By Ingrid J. Guerra-Lopez, PhD

Any credible performance improvement professional, whether academic, practitioner, or both, would agree that there is an integral and reiterative relationship between research and practice. However, this relationship has not always been clear to our membership. For years, I have heard an ongoing dialogue about the gap between theory and practice. In some circles, I have heard practitioners ought to do a better job of informing themselves and applying research findings in their work. In other circles, I have heard researchers ought to do a better job of communicating research findings in a way that is more relevant and useful to practitioners. At the root of this discussion, I truly believe our members want the same thing–they want to do good work, work that adds value to their clients and that strengthens the credibility of the science-driven performance improvement approach that we share. In fact, in our latest membership survey, our members told us they wanted research to play a more present role in ISPI, and they wanted to learn how to enhance their practice through research.

What can ISPI do to facilitate a better linkage between theory and practice? ISPI is taking many steps to this end. Let me share a few of them with you.

The first thing we did was expand the dissemination of our research journal, Performance Improvement Quarterly, to our entire membership. The aim was to not only share performance improvement research among researchers, but to disseminate the research throughout the entire membership, so that practitioners could more readily access relevant research that that might enhance their work.

On the topic of publications, we might also want to consider a brief research overview column in our practitioner journal, Performance Improvement Journal, where researchers have the opportunity to “translate” their research into key application guidelines for practitioners. Ideally, an ongoing dialogue between practitioners and researchers would ensue, where practitioners can provide feedback about meaningfulness and impact of research findings in their settings, as well as additional ideas about potential areas of future research.

We have also talked to other associations and research organizations with the purpose of getting a better understanding of the most appropriate approach for integrating research into what ISPI does, and how it does it. To this end, ISPI is also strengthening the role of the Research Committee, under the leadership of Bill Solomonson. You will soon be receiving a request from ISPI’s Research Committee to participate in a very brief survey, where you will have the opportunity to submit specific recommendations about how the Research Committee can add the most value to you through their research efforts and contributions. Please take a moment to submit your responses, and make your expectations clear.

Finally, thanks to the leadership of Harold Stolovitch and Ryan Watkins, and the support of Hillary Leigh, the Research to Practice sessions at our annual conference have successfully increasing awareness and interest in relevant research within and outside performance improvement. ISPI plans to continue this new tradition, and will host the third annual Research to Practice day at ISPI’s 2013 conference in Reno, with the support of the Research Committee.

Performance improvement as a field, and as a discipline, is based on a scientific approach and evidence, which are both used in, and generated through, many channels. The efforts that I have shared with you here are but a few possibilities, and I urge you to get involved, whether through the Research Committee or in some other capacity to offer your guidance, ideas, expectations, and feedback.