Sub-theme 49: De-sign! Changing Change

Elena P. Antonacopoulou
University of Liverpool Management School, UK
Yvon Pesqueux
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM), France
Eila Szendy-El Kurdi
ISTEC Business School Paris, France

Call for Papers


As we problematize and rethink the various meanings of design, especially as a way of promoting discussion on new ways to view and to understand organizations and organizing, we believe that a potential starting point could be to explore the core of what de-sign implicates in terms of practices for organizations and organizing.

If we entertain the prefix 'de' as a mode of deconstruction and unpacking but not separating and dividing, we are already provided clues about the richness of 'sign' as a word but more so as an act.To sign is to authorise, to endorse, to signal, to indicate, to autograph (cf. Oxford Dictionary of English language). To make a sign is to express one's self and to be in motion. For us the "!" is a sign of the excitement in the possibilities that can be imagined especially when employing this lens to re-view but also to re-engage with the rhythm of organizing in motion.

The key question that drives our design of the proposed track is to explore creatively and imaginatively ways we understand organizations their processes and practices in motion? In other words: how can we think and study a reality that is movement? In essence, we care to move and be moved by the flow, time and duration, movement and motion that makes the possibility of organization and organizing possible. This for us means also seeking to move beyond current dominant conceptualizations of becoming often equated with references to change. We do not dispute the centrality of change processes in modes of organizing. Quite the contrary, we believe we have more scope to speak of 'change' by changing the very ways we speak of change, design change initiatives in organizations and engage in change practices that often lead to no change. In short, if we enter the sphere of changing change as a design principle we enter the sphere of action, judgement and decision, and the imperatives of practice. In classical Aristotelean terms, this is not the sphere of episteme, or even techne, but of phronesis – a wisdom in the doing (Eikeland, 2007; Antonacopoulou, 2010). In this sense, we are more concerned with ways in which we can engage with the ways changing is performed in action, interaction and transaction as social agents negotiate a multitude of tensions in the midst of managing ways of organizing for-to-with change.

We are mindful that references to managing change and organizational change are abundant in the extant literature. We note a significant progress in the multiple ways we have come to understand and engage with change as a phenomenon. What we are particularly inspired by, is that change maybe one of the first organizational phenomena that have been seen and studied as an open-ended flow or a continuity and in terms of rhythm, temporality or 'tempo'. For example, the literature review by Weick and Quinn (1999) asserts that "change never starts because it never stops", and they raise up a paradox that lot of researchers seems to face "to understand organizational change one must first understand organizational inertia …" So, they invite researchers to do a shift in vocabulary from "change" to "changing" and to focus on "changing". There is the same kind of idea in the notion of “organizational becoming” developed by Tsoukas and Chia (2002), and in the "improvisational model of organizational change" designed by Orlikowski (1996) from Escher's artwork on metamorphosis.

We want to follow on these footsteps and discover new possibilities for speaking and designing change practices in the context of work and organization specifically. We propose as a point of departure considering how to draw from organizational change study research and reflections on process ontology and processual methods (cf. processual theory, longitudinal and narratives methods, doing processual research, etc.) to explore how concepts such as movement and motion can be engaged with in our research practices. For example, the Bergsonian "Theory of Time" (1934; see also Chia, 2002) could fuel a better understanding of change, movement and rhythm in organizing. Thus, following Bergson (1934), we can explore organization and its processes in terms of flow, movement, duration, and becoming.

We also see exciting possibilities in changing change if we draw from the various meanings and understandings of design, as from new trends in design thinking and practice, such as motion design for example, to discuss concepts and perspectives engaging in studying fluidity.

In this spirit, this sub-theme calls for a cross-disciplinary dialogue to explore ways of seeing, engaging and understanding organizations and organizational processes in motion. We invite an engagement with questions such as:

  • How can we represent – and "draw", "picture", "design" … – on-going processes, indivisible and open-ended continuity, "real lived time"?
  • How can we see and understand organizations and organizing in motion, that is without reifying it and fixing it in a static form?
  • How can we think and study a reality that is movement?



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Chia, R. & B. MacKay (2007): "Post-processual challenges for the emerging strategy-as-practice perspective: Discovering strategy in the logic of practice." Human Relations, 60 (1), 217–242
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Elena P. Antonacopoulou Elena P. Antonocopoulou is Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of Liverpool Management School where she is Director of GNOSIS – a collaborative research initiative advancing impactful research on Organizational Learning, Knowing and Change. She is published in a range of international journals on these themes and has been instrumental in applying the ideas of her scholarship in her own scholarly practices. This includes not just her research and teaching practice but also the various leadership roles (at Board, Council, Executive and Committee level) in International Professional bodies in her field including: EGOS, AoM, EURAM, BAM, SAMS.
Yvon Pesqueux Yvon Pesqueux is Professor at CNAM (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers), head of the Chair « Développement des Systèmes d’Organisation ». Ph D. in Economics, University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (1975). His special interests are Management, Philosophy and Ethics, Business and Society, Corporate Social Responsibility. He has published several scientific articles. His last books link Organization and Politics : Stakeholder Theory in a European Perspective ; Knowledge Management ; Quality Management, Risk management from a critical perspective. His is also Editor of Society and Business Review (Emerald Publishing - and President elect of IFSAM (International Federation of Scholarly Associations of Management) 2009 – 2010.
Eila Szendy-El Kurdi Eila SZendy-El Kurdi is Associate Professor in Management at ISTEC business School-Paris, Adjunct Professor at ESSEC Business School-Paris, and Associate Researcher at the Laboratory of Innovation, Forecasting and Strategy of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris (LIPSOR-CNAM). She’s reading her PhD in Organization Studies from CNAM and ESSEC Business School in Paris, and received her MA from University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research topics are Organizational Change, Alternative Approaches and Methods to Study Organizations and Organizing including Art experiences and Discourse Analysis, and Diversity and related concepts (such as gender for example) in international or intercultural contexts.