PDW 06: Researching through Paradox Theory: Interdisciplinary Thinking to Understand and Address Competing Demands

Jonathan Schad
King’s College London, United Kingdom
Miguel Pina e Cunha
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal
Angeliki Papachroni
Warwick Business School, United Kingdom

Call for Applications

Roundtable Facilitator:

Garima Sharma, University of New Mexico, USA


Marianne W. Lewis, University of Cincinnati, USA
Wendy K. Smith, University of Delaware, USA


What are the challenges to organize for a sustainable future? Trying to address the economic, environmental, and social challenges of our time inevitably leads to a number of fundamental tensions. What is a sustainable and desirable future for liberal societies? Are organizations causes of social, economic, and environmental disruptions or key drivers towards a more sustainable future? Is it more important to protect today’s productivity or invest in long-term viability? Perhaps not surprising, these tensions are mostly discussed as trade-offs. Such either/or choices dominate not only the public discourse, but also management research.
Against this background, paradox theory has been positioned as a way of thinking about such tensions as contradictory, yet interdependent (Schad et al., 2016; Smith & Lewis, 2011). Thereby, paradox theory provides a language for scholars from different fields to engage in a common conversation about understanding and managing competing demands. While initially, paradox was set up as a way to build from theory contradictions (Lewis & Grimes, 1999; Poole & van de Ven, 1989), in recent years the literature focused on tensions in context. This spans insights on how tensions are experienced, enacted and communicated in a wide variety of fields, such as sustainability (Hahn et al., 2014; Sharma & Bansal, 2017), hybridity (Gümüsa, et al. in press; Smith & Besharov, 2019), and ambidexterity (Andriopoulos & Lewis, 2009; Papachroni et al., 2016). To advance paradox theory and get richer insights to address complex problems, we aim to draw upom knowledge originating from other disciplinary fields.
In this pre-Colloquium Development Workshop (PDW), we aim at rediscovering paradox theory’s power in organizational theory. More specifically, we argue that to create a sustainable future, we need to understand the inherent tensions and contradictions both empirically and conceptually. To do so, we need to better leverage interdisciplinary thinking as seeing a problem from different sides and with different tools. The burgeoning literatures on grand challenges or hybrid organizations are only some of the fields that could benefit from such an interdisciplinary approach. Doing and publishing such research, however, is challenging. We thus aim to discuss challenges and opportunities of researching paradoxes with such interdisciplinary approaches. The workshop seeks papers with bold contributions as well as new theoretical and methodological approaches that leverage and/or extend our understanding of paradox theory. We are open to conceptual and empirical work at different levels of analysis and using various methodologies.
This PDW is a pre-Colloquium activity that seeks to help scholars develop their papers. In addition to the EGOS Standing Working Group (SWG 09) on Organizational Paradox: Engaging Plurality, Tensions and Contradictions and to sub-theme 09 at the main 36th EGOS Colloquium 2020, this workshop offers an arena for scholars sharing an interest in the field of paradox, competing demands, and plurality, to develop their ideas towards publishable research articles. Furthermore, this PDW extends to other sub-themes dealing theoretical and or empirical tensions. The focus will be on small group interaction.


The PDW will start with a keynote panel, which includes Marianne W. Lewis and Wendy K. Smith – authors of the most influential texts on paradox theory. The panel will give insights on using interdisciplinary lenses and how to write papers that draw from diverse fields. This is followed by a discussion of core questions around publishing paradox papers and the work of the research community. During the roundtable sessions, accepted papers will receive feedback from experts in the field. All participants are expected to have read the papers of their fellow session presenters and contribute to their discussion.


This PDW is open to all scholars interested in paradox theory. Papers will be selected depending on their innovativeness and potential contribution. PhD students and early career scholars are particularly encouraged to submit. We will give preference to papers that are not presented in a sub-theme at the main Colloquium 2020.
Please submit – via the EGOS website – by May 15, 2020 (extended deadline) a single document of application (.doc, .docx or .pdf file) that includes:

  • a short letter of application containing full details of name, address (postal address, phone and email), affiliation (date of PhD completion for early career scholars);

  • a statement of why you consider it valuable to attend this PDW as well as an indication of what journal(s) the paper is likely to be submitted to;

  • a draft/working paper with max. 10 double-spaced pages, incl. references, figures, or tables. By submitting such a paper you agree, if it will be accepted, to provide a full/final paper prior to the workshop.

We will accept a maximum of 24 participants. We will contact applicants to let them know whether or not they are accepted for the workshop by mid/end of April 2020 at the latest.


  • Andriopoulos, C., & Lewis, M.W. (2009): “Exploitation-Exploration Tensions and Organizational Ambidexterity: Managing Paradoxes of Innovation.” Organization Science, 20 (4), 696–717.
  • Gümüsay, A.A., Smets, M., & Morris, T. (in press): ‘‘God at Work’: Engaging Central and Incompatible Institutional Logics through Elastic Hybridity.” Academy of Management Journal, first published online on January 8, 2019; https://journals.aom.org/doi/10.5465/amj.2016.048
  • Hahn, T., Preuss, L., Pinkse, J., & Figge, F. (2014): “Cognitive Frames in Corporate Sustainability: Managerial Sensemaking with Paradoxical and Business Case Frames.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (4), 463–487.
  • Lewis, M.W., & Grimes, A.J. (1999): “Metatriangulation: Building Theory from Multiple Paradigms.” Academy of Management Review, 24 (4), 672–690.
  • Papachroni, A., Heracleous, L., & Paroutis, S. (2016): “In pursuit of ambidexterity: Managerial reactions to innovation–efficiency tensions.” Human Relations, 69 (9): 1791–1822.
  • Poole, M.S., & van de Ven, A.H. (1989): “Using Paradox to Build Management and Organization Theories.” Academy of Management Review, 14 (4), 562–578.
  • Schad, J., Lewis, M.W., Raisch, S., & Smith, W.K. (2016): “Paradox Research in Management Science: Looking Back to Move Forward.” Academy of Management Annals, 10 (1), 5–64.
  • Sharma, G., & Bansal, P. (2017): “Partners for Good: How Business and NGOs Engage the Commercial–Social Paradox.” Organization Studies, 38 (3-4), 341–364.
  • Smith, W.K., & Besharov, M.L. (2019): “Bowing before Dual Gods: How Structured Flexibility Sustains Organizational Hybridity.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 64 (1), 1–44.
  • Smith, W.K., & Lewis, M.W. (2011): “Toward a Theory of Paradox: A Dynamic Equilibrium Model of Organizing.” Academy of Management Review, 36 (2), 381–403.


Jonathan Schad is an Assistant Professor at King’s College London, UK. His research on paradox theory appeared in ‘Academy of Management Annals’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, and ‘Strategic Organization’.
Miguel Pina e Cunha is the Fundação Amélia de Mello Professor at Nova School of Business and Economics, Lisbon, Portugal. His work appeared in ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Journal of Management’, J’ournal of Management Studies’, and ‘Organization Studies’, among others. He is preparing, with his co-authors, the “Elgar Introduction to Theories of Organizational Paradox”.
Angeliki Papachroni is an Associate Fellow at Warwick Business School, UK. Her research focuses on strategy and innovation from an organizational perspective (organizational ambidexterity, dual strategies, leadership of innovation, paradox theory). Her research on paradox theory appeared in ‘Human Relations’ and ‘Journal of Applied Behavioral Science’.