Sub-theme 20: Beyond the Good and Evil of Organizational Legacies: Setting the Conditions for Limitless Imagination ---> CANCELLED!


Call for Papers

Organizations can be conceived of as the meeting point of multiple legacies (Lamertz et al., 2016), which are variously contributed by people who participate in shaping and addressing organizational dynamics (Suddaby, 2016). Since they host the encounter of manifold narrations about management issues and processes (Gerstrøm, 2015), organizations act as melting pots where individual legacies are blended in a collective legacy, which pertains to the whole social collectivity (Walsh & Glynn, 2009). Organizational legacies derive from the accounts of earlier lives and experiences of people, which consist with the enduring, distinctive, and relevant attributes of their peculiar organizational domain (Phillips, Schrempf-Stirling, & Stutz, 2020). From this standpoint, framing legacies in an organizational environment involves an attempt to leverage individual and collective histories in order to make and unmake social constructions that underpinn organizational decisions, actions, and behaviors (Wadhwani et al., 2018).
Literature is not consistent in unravelling the interplay between organizational legacies and innovation. On the one hand, it has been claimed that the strength and cohesiveness of organizational legacy is conducive to strategic resilience, which boosts innovativeness and adaptation to uncertain and volatile environments (Morais-Storz et al., 2018). On the other hand, it has been emphasized that innovation itself puts organizational legacy under stress (Root, 2006), nurturing more nuanced and erratic imagination across the organization (Kulak & Li, 2017). Whilst this imperils the integrity of organizational legacy, it is essential to cope with management challenges by looking beyond the lenses imposed by established legacies within the organization (Bryant, 1998).
Sticking to the latter perspective, organizational legacy should not be necessarily understood as an antecedent of organizational imagination and – consequently – of organizational innovativeness (Lee & Davies, 2021). Organizational legacy may result from the narratives and accounts of dominating groups within the organization, who are interested in maintaining their legitimacy and power in dealing with management phenomena, rather than in prompting organizational innovativeness (Maclean et al., 2014). The thickness of organizational legacy may act as a burden for – rather than as an enabler of – innovation, impoverishing the sensemaking and sensegiving processes enacted within the organizations by members who do not identify with the features of the dominating organizational legacy (Morais-Storz & Platou, 2016). This is especially true as far as disadvantaged groups of the organizational population are taken into consideration, such as minorities and less represented categories of employees, who are generally unable to actively participate to the crafting of organizational legacies (Kalev, 2014).
These considerations encourage us to look beyond the good and evil of organizational legacy, trying to understand under which circumstances organizational traits and features inherited from the past are likely to foster or hamper innovation. Embracing such a perspective, this sub-theme is interested in hosting conceptual and empirical contributions which are aimed at shedding light on the factors and conditions unleashing the contribution of organizational legacies to limitless imagination and innovation. Drawing on the metaphorical view of organizations proposed by Morgan (1986), it is assumed that the strength of organizational legacies withing social entities configured as political systems are not likely to stimulate imagination and innovation among the members of the organization, being primarily concerned with the lust for power of dominant coalitions. Conversely, organizational legacies are expected to trigger innovativeness in pluralist organizations, which are imagined as a flux of change accommodating environmental pressures.
From this point of view, the sub-theme will focus on – but will not be limited to – the following areas of interest:

  • Unravelling the interplay between organizational legacies, imagination, and innovation;

  • Organizational legacy as an instrument of domination rather than of innovation;

  • The meaningfulness (and the meaninglessness) of legacies in organizational settings;

  • Making sense of and giving sense to legacies in organizations;

  • Leveraging organizational legacy to build resilience during organizational crises;

  • Creating pluralist organizational legacies: going beyond the rhetoric of a unique organizational legacy;

  • The “dark side” of organizational legacies: organizational power and the master morality;

  • Enabling minorities to give an account of organizational legacy: voicing the slave morality;

  • The trade-off between stability and innovation: balancing the homogeneity and heterogeneity of organizational legacy;

  • The “contingencies” of organizational legacy: grasping the determinants of legacies in organizational contexts;

  • The past, the present, and the future of organizational legacies and their impact on organizational innovativeness and sustainability.



  • Bryant, A. (1998): “Beyond BPR – Confronting the organizational legacy.” Management Decision, 36 (1), 25–30.
  • Gerstrøm, A. (2015): “Identity after death: how legacy organizational identity and death form each other.” Management Research Review, 38 (1), 89–123.
  • Kalev, A. (2014): “How You Downsize Is Who You Downsize: Biased Formalization, Accountability, and Managerial Diversity.” American Sociological Review, 79 (1), 109–135.
  • Kulak, D., & Li, H. (2017): The Journey to Enterprise Agility. Systems Thinking and Organizational Legacy. Cham: Springer.
  • Lamertz, K., Foster, W.M., Coraiola, D.M., & Kroezen, J. (2016): “New identities from remnants of the past: an examination of the history of beer brewing in Ontario and the recent emergence of craft breweries.” Business History, 58 (5), 796–828.
  • Lee, Z., & Davies, I. (2021): “Navigating relative invariance: Perspectives on corporate heritage identity and organizational heritage identity in an evolving nonprofit institution.” Journal of Business Research, 129, 813–825.
  • Maclean, M., Harvey, C., Sillince, J.A., & Golant, B.D. (2014): “Living up to the past? Ideological sensemaking in organizational transition.” Organization, 21 (4), 543–567.
  • Morais-Storz, M., & Platou, R.S. (2016): “Problem setting in innovating and strategizing for a future unknown.” XXVII ISPIM Innovation Conference: Blending Tomorrow’s Innovation Vintage. Porto: The International Society for Professional Innovation Management, 1–8.
  • Morais-Storz, M., Stoud Platou, R., & Berild Norheim, K. (2018): “Innovation and metamorphosis towards strategic resilience.” International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, 28 (7), 1181–1199.
  • Morgan, G. (1986): Images of Organization. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.
  • Phillips, R., Schrempf-Stirling, J., & Stutz, C. (2020): “The Past, History, and Corporate Social Responsibility.” Journal of Business Ethics, 166, 203–213.
  • Root, H.L. (2006): “Opening the Doors of Invention: Institutions, Technology and Developing Nations.” International Public Management Review, 7 (1), 14–29.
  • Suddaby, R. (2016): “Toward a Historical Consciousness: Following the Historic Turn in Management Thought.” M@n@gement, 19 (1), 46–60.
  • Wadhwani, R.D., Suddaby, R., Mordhorst, M., & Popp, A. (2018): “History as Organizing: Uses of the Past in Organization Studies.” Organization Studies, 39 (12), 1663–1683.
  • Walsh, I.J., & Glynn, M.A. (2009): “The Way We Were: Legacy Organizational Identity and the Role of Leadership.” Corporate Reputation Review, 11, 262–276.