Sub-theme 46: Embracing Paradoxes and Tensions: Implications for Research, Practice and Teaching

Wendy K. Smith
University of Delaware, USA
Luc K. Audebrand
Université Laval, Québec, Canada
Valérie Michaud
Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Call for Papers

Bridging involves linking otherwise separated elements. Constructing bridges between distinct, potentially contradictory, elements may sometime seem precarious, giddy or vertiginous. In response to such fear, one common reaction is to pick one bank and ignore the opposite. In contrast, a paradox perspective brings together opposing elements and creates bridges across these divides. A paradox perspective suggests that tensions are inherent within organizations and organizing, and that attending to these competing yet interrelated demands simultaneously enables long-run organizational success. Rather than either/or trade-offs, a paradox perspective identifies both/and opportunities.

In the Paradox sub-themes held at EGOS 2010 (Lisbon) and 2012 (Helsinki), we first "energized", then "explored" tensions and paradoxes. We now feel it is time to "embrace" paradoxes and tensions and to move forward our reflections in the following three streams: research, practice and teaching. We thus invite papers that can help us investigate organizational paradoxes in research, practice and teaching through some of the following illustrative questions:


Theory and research 
  • What methodological strategies are more or less effective to study competing tensions and paradoxes?
  • How does a paradox perspective differ from other theories and conceptual framework in organization studies? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • How can a paradox perspective inform and/or alter other theories?
  • What can recent developments in specific disciplines (e.g., HR, finance, operation management, accounting and marketing) teach us about paradoxes?


Practice and empirical issues
  • What can we learn from organizations that explicitly embrace tensions and paradoxes, such as social economy organizations, strategic alliances, artistic and other pluralistic/hybrid organizations? What new sites should we explore?
  • How do leaders and organizations respond to competing tensions? What leadership characteristics and organizational strategies are more or less effective to attend to contradictory demands?
  • How is "performance" defined and measured within a paradox perspective?
  • How do paradoxes and tensions relate to innovation, and to social innovation in particular?


Teaching and learning
  • What and why should we teach undergraduate and graduate students about organizational paradoxes and tensions?
  • How can teaching about paradoxes and tensions help bridge organizational interests with social and environmental interests?
  • What teaching methods (e.g., simulation, dialogue, metaphor) have proven useful to convey the importance of paradoxes and tensions?
  • How can we enable on-the-job learning/training about paradoxes and tensions for employees, middle managers and executives?


Wendy K. Smith is Associate Professor of Management in the Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware. She received her PhD in organizational behaviour from Harvard Business School. Her research on managing strategic paradoxes, exploring and exploiting and ambidexterity has been published in places such as the 'Academy of Management Review', 'Organization Science' and 'Management Science'. Wendy has attended EGOS in 2008, where she was awarded the EGOS Best Paper Award, and was lead convenor of a "Paradox" sub-theme for EGOS in both 2010 and 2012.
Luc K. Audebrand is Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration at the Université Laval, Québec. He received his PhD in strategic management from HEC Montréal. His research on hybrid organizations, such as those from the Fair Trade movement, and on the multiple logics of organizing has been published in 'Journal of Business Ethics', 'Academy of Management Learning & Education' and 'Revue Française de Gestion'. Luc has attended EGOS's "Paradox" sub-theme in 2010 as well as the paradox caucus at the 2011 AOM annual meeting in San Antonio, TX.
Valérie Michaud is Assistant Professor at ESG UQAM. She does research on and teaches the management of social and collective enterprises. Her PhD thesis (ESG UQAM, 2011) explored the mediating roles played by sociomaterial tools in some tensions experienced by a multistakeholder co-op. Valérie participated in the EGOS Colloquia 2010 and 2012 sub-themes on Paradox and was awarded the EGOS 2010 conference Best Student Paper Award for her paper on the role of numbers in the collaboration-control paradox of governance.