Sub-theme 32: Leveraging a Paradox Perspective to Reimagine, Rethink and Reshape Organization Tensions

Ina Aust-Gronarz
Louvain School of Management, Belgium
Marianne W. Lewis
University of Cincinnati, USA
Valérie Michaud
Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Call for Papers

Organizations today face unprecedented tensions, fueled by economic, social and ecological challenges. In these unsettled times, scholars increasingly question traditional, either/or mindsets and practices. Change, pluralism and scarcity exacerbate tensions (Smith & Lewis, 2011) and call for stimulating ways to rethink and reshape organizations and organizational research.

Tensions, contradictions, dilemmas and other paradox-related terms have gained considerable attention (Smith & Lewis, 2011). Paradox scholars seek to transform management mindsets and practices, exploring both/and approaches to cope with competing forces simultaneously, and thereby fuel long-term success and sustainability (e.g., Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009). While prior paradox research has examined two opposing forces or one paradox from a universal stance (Bouchikhi, 1998), studies of organizational paradoxes are becoming increasingly rich and sophisticated, accentuating complexity and fluidity – especially in pluralistic organizations (Denis et al., 2007).

Leveraging a paradox perspective, organizations, teams and individuals may accept and better manage tensions between multiple identities, goals and/or logics. For instance, social enterprises combine social and financial goals (e.g., Jäger & Beyes, 2010), while hybrid forums and roundtables bring together multiple, diverse stakeholders (e.g. Phillips et al., 2000). Likewise, organizations seek ambidexterity to enable exploitation, enhancing the attributes and efficiency of existing products, while fostering exploration, fueling radical innovation that ensures future opportunities (e.g. Jansen et al., 2012).

In the paradox sub-themes held at the EGOS Colloquia 2010 (Lisbon), 2012 (Helsinki) and 2013 (Montreal), a growing community of paradox researchers first "energized', "explored" and then "embraced" paradoxes and tensions. Building upon this tradition, we now ask how scholars might leverage a paradox perspective to rethink and reshape organizations and organizational research to fuel sustainability. We seek to share and motivate research that advances understandings of tensions and fosters short-term performance, while enabling long-run survival. We invite conceptual and empirical papers that explore some of the following, illustrative questions:

  • Multiple and shifting stakeholders – What tensions emerge in the process of dealing with different and changing organizational stakeholders? How do organizations successfully respond to these tensions? E.g., does a paradox lens help shift traditional definitions based on a profit motive to broader and pluralistic stakeholder assessments?
  • Multiple and shifting goals and logics – How might organizations be designed to be efficient and effective but also regenerative and agile? How can competing and often dynamic goals (e.g. profit, innovation, and social responsibility; short-term performance and long-term survival) be embraced and achieved simultaneously?
  • Multiple and shifting individual roles, identities and personal demands – How might individuals cope with plurality in their lives (e.g., task demands, professional identity, personal values; reducing resource consumption and meeting personal needs)? What coping strategies are being used at individual, team and organizational levels and how are they interrelated?



Andriopoulos, Constantine & Marianne W. Lewis (2009): 'Exploitation-Exploration Tensions and Organizational Ambidexterity: Managing Paradoxes of Innovation.' Organization Science, 20 (4), pp. 696–717.
Bouchikhi, Hamid (1998): 'Living with and Building on Complexity: A Constructivist Perspective on Organizations.' Organization, 5 (2), pp. 217–232.
Denis, Jean-Louis, Ann Langley & Linda Rouleau (2007): 'Strategizing in pluralistic contexts: Rethinking theoretical frames.' Human Relations, 60 (1), pp. 179–215.
Jäger, Urs & Timon Beyes (2010): 'Strategizing in NPOs: A Case Study on the Practice of Organizational Change Between Social Mission and Economic Rationale.' Voluntas, 21, pp. 82–100.
Jansen, Justin J.P., Zeki Simsek & Qing Cao (2012): 'Ambidexterity and performance in multiunit contexts: Cross-level moderating effects of structural and resources attributes.' Strategic Management Journal, 33 (11), pp. 1286–1303.
Phillips, Nelson, Thomas B. Lawrence & Cynthia Hardy (2000): 'Inter-organizational collaboration and the dynamics of institutional fields.' Journal of Management Studies, 37 (2), pp. 23–43.
Smith, Wendy K. & Marianne W. Lewis (2011): 'Toward a Theory of Paradox: A Dynamic Equilibrium Model of Organizing.' Academy of Management Review, 36 (2), pp. 382–403.


Ina Aust-Gronarz is Assistant Professor of HRM specialized in CSR/sustainability at the Louvain School of Management, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium. She received her PhD on "Sustainable Human Resource Management: A conceptual and explorative study from a paradox perspective" at the University of Bremen, Germany. Ina has attended the paradox sub-themes of EGOS Colloquia in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Marianne W. Lewis is Professor of Management and Associate Dean for undergraduate programs at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business, University of Cincinnati, USA. She has applied her paradox lens to varied areas of innovation with representative articles. Marianne served as a co-convenor of the paradox sub-themes at EGOS Colloquia in 2010 and 2012.
Valérie Michaud is Assistant Professor specialized in social enterprises at ESG, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Canada. She participated in the EGOS Colloquia 2010 and 2012 sub-themes on paradox and was awarded the EGOS 2010 Best Student Paper Award. She served as co-convenor for the paradox sub-theme at the EGOS Colloquium 2013 in Montréal.