Sub-theme 48: Organizations and the Imagined Life: Perspectives on Imagination, Creativity and Novelty

Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou
King's College London, UK
Charalampos (Babis) Mainemelis
Alba Graduate Business School at the American College of Greece, Greece
Mar Pérezts
EMLYON Business School, France

Call for Papers

While previously it would have been considered blasphemous to attribute a creative capacity to others than God, today "being creative" has become a common injunction asked of everybody, even in roles where the room to maneuver is scarce. In order for organizations to survive it is paramount that they innovate, 'produce novelty', and call upon individuals' (creative) ability to imagine differently. Yet, the role of imagination in the production of novelty and creativity remains undertheorized (Cornelissen, 2006; Komporozos-Athanasiou & Fotaki, in press), and imagination is often treated as construct devoid of meaning, or worse, as misnomer for rational thinking that has little to do with the dynamic and emergent process of organizing.

Imagination has preoccupied philosophers from Aristotle to Kant, Merleau-Ponty or Castoriadis, yet it has been conspicuously absent form organization theory debates around creativity and novelty. Today, at a time of profound economic and political crisis in the West, the organization of political imaginations and imaginary capacities is ever more important in the pursuit of alternatives to current dominant forms of meaning (Wright et al., 2013).

We invite contributions that explore the role of imagination and creativity in the constitution and transformation of organizational meanings, forms and processes. Far from being the opposite of reason and a disciplined reflexivity – as long thought of in organization studies – we embrace imagination and creativity in their poietic potential across a variety of approaches. We call on organizational scholars' 'enacted imagination' (Weick, 1991) to unpick the creative potentiality of imagination-laden organizational practices.

We welcome approaches that consider the role of imagination in organizational and institutional change, accounting for its role in the creation of new spaces of resistance, and evolution of physical or virtual counter-cultural organizational communities (Dodgson et al., 2013), in creative deviance (Mainemelis, 2010), in artistic expressions of organizational resistance (Fraiberg, 2010), in the ethical and political implications of moral imagination (Werhane, 2008), and in the fluidity, emergence and transformation of organizational phenomena (Sandelands, 2010).

We encourage critical thinking that challenges conceptualizations of imagination as something instrumental (Castoriadis, 1987), a resource that can be deployed at the behest of reason – thinking that fundamentally re-examines the relationship between imagination and organizing (Komporozos-Athanasiou & Fotaki, 2014).

We invite theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions that could include but are not be limited to:

  • The role of imagination and the imaginary in institutionalization processes
  • The place of imagination in conditions of social-economic organizational crisis
  • The relationship between imagination and rationality in organizing
  • Imagination and the intersection between social movements, resistance and organization
  • Philosophy and philosophers of 'imagination' and creativity
  • Play, experimentation, rehearsal, improvisation and aesthetics
  • Psychoanalytic perspectives to creativity
  • Embodied imagination
  • Situational factors which undermine/enhance creativity, ethics, poiesis, and moral imagination
  • The role of imagination in virtual words, simulations, and alternative realities




  • Castoriadis, C. (1987): The Imaginary Institution of Society. Cambridge: The MIT Press.
  • Cornelissen, J.P. (2006): "Making sense of theory construction: Metaphor and disciplined imagination." Organization Studies, 27 (11), 1579–1597.
  • Dodgson, M., Gann, D.M., & Phillips, N. (2013): "Organizational learning and the technology of foolishness: The case of virtual worlds at IBM." Organization Science, 24 (5), 1358–1376.
  • Fraiberg, A.M. (2010): "'With edges of rage and despair': Anger and the poetry of office life." Journal of Management Inquiry, 19 (3), 196–207.
  • Komporozos-Athanasiou, A., & Fotaki, M. (2014): "Creativity in organizations: Introducing the radical imagination of Cornelius Castoriadis." In: K. Kenny & M. Fotaki (eds.): The Psychosocial in Organization Studies: Affect at Work. London: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Komporozos-Athanasiou, A., & Fotaki, M. (in press): "A theory of imagination for organization studies using the work of Cornelius Castoriadis." Organization Studies.
  • Mainemelis, C. (2010): "Stealing fire: Creative deviance in the evolution of new ideas." Academy of Management Review, 35 (4), 558–578.
  • Sandelands, L. (2010): "The play of change." Journal of Organizational Change Management, 23 (1), 471–486.
  • Werhane, Patricia H. (2008): "Mental models, moral imagination and system thinking in the age of globalization." Journal of Business Ethics, 78 (3), 463–474.
  • Wright, C., Nyberg, D., De Cock, C., & Whiteman, G. (2013): "Future imaginings: organizing in response to climate change." Organization, 20 (5), 647–658.


Aris Komporozos-Athanasiou is Research Associate in Social Science at King's College London, UK. His interests include the anthropology of public policy and organizations, concepts and practices of representation, creativity, affect, performativity and spatiality. His PhD research was a 2-year ethnographic study of patient engagement and advocacy in the UK NHS, focusing on the role of affect in the changing politics and ethics of public organization.
Charalampos (Babis) Mainemelis is Associate Professor at Alba Graduate Business School at the American College of Greece, Visiting Professor at London Business School, UK, and Porto Business School, Portugal. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the 'Academy of Management Review' and recipient of AMR's Best Paper Award (2011) and Outstanding Reviewer Award (2009).
Mar Pérezts is Assistant Professor in the Management, Law and Human Resources Department of EMLYON Business School in France, and a member of OCE Research Center. She draws on her background in philosophy to approach organizations and organizing from a multidisciplinary perspective. Her research interests include the materialization and sharing of meaning on subjects related to ethics normativity and aesthetics, and their collective imagination, negotiation, institutionalization, temporal and poietic dynamics.