Sub-theme 19: Collaboration and the (Ir)Rationalities of Decision-making in a Digital Landscape

Rick Aalbers
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Sotirios Paroutis
Warwick Business School, United Kingdom
Saeed Khanagha
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Call for Papers

While the world has grown familiar with digital ecosystems as a platform for future growth, little is known still about the ways firms reshape – proactively or reactively – in response to the requirements of the emergent digital ecosystems (Cennamo & Santaló, 2019; Shipilov & Gawer, 2019). New technology influences the way in which decision are being made, within and between organizations, and allow for broader inclusiveness in the decision-making process. However, with the rise of digital technologies, new demands and challenges have emerged that require the attention of practitioners and scholars alike. For example, thanks to the new possibilities for organizational supervision and control by means of digital technologies, hierarchical structures are being abandoned in favour of flat structures with a wider span of control for senior and middle management (Ahmadi et al., 2017). At the same time, employees at lower levels of the organization are now empowered to interact and collaborate beyond the boundaries of the formal hierarchy (Aalbers et al., 2016). These interactions increasingly draw on digital enabled interaction channels, thereby challenging the traditional boundaries of the firm and the established modes of organizational governance (Shipilov & Gawer, 2019). As new technology enabled business models and ecosystems emerge, increasingly, corporate decision making incorporates decision making procedures that draw on technology enabled interfaces, easily crossing the boundaries of the firm. As an outcome, the changing digital landscape – technically – allows for an inclusive society if organizations open up for such inclusive forms of collaboration.
This sub-theme pivots around the question how digital technologies influence systems, practices and processes for inclusive decision making within and across organizations, exploring the (ir)rationalities of decision making in a digital landscape as organizations experiment with new ways of organizing (Calabretta et al., 2017). Notably, at the individual or team levels within firms, such digital ecosystem dynamics have been associated with positive and negative outcomes: on the one hand digital transformation brings ample opportunities for collaboration, knowledge creation and innovation, which in turn are frequently considered as principle drivers behind firms reinventing themselves, reshaping the growth aspiring firm (Aalbers, 2020; Dattée et al., 2018). On the other hand, information overload and dehumanization of the firm processes may hamper employees’ ability to achieve the positive results (Järvi et al., 2018). How organizational structure (and restructuring) can help to balance these positive and negative consequences of digital technologies at lower levels of the organization is yet to be understood.
Our current understanding of how firms reshape their decision-making process as part of their changing digital ecosystems is limited by the lack of a strong theoretical base to understand the implications of digital technology on extant theories and knowledge of organization restructuring as part of a digitally enabled environment. Little is known how new digital advancements allow for decision making that opens an organization up to an inclusive society. This proposed sub-theme seeks to shine new light on the challenges and opportunities posed by digital driven business ecosystem collaboration as firms collaboratively reinvent their decision-making processes. Our main objective is to further develop the theoretical foundations of collaborative, digitalization-driven business ecosystems and organizational structures that enable collaborative decision making in this context. It intends to bring together research on antecedents, processes and consequences associated with the (ir)rationalities of decision making in a digital landscape as firms are part of a broader, digitally enabled, network of stakeholders (Bednarek et al., 2017; Drummond 1998; Knight & Paroutis, 2017; Smith, 2014). We welcome diverse theoretical and methodological approaches targeting single or multiple organizational levels, addressing the dynamics We invite refreshing scholarly discourse on what constitutes collaborative decision making in the context of a changing digital landscape, including its antecedents and the formal and informal relationships that underpin or define its outcomes (Sloan & Oliver, 2013; Spagnoletti et al. 2015).
At the firm level there is a need for a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges that come with the ever-evolving technologies constituting the firms’ digital business model. How formal and informal, temporal or long lasting intra firm relations matter in dealing with inclusive decision making in a digital era is yet to be explored, as are the consequences for effective resource allocation and ownership (Alexy et al., 2018; Järvi et al., 2018). At the ecosystem level we encourage papers aiming to advance our understanding of how newcomers and incumbents transition into a collaborative decision making process, enabled – or constrained instead – by advancing digital technologies (Flanagin & Waldeck 2004; Stadtler & van Wassenhove, 2016). We pay particular attention to the strategy-structure interplay. We strive to provide a platform to stimulate dialogue and debate on inclusive decision making within digital ecosystems.
With this sub-theme, firstly, we strive for a dedicated collection of scholarly work that advances our theoretical and practical understanding of the implications of digital technology in relation to collaborative decision making, within and between firms. The scope encompasses both scholarly work that examines the collaborative mechanisms and antecedents within and across the boundaries of the firm as they (are forced to) reshape themselves. We therefore invite refreshing scholarly discourse on what constitutes collaborative activity in the context of a changing digital landscape (what it is and/or what it means), including its antecedents and the formal and informal relationships that underpin and/or define its outcomes, thereby offering advances in theory. Meanwhile, we expect critical evaluations of some of the ‘consequences’ and implications for practice. We are also seeking empirical studies that illuminate the subject and provide evidence and evocation for theory-building or theory-challenging.
Papers considered for this sub-theme can be conceptual, theoretical or empirical in nature. While qualitative research may be most appropriate for supporting new theoretical directions and critical perspectives, quantitative research is also welcome, as long as it addresses new questions and contributes to the conceptual conversation in straightforward (accessible) language.


  • Aalbers, R. (2020): “Rewiring the intrafirm network under downsizing: The role of tie loss on discretionary tie formation.” Long Range Planning, 53 (3), Article 101858.
  • Ahmadi, S., Khanagha, S., Berchicci, L., & Jansen, J.J. (2017): “Are managers motivated to explore in the face of a new technological change? The role of regulatory focus, fit, and complexity of decision‐making.” Journal of Management Studies, 54 (2), 209–237.
  • Bednarek, R., Paroutis, S., & Sillince, J. (2017): “Transcendence through rhetorical practices: Responding to paradox in the science sector.” Organization Studies, 38 (1), 77–101.
  • Cennamo, C., & Santaló, J. (2019): “Generativity tension and value creation in platform ecosystems.” Organization Science, 30 (3), 617–641.
  • Calabretta, G., Gemser, G., & Wijnberg, N.M. (2017): “The interplay between intuition and rationality in strategic decision making: A paradox perspective.” Organization Studies, 38 (3–4), 365–401.
  • Dattée, B., Alexy, O., & Autio, E. (2018): “Maneuvering in poor visibility: How firms play the ecosystem game when uncertainty is high.” Academy of Management Journal, 61 (2), 466–498.
  • Drummond, H. (1998): “Is escalation always irrational?” Organization Studies, 19 (6), 911–929.
  • Flanagin, A.J., & Waldeck, J.H. (2004): “Technology use and organizational newcomer socialization.” The Journal of Business Communication, 41 (2), 137–165.
  • Järvi, K., Almpanopoulou, A., & Ritala, P. (2018): Organization of knowledge ecosystems: Prefigurative and partial forms.” Research Policy, 47 (8), 1523–1537.
  • Knight, E., & Paroutis, S. (2017): Becoming salient: The TMT leader’s role in shaping the interpretive context of paradoxical tensions.” Organization Studies, 38 (3–4), 403–432.
  • Shipilov, A., & Gawer, A. (2019): “Integrating research on inter-organizational networks and ecosystems.” Academy of Management Annals, 14 (1), 92–121.
  • Smith, W. . (2014): “Dynamic decision making: A model of senior leaders managing strategic paradoxes.” Academy of Management Journal, 57 (6), 1592–1623.
  • Sloan, P., & Oliver, D. (2013): “Building trust in multi-stakeholder partnerships: Critical emotional incidents and practices of engagement.” Organization Studies, 34 (12), 1835–1868.
  • Spagnoletti, P., Resca, A., & Lee, G. (2015): “A design theory for digital platforms supporting online communities: a multiple case study.” Journal of Information Technology, 30 (4), 364–380.
  • Stadtler, L., & Van Wassenhove, L.N. (2016): “Coopetition as a paradox: Integrative approaches in a multi-company, cross-sector partnership.” Organization Studies, 37 (5), 655–685.

Rick Aalbers is an Associate Professor in Strategy and Innovation at the Department of Business Administration of the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. He has published on collaboration and innovation at the inter- and intra-firm level and organization restructuring in journals such as ‘Research Policy’, ‘Long Range Planning’, ‘Journal of Product Innovation Management’, ‘British Journal of Management’, and ‘MIT Sloan Management Review’. Prior to his academic career, Rick worked as a manager at Deloitte Consulting where he advised on strategic change in the financial services industry.
Sotirios Paroutis is a Professor of Strategic Management and Head of the Strategy and International Business Group at Warwick Business School, United Kingdom. His research lies at the intersections of strategy, technology and organizations and examines the discursive, cognitive and visual activities organizational actors employ when dealing with strategic tensions. Sotirios’ work has appeared in outlets such as ‘Strategic Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Human Relations’, ‘California Management Review’, and ‘Long Range Planning’.
Saeed Khanagha is an Assistant Professor of Strategy at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His research focuses on transformation and restructuring of large organization in response to emergent digital ecosystems. His research has been published in outlets such as ‘Journal of Management Studies’ and ‘Long Range Planning’. Saeed has served as guest editor of a ‘Long Range Planning’ special issue entitled “Strategizing in a Digital World” and as organizer of a SMS Extension Conference on “Navigating the Platform Business Model: Strategies, Challenges and Best Practices” (Amsterdam, September 21, 2018).