The world of organizations is at a crucial crossroad regarding people’s identities and their interactions. As the boundaries between life online and offline break down, and people become seamlessly connected to each other and surrounded by smart, responsive objects, the organizational action is increasingly affected by the fact that we are all becoming integrated into an “infosphere” (see Luciano Floridi: The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere Is Reshaping Human Reality, Oxford University Press, 2014). Organizations can be redesigned to enable and empower people in their “onlife” world. However, it is the time to interpret people not only as actors who change the world through technology but also as subjects who are transformed by technology itself and enhanced by their willingness to experiment with new forms of structuring. Indeed, some organizations might actively look for crossroads to dynamize their routines and generate their own evolution, even though the direction that has to be taken would probably not appear very clear since the beginning. Furthermore, crossroads constitutes flux spaces where actors from different industrial sectors, public institutions, associations, and communities can get together allowing the shaping of new evolving ecosystems. Therefore, organization studies should even more focus beyond single organizations, revealing basic principles of the complex adaptive systems embedded at their crossroads. These may be explored by integrating approaches from different disciplines and mixing methods from network dynamics and sociology, as well as geography and urban studies.
The purpose of the 40th EGOS Colloquium 2024 – hosted by the University of Milan-Bicocca – is to investigate what elements represent the crucial
crossroads for organizations of the present and the next future. The concept of “Crossroad” can refer to a place where one
road crosses another, an intersection that has the potential to connect people traveling from different sites and moving in
different directions. It can be seen both as a central meeting space and as a location “between worlds”, vibrant of vital
energy, where people can melt together or assimilate into a harmonious whole with a common culture. At the same time, a crossroad
symbolizes a crucial point in time when a decision becomes inevitable: going on the same way, along a straight path, is no
longer suitable, and the traveller has to look for new directions to not remain stuck. In this sense, crossroads may also
be emblematic of a time of uncertainty, for people not being able to clearly see where to turn to face new incoming issues.
Contemporary organizations are at the crossroads in both these connotations: in time, because the potentially pervasive transformations
led by digital innovation, massive data, and artificial intelligence call for new strategies of action to be fully and sustainably
exploited; in space, since they are dealing with the governance of major humanity challenges (e.g., climate change, migrations,
pandemics) in an increasingly interconnected world, and this requires new forms of coordination to achieve effective cooperation,
oftentimes at the global level and including heterogeneous institutions (e.g., governments, large corporations, associations,
and so forth).
These organizational transformations might be driven by commercial and political interests favouring practices that increase social inequality and make more people experience precariousness and exclusion, not feeling able to depict a future for themselves and their families. As a reaction, populism, protectionism, nationalism, and autarchy might raise in the political debate and undermine trust in social institutions. It is then urgent that organizational scholars take their stand critically redirecting the ongoing discussion towards a serious consideration of the social and societal responsibilities of organizations and searching for alternative solutions that might better encounter the expectation of people – who are at the same time workforce, customers, clients, and citizens – for a positive impact on their lives.
In this perspective, it can be very generative to think of organizations as being at crossroads that break the myth of roads’ continuity embedded in linear decision-making processes and organizational routines:
What are the crossroads between organizational policies, public discourses, and everyday practices for intercultural integration? How to put intercultural dialogue and integration into practice within organizations?
How multicultural social networks can promote ideas flow, creativity, and societal innovation?
How should we change our decision making when uncertainty increases? What is the new normal of managing in extreme uncertainty when nothing is normal anymore?
What is the importance of forecasting in times of extreme uncertainty?
Which new forms of coordination are emerging to achieve effective cooperation at global level and/or including heterogeneous institutions (for example, governments, large corporations, associations, and so forth)?
How are the relationship among people and among people and organizations taking shape in the “infosphere” (see abbove: Floridi, 2014), since they become seamlessly connected to each other and surrounded by smart, responsive objects?
How can organizations be redesigned to enable and empower people “digital happiness” in their “onlife” world?
How can people in organizations be perceived not only as actors who change the world through technology, but also subjects who are transformed by technology itself?
How can organizations enhance people’s willingness to experiment with new forms of structuring and routines and generate their own evolution?
How can crossroads be managed as flux spaces where actors from different industrial sectors, public institutions, associations, and communities can get together allowing the shaping of new evolving ecosystems?
How can organization studies carry out an effort to reveal basic principles of the complex adaptive systems embedded at the crossroads between different kinds of organizations?
How to integrate approaches from different disciplines and mix methods from network dynamics and sociology, as well as geography and urban studies to better address the challenge of designing organizations that foster a sustainable evolution for our society?
Finally, in 2024 the anniversary of the 40th EGOS Colloquium becomes a symbolic moment to reflect on organization studies crossroads and their potential to contribute to future scholarly debates as well as on the role of researchers’ community to keep going on in the service of an evolving society.
Milan is a city historically located at a European crossroad, and, as the hosting city for the EGOS Colloquium in 2024, epitomizes the complexity and opportunities given by being “between worlds”. The city has been founded around 590 BC by a Celtic tribe, perhaps with the name of Medhelan, a word meaning “a place in the middle”, and related to its position at the center of the Po Valley. When the Romans conquered it, they maintained that meaning in the new name Mediolanum, making of it the crossroad of the main trading routes from the capital and the Italian coastal cities to the Alpine passes. Finally, the city became the capital de facto of the Roman Empire of the West (286 AD–402 AD) and was at the crossroad of history in 313 AD when the edict of Milan was promulgated, grating all the citizens of both the West and the East empire the freedom to honor their divinities.
In more recent times, in spite of its decentered position, Milan kept stimulating, if not catalysed, the dynamics of cultural innovation in Italy thanks to its financial, industrial, knowledge power, and the multifaceted composition of the social-economic background of the city as well as its pioneering role in addressing modernity by means of innovative approaches. The city has historically presented itself as a hub for members of the intellectual professions and, during recent decades, for television, fashion, and design industries. Milan has also been a gateway for Italy, filtering cultural innovation and transformation from abroad, and cyclically has acted as a point of attraction or connection for diverse migration fluxes.
We look forward very much to exploring the complexity and opportunity of crossroads with scholars from around the world at
the 40th EGOS Colloquium in Milan in 2024!