Sub-theme 25: Luck of the Draw – Design or Serendipity, Accident and Change?
Call for Papers
"The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley"
Intelligent design or random mutation? A purposeful, meaningful cosmos created with the methodical fastidiousness of a Swiss watch-maker versus an inchoate, emergent universe full of surprises, accidents and coincidences – this is the central problematic we will explore in this sub-theme.
The axis of mechanical design versus organic emergence underscores many debates in organizational studies. Conceptions of organizations emphasizing their mechanical, planned and controlled qualities approach them as human artefacts, products of design, calculation and creative imagination. Those stressing their organic, unpredictable and complex qualities approach them as outcomes of social, political and other processes that are not directly managed or controlled by anyone.
Conceptualizations of management and leadership also diverge widely, depending on the emphasis placed on design. Planning and controlling were determining features of classical views of the manager, that cast him/her in the role of taming the whims of fortune and leaving little to chance (e.g. Jaques, 1976). Thus, organizational theorists and practitioners sought to exorcise Fortuna, the bitch-goddess of unpredictability, to whom the Romans dedicated numerous temples (Machiavelli, 1513/1961; MacIntyre, 1981). More recent conceptualizations, however, emphasize the manager's ability to think laterally ('outside the box') and improvise when confronted by an unpredictable and changing world (Mintzberg, 1983; Weick, 1993). Excessive reliance on designs has been seen as curtailing the ability to respond creatively to uncommon situations.
Designer culture highlights yet another aspect of organizations – their aesthetic dimension. "Designer-made" suggests a superior type of good, one that commands a premium price in a market-place, where mass-produced products are replaced by carefully personalized and branded goods (Lipovetsky & Charles, 2005). Exponents of McDonaldization have argued that brands are now the targets of the same rationalizing forces that physical objects once were (Ritzer, 1998), while others have argued that brands acquire lives of their own by dint of a myriad accidental factors that put them beyond the control of their designers (Arvidsson, 2006).
We are interested in exploring the scope and limits of design when applied to any organizing activity, highlighting the vital importance of serendipity, luck, chance and misfortune. In particular, we would encourage submissions that address some of the following areas:
- The cross-roads where organizing meets serendipity and design
- Misfortune and organizational design
- Branding: marketing accident or designed responses?
- The importance of luck, accident and serendipity in the creative process
- The aesthetics and rhetoric of design – the fantasy of designer omnipotence
- The politics of design and in particular the attempts to "design out" expressions and actions of dissent
- The poetics of chance and design – the usefulness of design and fortune as sensemaking devices
- The 'management' of unpredictability and chance events and the spectre of unmanaged organizations
- Accidental organizations and organizations designed to deal with accidents
- Narratives of luck, misfortune and design in organizational life
Arvidsson, A. (2006): Meaning
and Value in Media Culture. London: Routledge
Jaques, E. (1976): A General Theory of Bureaucracy. Oxford: Heinemann
Lipovetsky, G. & S. Charles (2005): Hypermodern Times. Cambridge: Polity
Machiavelli, N. (1513/1961): The Prince. Harmondsworth: Penguin
MacIntyre, A. (1981): After Virtue. London: Duckworth
Mintzberg, H. (1983): Structure in Fives: Designing Effective Organizations. London: Prentice Hall
Ritzer, G. (1998): The McDonaldization Thesis. London: Sage
Weick, K.E. (1993): "Organizational redesign as improvisation." In: G.P. Huber & W.H. Glick (eds.), Organizational Change and Redesign: Ideas and Insights for Improving Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press