The design of inquiry for Business Growth


  • John Paul Kawalek University of Sheffield


Systems Thinking, Methodology, Business Growth, Learning Programmes, Inquiry, Design Research, Practical Reasoning


This paper is concerned with the design of ‘business growth programmes’, i.e. specifically designed learning programmes with explicitly stated goals of promoting and impacting on business growth. This paper is based on research into the design considerations of growth programmes in 3 European countries. It is the result of a two year European research study funded from the European Commission.  With this as context, using Systems Thinking we re-theorise the role of design itself as it applies to business growth programmes. This is achieved by re-tracing some of the most fundamental systems ideas back to Kant’s critique of practical reason. The paper draws out several implications, (i) to demonstrate the application of a new set of principles which are designed to simultaneously help to develop and evaluate future business growth programmes; (ii) these principles also can help explain the tendency towards sub-optimal growth programmes in current practice; and (iii) to re-consider the policy priorities and assumptions for supporting business growth programmes in future.

Author Biography

John Paul Kawalek, University of Sheffield

John´s professional background is in IT and Management Consulting. He started his career in the manufacturing sector as a Programmer/ Analyst, Systems Analyst, and then as a Senior Systems Analyst. He then worked as an Business Consultant, working with a huge array of organisations, e.g. large private sector organisations such as IBM, Lotus, Rover Group, Jaeger Group, British Oxygen; also in the public sector working for DFID, & with French government departments, in the US, in large multi-million dollar companies, as well as with smaller and medium sized organisations. John has held Director level positions in a number of organisations.

He has authored over 50 academic papers, and has written two books. The first of these is entitled "The Art of Organisational Problem Solving" has provided the basis of a new set of change management principles and products, known as INSPIRE. He has developed the International Business Growth Catalyst, which is now being developed in Europe. He has also developed a new e-learning process and platform (termed 'memeLEARNING'), which provides a radically new approach to e-learning. His profile includes high tech consulting for high growth SME's, and has acted as Angel Investor for a number of start-ups.

John holds three degrees in different disciplinary areas. His undergraduate degree is in History & Economics, his master´s degree is in Computer Science and his PhD is in Innovation Systems and Management. He is a member of the British Computer Society, and is Chartered as an Information Technology Professional.


John lectures in Systems Theory, Change Management, Management Consultancy and in Research Methods at the University.


John supervises a number of doctoral students. All his students undertake Action Research in organizations, and are engaged researching the Innovation Systems approach to contemporary problems and challenges in organizations. As such, John´s PhD students typically undertake abstract and theoretical work, for practical purpose and outcome, e.g. their research results in new approaches or methods that can be used as consulting products.

Current research includes: E-Learning Processes and Methods, Methods for European Business Growth, Innovation Systems in High-Tech SME's and Project Management Methodology. Each of these areas are underpinned by Systems Theory.

PhD Supervision


  • Systems Philosophy
  • E-Learning Process and Methods
  • Methodology for Business Growth (in SME's)
  • Performance Improvement Methods (in large organisations)



How to Cite

Kawalek, J. P. (2016). The design of inquiry for Business Growth. Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2015 Berlin, Germany, 1(1). Retrieved from