leading.

As you think about pursuing the EdD program, keep in mind the point of the story about the blind people and the elephant. We must continue to expand our communication across disciplines, departments, workgroups, and task teams—telling one another about our part of the elephant and listening to others to learn about the other parts of the elephant.

Our organizations and communities are demanding of us to be prepared leaders. Knowing how to conduct and use research will result in prepared leaders who:

  • Never stop being accountable to others and themselves
  • Pause and pay attention to the needs around them
  • Become better problem-solvers and decision-makers
  • Listen carefully to those they serve

As leaders, we must allow failure to guide us rightly. We must share our stories about what we did and what we found, and respect that our experiences are only one part of a bigger story.

Candace Bloomquist

Candace Bloomquist, PhD, MS

Assistant Professor, EdD
Graduate School