Studying Organization Theory “As If Matter Mattered”

[We’re pleased to welcome Bruno Dyck of University of Manitoba. Bruno recently published an article with co-author Nathan S. Greidanus in Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory: A Study of Organization Theory as if Matter Mattered.” From Bruno:]

From environmental concerns like climate change to social issues like economic inequality, sustainable development presents this century’s greatest challenges and opportunities for businesses.  Yet, businesses remain trapped by old paradigms and approaches to the business-society-environment interface. To break free of these chains, we start with a simple question: what would a theory of business look like if matter mattered?  In answering this question, we turned to the field that is focused on the fundamental building blocks of all matter, quantum physics.

Do you remember the first time you heard about the unbelievable findings coming Current Issue Coverfrom quantum mechanics? Maybe it was research on entanglement, which shows that two quantum particles (e.g., two electrons) are interconnected in such a way that a change in one will have an instantaneous change in another, even if it is light years away. Or do you remember hearing about the results from the double slit experiments—perhaps the most famous experiment in all of physics—which shows that observing a photon changes it from acting like a wave into acting like a particle (If you want to watch a simple video about this, check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPeprQ7oGc). Perhaps the most amazing variation of the double slit experiment shows that information is being sent backward in time. It has taken a century, but quantum physics has today become a dominant paradigm in the world of physics, even if we in the social sciences remain “stuck” in a Newtonian space-time box.

As co-authors we were fascinated by quantum research, and were curious about its implications for organization theory, and especially for sustainability. We believe that the ideas of entanglement and indeterminism provide a welcome and necessary framework to develop organizing theory that addresses key socio-ecological issues facing humankind, and which break free from the constraints associated with (Newtonian) notions of separateness, determinism and externalities. Moreover, a quantum perspective, which suggests that matter matters, provides a welcome counterpoint to the problematic fixation on socio-material well-being (e.g., money) that characterizes conventional theorizing.

We were pleasantly surprised by how readily the fundamental principles associated with the quantum world can serve as the basis to develop sustainable organization theory, As the sustainability issues facing humankind grow in urgency, we expect such non-Newtonian thinking to become as dominant in our field as it is in physics, but if this takes a century to happen then it may be too late.

The abstract for the paper:

We draw on quantum physics ideas of “entanglement” and “indeterminism” to introduce and develop “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory” (QSOT). Quantum entanglement points to the interconnectedness of matter in ways that defy Newtonian physics and commonsense assumptions that underlay conventional organizing theory. Quantum indeterminism suggests that uncertainty is an inherent feature of reality and not simply a lack of information that impedes rational decision making. Taken together, these quantum ideas challenge the assumptions of conventional organizational theorizing about the boundaries between a firm and its natural and social environment, the importance of self-interested individualism and (sociomaterial) financial measures of performance, the emphasis on competitiveness, and the hallmarks of rational theory and practice. We discuss implications for sustainable organizing in particular and for organization theory more generally.

You can read “Quantum Sustainable Organizing Theory: A Study of Organization Theory as if Matter Mattered” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to stay current on all of the latest research from Journal of Management InquiryClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

How Can Organization Theory Help Explain the Emergence of ISIL?

28852073782_27d6f4e78c_zThe emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in recent years has been a cause for concern across the globe, particularly as the terrorist group becomes not only more organized, but also more prominent. Analyzing the rise of ISIL, many researchers are unsure of what the future holds for ISIL, and how much longer the group can remain cohesive, especially in the face of opposition by many different groups. In a recent article published in Journal of Management Inquiry, authors Tuomas Kuronen and Aki-Mauri Huhtinen approach the issue of ISIL’s development in terms of the theoretical perspective of “rhizome.” Their paper, “Organizing Conflict: The Rhizome of Jihad,” delves into the rise of ISIL, the question of how long ISIL can endure, and how the organization of ISIL compares with Western military organizations. The abstract for the article:

In this essay, we study the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Current Issue Coverfrom the theoretical perspective of the “rhizome” coined by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. We understand organizing in general and conflict emergence in particular through the becoming of the rhizomatic ontology of organizing. In our view, the emergence of organizing is a manifestation of a rhizomatic basis of things, seen in nomadic strategies of pursuing revolutionary aims and resisting power hegemonies. We discuss how armed resistance groups relate to time and duration, and their stark contrast to Western professional, expeditionary armies operating in a clearly defined space and time. We complement the established philosophical and organizing-theoretical approaches to being and becoming in understanding conflict emergence with the rhizomatic perspective. We conclude our essay by discussing both theoretical and practical implications for understanding and managing conflict.

You can read “Organizing Conflict: The Rhizome of Jihad” from Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to keep current on all of the latest research from Journal of Management InquiryClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Soldier image attributed to Kurdishstruggle (CC)

Gareth Morgan On Re-Imagining Images of Organization

Images of OrganizationAs part of the newly published July 2016 issue of Journal of Management Inquiry, in the article entitled “Re-Imagining Images of Organization: A Conversation with Gareth Morgan,” authors Cliff Oswick of City University London and David Grant of UNSW Business School converse with Gareth Morgan about the metaphors he presented in his popular book, Images of Organization (1986). Gareth talks about how the metaphors have changed and how they continue to be relevant to  our understanding organizations.  

The abstract for the paper:

In this article, we review the metaphors presented by Morgan in Images of Organizationand highlight how they simultaneously act as “relatively static reflections” (i.e., they provide a history of organization theory) and “relatively dynamic projections” (i.e., stimulating the formulation of further organizational Current Issue Coverimages). We also discuss the potential for new organizational metaphors and consider two specific metaphors (i.e., the “global brain” and “organization as media”). We also challenge the established punctuated metaphorical process (i.e., a transfer from a metaphorical source domain to an organizational target domain), propose a dynamic perspective of interchange (i.e., source domain to target domain to source domain and so on), and develop the notion of multidirectionality (i.e., two-way projections between target and source domains).

You can read “Re-Imagining Images of Organization: A Conversation with Gareth Morgan” from the Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

An Interview With Gareth Morgan on Metaphors in Organization Theory

Well-known for his work in organization theory, Gareth Morgan explored the use of metaphors to help examine organization problems in his 1986 book “Images of Organization.” Cliff Oswick of City University London and Davis Grant of UNSW Business School in Australia recently interviewed Dr. Morgan about his perspective on metaphors in Journal of Management Inquiry.

The abstract:

In this article, we review the metaphors presented by Morgan in Images of Organization and highlight how they JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointsimultaneously act as “relatively static reflections” (i.e., they provide a history of organization theory) and “relatively dynamic projections” (i.e., stimulating the formulation of further organizational images). We also discuss the potential for new organizational metaphors and consider two specific metaphors (i.e., the “global brain” and “organization as media”). We also challenge the established punctuated metaphorical process (i.e., a transfer from a metaphorical source domain to an organizational target domain), propose a dynamic perspective of interchange (i.e., source domain to target domain to source domain and so on), and develop the notion of multidirectionality (i.e., two-way projections between target and source domains).

You can read “Re-Imagining Images of Organization: A Conversation With Gareth Morgan” from Journal of Management Inquiry for free by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest news, research, and interviews like this from Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Exploring the Politics of Labeling Through Wikileaks and The News of the World

business-man-1063650-m[We’re pleased to welcome Danielle Logue of the University of Technology Sydney. Dr. Logue recently collaborated with Stewart R. Clegg, also of the University of Technology Sydney, on their article “Wikileaks and The News of the World: The Political Circuitry of Labeling” from Journal of Management Inquiry.]

After my PhD, a colleague from Oxford went on to become a lawyer for Julian Assange. One day she posted a comment that said ““Defending an ‘enemy of state’…How a publishing organization, revealing human rights abuse, can be in same legal classification as Al Qaeda and the Taliban is just beyond me.” At the time I was starting on a new project that considered labels and categories, finding much organizational literature on labeling and categorizing focused within a market setting and the implications for firm valuations and evaluations. Yet, here was a case where the labeling of an organization was having profound impacts on people’s lives, none more than the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange. I spoke with my co-author, Professor Stewart Clegg, and after some research we found that organizational and management studies was one of the few disciplines that had not analyzed Wikileaks. In addition to its labeling, it’s a contentious organizational form (virtual, fluid, imprinted by its hacker founding) – we found this surprising and disappointing, yet it also afforded us an opportunity to investigate.

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointSerendipitously, we were writing this paper around the time of The News of the World scandal, which we observed in contrast to the media coverage that Wikileaks was receiving. We noted this in one version of the paper, and under the suggestion of our managing editor, we expanded the case comparison. An interesting conjuncture was created: on the one hand, Wikileaks exposes what it labels as the covert and hence illegitimate actions of government; in response, government labels such exposure as itself illegitimate; it is reported and commented on as such in media that are subsequently exposed as having been themselves involved in very similar practices of unauthorized access. This reinforced our political conception of labeling, and how Clegg’s classic “circuits of power” could be a useful analytical tool. Coupled with a return to Becker’s (1963) work on labeling and deviance, we argue how the politics of labeling reveal, reinforce and/or undermine existing power structures. Stampinky’s (2013) work on ‘how experts invented terrorism’ showed us a parallel case in the politicization, morality and rationality in the creation and use of the label “terrorist”, by various actors striving to claim credibility and establish positions of expertise (Stampinksy, 2013).

Theoretically, we feel this paper makes a modest contribution to refocusing labeling, category and classification work in organizational studies on how they are connected to and are used to build, reinforce, and reflect broader systems of value, meaning and power (Douglas, 1986). Further work is needed into the changing conditions of institutional work in the media associated with changes in the institutional logics of news dissemination and, more importantly, the security of those involved in increasing transparency in a context where powerful interests would prefer less.

NB: We thank managing editor, Professor Saku Mantere for maintaining the rage with us throughout this production process.

Becker, H. (1963) Outsiders. New York: Free Press.

Clegg, S. R. (1989) Frameworks of Power. London: Sage.

Douglas, M. (1986). How institutions think. USA: Syracuse University Press.

Stampnitzky, L. (2013). Disciplining Terror: How Experts Invented “Terrorism”. UK: Cambridge University Press.

You can read “Wikileaks and The News of the World: The Political Circuitry of Labeling” from Journal of Management Inquiry for free through the end of June by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this? Click here to sign up for e-alerts from Journal of Management Inquiry.


cZfLy6ezDanielle M. Logue is senior lecturer in strategy, innovation, and organization at UTS Business School, University of Technology, Sydney. She obtained her PhD in management from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, UK.

indexStewart R. Clegg is professor at the University of Technology, Sydney; director of the Centre for Management and Organization Studies Research; and a visiting professor at EM-Lyon and Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisboa.

What is the Organizational Definition of Terrorism?

xxi-century-civilization-1-1365277-mAccording to the Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2013, international terrorist groups are progressively evolving and continue to present a threat to the United States. But can looking at terrorism through the lens of organizational scholarship help us understand the nature of terrorism? Authors Jordi Comas, Paul Shrivastava and Eric C. Martin discuss this topic in their article “Terrorism as Formal Organization, Network, and Social Movement” from Journal of Management Inquiry.

The abstract:

Terrorism can be difficult to conceptualize as an organizational phenomenon. We argue that an organizational understanding of terrorism is enhanced if we understand that the collectivities that conduct terrorism can adopt any or all of the three forms of organizing: JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointformal organization, network, and social movement. In short, organizational studies can contribute to the study of terrorism by articulating this polymorphic framework of forms. Using four illustrative cases drawn from a variety of geographic and ideological contexts (the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam [LTTE], Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda), we demonstrate the value of the polymorphic framework to avoid problems with traditional definitions of terrorism. In addition, the polymorphic framework can inspire further research about why and how terrorist groups shift from more or less fragmented networks, more or less formal organizations, and more or less embedded in social movements.

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What Benefits Can Mindfulness Have on Organizational Behavior?

breakwater---hdr-1361742-m[We are pleased to welcome Ronald Purser. who collaborated with Joseph Milillo on their article entitled  “Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization” from Journal of Management Inquiry.]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

Besides being a professor of management, Ronald Purser has been a practicing Buddhist for over 30 years, and recently became an ordained Zen teacher. Joseph Milillo, who also is a Buddhist and meditator, and is now a graduate student at the Harvard Divinity School, sent Dr. Purser he had written for his senior honors thesis when he was at Drexel University. The paper was a review on mindfulness and its potential benefits for the field organizational behavior. Dr. Purser had long been interested in Buddhist teachings on mindfulness, and suggested that they co-author a paper that addresses how current conceptions of mindfulness in the organizational theory and behavior literature diverged JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointsignificantly from Buddhist canonical sources. We are not at all satisfied with the few authors that attempted to theorize Buddhist mindfulness for organizations, such as Karl Weick and Eric Dane, whose articles misrepresented key aspects of mindfulness as understood within the Buddhist tradition. We also were witnessing many corporations and consultants jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon, such as the program at Google, which were making inflated claims as to potential to transform and change organizations, but without any sort of empirical evidence. In addition, we are concerned that corporate mindfulness consultants were leveraging the “Buddhist brand,” but delivering training which was far removed from any ethical or moral framework.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

We hope that our article will help scholars and practitioners to become more acquainted with the rich and varied operational definitions of mindfulness as it has been understood within the Buddhist tradition. We also hope that our contribution will shift the discourse on mindfulness towards seeing it as a practice that is integrated within an ethical perspective that goes beyond mere self-improvement. An ethically-informed practice of mindfulness would enable employees and managers to discern that much of their personal stress is rooted in the practices and policies of the corporate culture, and not merely personal problem. We hope that our contribution will influence future theory development, reframing corporate mindfulness as a socially engaged practice that is more expansive and inclusive in scope, one that will be able to examine the causes and conditions of institutionalized greed, ill will, and delusion.

“Mindfulness Revisited: A Buddhist-Based Conceptualization” from Journal of Management Inquiry can be read for free by clicking here. Make sure to sign up for e-alerts by clicking here and get notified of all the latest from Journal of Management Inquiry!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARonald E. Purser, PhD, is a professor of management at San Francisco State University and former chair of the Organization Development and Change division of the Academy of Management. In 1981, he began studying Buddhist psychology and practicing meditation at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute in Berkeley. He began formal Zen training at the Cleveland ZenCenter in 1985 under Koshin Ogui Sensei, who had been ShunryuSuzuki’s personal assistant in the early 1960s. After returning to San Francisco in 1997, he continued to study and practice with Zen teachers and Tibetan lamas. In 2013, he received ordination as a Dharma instructor in the Korean Zen Buddhist Taego order. His research focuses on the application of Buddhist psychology and mindfulness practices to management and organizations, exploring the challenges and issues of introducing mindfulness into secular contexts, particularly with regard to its encounter with modernity, Western consumer capitalism, and individualism. His recent articles on these issues have appeared in such outlets as Journal of Management, Spirituality and Religion, Organizational Aesthetics, Tamara, and The Humanistic Psychologist. His Huffington Post blog (with David Loy), “Beyond McMindfulness,” went viral in July, 2013.

Joseph Milillo is a master’s student at Harvard Divinity School focusing on South Asian Buddhism. His specific research is on Theravāda Buddhism and the commentarial tradition of Buddhaghosa.