Sub-theme 06: [SWG] Performing Creativity, Innovation, and Change: Communicating to Reconfigure the Organization

Nicolas Bencherki
Université TÉLUQ, Canada
Sophie Del Fa
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Canada
Alex Wright
University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Research that frames organizations as continuously changing and “becoming” (e.g., Tsoukas & Chia, 2002) is no longer controversial. Since Weick (1979), studies have shown how conversations, storytelling, sensemaking and other communicative practices enact and embody change. Today, the idea that organizational ‘reality’ is constituted, maintained and altered thanks to the performative character of what people say and do (including as they interact with non-human actors) is strongly supported (Boivin et al., 2017; Cooren & Seidl, 2020; Schoeneborn et al., 2019). Framing change as communicatively performed recognizes that organizing occurs in dynamic worlds, marked with the social, political and economic realities of capitalism, and with issues such as climate change, gender diversity and racial inclusion. In that sense, a communicative and performative viewpoint can tease out implications for social change from our understanding of organizational constitution.
This sub-theme invites participants to reflect on a key, but under-researched, feature of performative theorizing: what it means to do something “new” if nothing is ever permanent (Chia & King, 1998; Taylor & Van Every, 2011; Wright, 2019). Here, change, creativity and innovation are best understood as accomplished through sociomaterial and relational performances taking place through communicative practice (Cooren, 2020). Consequently, change provoked by performative communication is not a special, rare occurrence, but is at the heart of what it means for organizations to exist, change and endure (Vásquez & Kuhn, 2019). The key issue for change, creativity and innovation scholarship, therefore, is not so much about how new ideas emerge, but rather how, from within a constant flow of novelty, enough stability may be accomplished to recognize valuable and useful organizational recastings (Hernes, 2016).

To address these issues, the sub-theme invites contributions taking a performative, relational, practice-based and/or CCO perspective to address communication’s ability to alter routines, norms and processes, and question assumptions around the organizing of creativity and innovation. Below is a list of indicatives, but not exhaustive, topics and questions:

  • How might we conceptualize how change, creativity and innovation emerge in organizations from a communicative and/or performative perspective?

  • How do novel, radical or alternative ideas, practices, routines, rituals, discourses and ways of doing things emerge, and how are they recognized, stabilized and materialized?

  • How can studying change, creativity and innovation advance theorizing of performative and/or communicative approaches to organizing and organization?

  • How does the performing of change, creativity and innovation subject actors to idealized versions of the corporate worker (Butler, 1993) and with what effects?

  • How are change, creativity and innovation communicatively constituted as resistance against hegemonic values and strategies (Ashcraft, 2016; Wilhoit & Kisselburgh, 2019)?

  • How does an emphasis on communication and performativity help to question assumptions about the need and imperative for change, creativity and innovation?

  • What are the methodological challenges encountered when studying communication’s performative effects, and how might they be overcome?

This sub-theme also invites reflections on how to combine performativity and communication to elucidate how organizing takes place. The conversation will be initiated with a panel bringing together representatives of both communication and performativity, around the theme “Communicative performativity, performative communication: Exploring an emerging terrain?”


  • Ashcraft, K.L. (2016): “Resistance through consent?: Occupational identity, organizational form, and the maintenance of masculinity among commercial airline pilots.” Management Communication Quarterly, 19 (1), 67–90.
  • Boivin, G., Brummans, B.H.J.M., & Barker, J.R. (2017): “The institutionalization of CCO scholarship: Trends from 2000 to 2015.” Management Communication Quarterly, 31 (3), 331–355.
  • Butler, J. (1993): Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. New York: Routledge.
  • Chia, R., & King, I.W. (1998): “The organizational structuring of novelty.” Organization, 5 (4), 461–478.
  • Cooren, F. (2020): “Beyond entanglement: (Socio-)materiality and organization studies.” Organization Theory, 1 (3), 1–24.
  • Cooren, F., & Seidl, D. (2020): “Niklas Luhmann’s radical communication approach and its implications for research on organizational communication.” Academy of Management Review, 45 (2), 479–497.
  • Hernes, T. (2016): “Process as the becoming of temporal trajectory.” In: A. Langley & H. Tsoukas (eds.): The SAGE Handbook of Process Organization Studies. London: SAGE Publications, 601–606.
  • Schoeneborn, D., Kuhn, T.R., & Kärreman, D. (2019): “The Communicative Constitution of Organization, Organizing, and Organizationality.” Organization Studies, 40 (4), 475–496.
  • Taylor, J.R., & Van Every, E.J. (2011): The Situated Organization: Case Studies in the Pragmatics of Communication Research. London: Routledge.
  • Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002): “On organizational becoming: Rethinking organizational change.” Organization Science, 13 (5), 567–582.
  • Vásquez, C., & Kuhn, T. (eds.) (2019): Dis/organization as Communication Exploring the Disordering, Disruptive and Chaotic Properties of Communication. London: Routledge.
  • Weick, K.E. (1979): The Social Psychology of Organizing, Second Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Wilhoit, E.D., & Kisselburgh, L.G. (2019): “The relational ontology of resistance: Hybridity, ventriloquism, and materiality in the production of bike commuting as resistance.” Organization, 26 (6), 873–893.
  • Wright, A. (2019): “Embodied organizational routines: Explicating a practice understanding.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 28 (2), 153–165.
Nicolas Bencherki is an Associate Professor of organizational communication at Université TÉLUQ in Montréal, Canada, where he studies the roles of communication and materiality in constituting authority, membership, and strategy in community-based organizations.
Sophie Del Fa is an Assistant Professor of communication at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Canada. She studies the organization of practices of resistance, social movements and alternative organizing. Her research tends toward a critical constitutive approach of communication.
Alex Wright is a Senior Lecturer in Strategy & Organization at Sheffield University Management School, UK. His research centers on the communicative constitution of organization, routines, critical literature reviews, judgment and qualitative approaches to strategy work.