PDW 06: Paradox Theory for Research in an Imperfect Society

Marc Krautzberger
University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Marco Berti
University of Technology Sydney, Australia
Harald Tuckermann
University of St. Gallen, Switzerland
Angela Greco
University of Groningen, Netherlands

Call for Applications


Marianne W. Lewis, University of Cincinnati, USA
Camille Pradies, EDHEC Business School, France
Linda L. Putnam, University of California, USA
Jonathan Schad, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
Wendy K. Smith, University of Delaware, USA
Ella Miron-Spektor, INSEAD, France


Theories usually present themselves as “perfect” models displaying a very rationalized, often balanced, linear, coherent, and structured picture of management, organization, and society. Our experience of everyday life and practice is, however, rather imperfect: messy, tension-ridden, inconsistent. Paradox theory offers a conceptual framework to study tensions, inconsistencies, and contradictions, focusing in particular on the notion of paradox, defined as “persistent contradictions between interdependent elements” (Schad et al., 2016, p. 6).
Paradox theory can be rightfully considered a ‘big tent’ theory (Bednarek et al., 2021), as it builds on diverse theories such as institutional theory (Gümüsay et al., 2020), discourse analysis (Kwon et al., 2020) or systems theory (Tuckermann, 2019). From a paradox perspective, imperfections, contradictions and inconsistencies are not necessarily faults or problems but can be opportunities for organizational learning and transformation (Smith & Lewis, 2011). Acknowledging and leveraging on imperfection in the process of theorizing allows to preserve pluralism and variety, and to remain focused on the challenges of coping with the messiness of the real world (Reed & Burrell, 2019). Indeed, the inclusive, pluralist spirit or the paradox community has helped growing its influence and reach (Berti et al., 2021).
Recognizing that the world is unbalanced does not imply that we intend to impose a new order to it. The existential challenges that face humanity require managing persistent tensions among contradictory forces, interests, and logics: limiting the unchecked growth that is jeopardizing earth ecology while enabling improvement in life conditions for those left behind; addressing wealth inequalities without stifling the economy; encouraging integration and cooperation both at inter-organizational and international level while preserving self-determination and sense of belonging to local communities, etc.
In this PDW, hosted by the EGOS Standing Working Group (SWG) 09 “Organizational Paradox: Engaging Plurality, Tensions and Contradictions”, we draw on paradox theory to better understand management in an imperfect society. Our aim is to invite contributions that address, but are not limited to, contemporary organizational and systemic challenges in an imperfect society. The PDW seeks papers that push theoretical and methodological boundaries, and that aim at making bold theoretical and practical contributions. We encourage submissions across research fields, theoretical backgrounds, and philosophical underpinnings that integrate ideas across different sub-themes. The purpose of this PDW is to help scholars to develop their ideas into well-argued papers that can achieve publication in high-ranked journals.


The PDW is structured in two parts:

  1. The first, introductory session is aimed at offering insights on the challenging task of writing and publishing paradox papers, by considering different aspects of the knowledge production process. A group of panelists, which includes both established scholars who have authored some of the most influential texts on paradox theory, as well as emerging scholars whose recent works are expanding the theory in new promising directions, will share their experiences and insights by answering some questions from the organizers. Then, participants will have the opportunity to join one of three different discussion groups (in break-out rooms), each focused on a different challenge in the development of academic contributions: conceptualization, data collection and analysis, and publication. Each group will be chaired by two of the panelists. After a conversation, participants will reconvene in a plenary session, in which each group will share some key insights discussed.
  2. The second part comprises parallel roundtable sessions, in which accepted papers will receive feedback from experts in the field of paradox research. All participants are expected to have read the papers of their fellow session presenters and give them feedback.



This PDW is open to all scholars interested in paradoxes and other forms of tensions. We will select papers depending on their novelty and potential for theoretical contribution. PhD students and early career scholars are particularly encouraged to submit, but we will also consider applications from more senior scholars. We will give preference to papers that are not presented in a sub-theme at the main EGOS Colloquium 2022.
Please submit – via the EGOS website – by April 30, 2022 a single application document (.docx or .pdf file) that contains the following mandatory sections:

  • Name + contact details, including title, postal address, e-mail address, phone number.

  • Current role and affiliation. For doctoral students, please include the doctoral program, main area(s) of studies, name(s) of your supervisor(s), and stage of your PhD work (e.g., “3rd year finalizing data collection; initial data analysis ongoing; all coursework completed”). For active researchers, include position and affiliation (early career researchers, please specify the date of PhD completion).

  • Motivation. A paragraph on how you will benefit from this workshop. Please clearly indicate your specific developmental needs (e.g., developing methodology, analyzing data, theorizing from data, improving presentation, choosing a publication outlet, addressing reviewers’ feedback, etc.).

  • A draft/working paper with max. 10 double-spaced pages (typed using a twelve-point Times New Roman font, with margins of at least one-inch), including references, figures, or tables. By submitting a paper, you agree to provide a full draft of the paper two weeks prior to the workshop.


  • Bednarek, R., Pina e Cunha, M., Schad, J., & Smith, W. (2021): “The Value of Interdisciplinary Research to Advance Paradox in Organization Theory.” In: R. Bednarek, M. Pina e Cunha, J. Schad & W.K. Smith (eds.): Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox: Learning from Belief and Science, Part A. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, 3–25.
  • Berti, M., Simpson, A., Pina e Cunha, M., & Clegg, S.R. (2021): Elgar Introduction to Organizational Paradox Theory. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Gümüsay, A.A., Smets, M., & Morris, T. (2020): “’God at work’: Engaging central and incompatible institutional logics through elastic hybridity.” Academy of Management Journal, 63 (1), 124–154.
  • Kwon, W., Clarke, I., Vaara, E., Mackay, R., & Wodak, R. (2020): “Using Verbal Irony to Move on with Controversial Issues.” Organization Science, 31 (4), 865–886.
  • Reed, M., & Burrell, G. (2019): “Theory and organization studies: The need for contestation.” Organization Studies, 40 (1), 39–54.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Tuckermann, H. (2019): “Visibilizing and Invisibilizing Paradox: A process study of interactions in a hospital executive board.” Organization Studies, 40 (12), 1851–1872.

Marc Krautzberger is Lecturer in Strategy at the University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom. His research areas are strategy and digital transformation. He is particularly interested in strategic management practices in dealing with conflicting goals in complex environments that are characterized by technology driven markets, transformative change, and competing demands. Marc combines organization theory (particularly paradox theory and practice theory) with qualitative research methods. His research has been published in academic journals such as ‘Strategic Organization’ and practitioner-oriented journals.
Marco Berti is a Senior Lecturer in management at UTS Business, University of Technology Sydney, Australia. His main research areas are organizational theory, critical studies, and business education. He is particularly interested in the study of organizational contradictions, power relations and in the development of more sustainable organizations. Marco’s work has been published in academic journals such as ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Academy of Management Learning & Education’, ‘Management Learning’, and ‘Organization’, among others.
Harald Tuckermann is Professor for Managing Pluralistic Organizations at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. His research interests are in the areas of organization theory, social systems theory, paradox and collective reflection. He explores these themes with ethnographic studies in hospitals. Harald has authored three books and published in both academic and practitioner journals, including ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’, and ‘Forum: Qualitative Social Research’, among others.
Angela Greco is an Adjunct Researcher at the Centre for Sustainable Entrepreneurship at the University of Groningen, Campus Fryslân, and a scientist at the Strategic Analysis and Policy department of TNO, the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research. Her theoretical focus is on the role of paradoxes in sustainability transitions, organizational hybridity, and participatory approaches for systemic design. Angela’s work has been published or is forthcoming in academic and practitioner-oriented journals such as the ‘Organizations & Environment’, ‘Management Decisions’, ‘Journal of Cleaner Production’, ‘Sustainability’, and ‘Oxford Bibliographies’.