Sub-theme 39: Expanding Paradox Research across Time, Place, and Bodies -> HYBRID sub-theme!

Convenors:
Katrin Heucher
University of Groningen, The Netherlands
Garima Sharma
Kogod School of Business, American University, USA
Harald Tuckermann
St. Gallen University, Switzerland

Call for Papers


Global disruptions such as Covid-19 and climate change surface numerous tensions at the global, national, organizational and individual levels (Sharma et al., 2021). Such tensions entail problems but also opportunities for innovations and creative ideas (McKinsey Global Institute, 2021). Paradox theory offers insights to inform how we think about these challenges. Paradoxes are tensions that are contradictory and interdependent (Schad et al., 2016; Smith & Lewis, 2011). Such paradoxes are double-edged; their navigation can either lead to experiences of being stuck and limited or to enabling generative of new ideas and ways of being (Lewis, 2000).
 
An expanding community of scholars offer rich and burgeoning research to deepen our understanding of paradoxes. Such scholarship has predominantly focused on cognition (Hahn et al., 2014), practices (Putnam, Fairhurst, & Banghart, 2016), and recently power and politics (Berti & Simpson, 2021). However, disruptions such as COVID-19 take our gaze to new and old phenomena that can move paradox theory forward.
 
In this sub-theme, we focus on the tensions of time, place and embodiment. Disruptions such as Covid-19 showed us that time may seem frozen and yet time markers such as days could be blurry and fluid. Disruptions such as climate change show us that place may be standardized as we monetize carbon emissions but also idiosyncratic as some places experience greater fury of climate change versus others (Jarzabkowski et al., 2022).
 
Moreover, bodies experience paradox as disruptive tensions seem both paralyzing and energizing. Importantly, time, space and bodies are intertwined as actors navigate their way through tensions. Hence, tensions of time, place and bodies can be relevant to shift the scholarly conversation on paradox forward. However, we also welcome papers on tensions and paradox that may not squarely fit with time, place and embodiment but can benefit from the collective dialogue in the sub-theme.
 
Time and paradox have often been studied by exploring short-term needs and long-term goals e.g., in the context of sustainability (Slawinski & Bansal, 2015). More recently, time in processes has been evident such as paradoxes travelling across time, and how paradoxes become visible and invisible to different actors over time (Tuckermann, 2018). Further, time is evident in questions of sustainability that bear the opportunity to imagine futures that have not yet unfolded (Sharma, Greco, Grewatsch, & Bansal, in-press; Williams, Heucher, & Whiteman, 2021) such that tensions may not be immediately felt but are impending. A focus on time and tensions offers several new questions such as but not limited to:

  • What different ways can the tensions of time be evident in organizations that go beyond current conceptualizations such as short versus long term, or time as process versus time as a snapshot?

  • How can we grasp and explain temporal dynamics as we navigate paradoxes? What is the relation between past paths (dependence) and future opportunities?

  • What role do future oriented concepts such as aspiration and hope play in navigating paradoxes?

  • How can we study tensions of an unfolding future such as one related to climate change?

 
Place is a social construct such that physical space becomes place when it is infused with “unique gathering of things, meanings, and values” (Gieryn, 2000: 465). In this way, place is multidimensional: it is a geographic location, locale, and a sense (Slawinski et al., 2019). Grand challenges related to place such as migration and proliferation of urban slums beg the question why paradoxes become salient in some places but not in others. Similarly, place as a geographical or physical location brings our focus to issues such as that of compression, e.g. seen in technology and carbon trading (Bansal & Knox-Hayes, 2013) in which proximal and far are compressed, revealing tensions such as shirking of responsibility for polluting, an act that is highly local but can be de-localized through carbon trading. Other ways in which the physical characteristics of a place are fraught with tensions are seen in the co-existence of resourcefulness and resourcelessness of a place, or places that are morphing into new uses and yet old in how they hold on to their traditions (Slawinski et al., 2019). A focus on place and tensions offers several new questions such as but not limited to:

  • How does place influence the salience or latency of paradox?

  • How can actors draw on the intertwining of space and time to navigate paradoxes of grand challenges like sustainability, or social equity?

  • What are the tensions in place-based identities (e.g., identity related to slum dwelling, or refugee camps) and how do these explain dignity of individuals?

 
Bodies participate fully in paradox. Paradoxical tensions elicit emotions that are felt through the body such as stuckness, anxiety, and relief (Lewis, 2000; Pradies, 2022). And yet bodies are often missing from paradox scholarship. One central tension could be that of mind and body, taking our gaze to what de Rond, Holeman and Howard-Grenville (2019) describe as ‘embodied mind’ and ‘mindful body’. A starting point for paradox scholars could be to question mind-body duality such as by re-conceptualizing paradoxical mindset, a cognitive construct, by embracing notions such as embodied cognition and extended mind (Paul, 2021). Further, embodiment is not limited to individuals but also in higher-level process such as tensions in sociomaterial sensemaking in groups (Stiglani & Ravasi, 2012). In general, a focus on embodiment offers several new questions such as but not limited to:

  • How do our bodies participate in paradoxes at the individual, organizational and systemic levels?

  • How can we revisit paradoxes of cognition considering a more embodied understanding of mind?

  • How do paradoxes of power in organizations play out when organizations implement implicit and embodied control?

 
We invite paradox scholars and others who study tensions of time, place, and embodiment. We also welcome submissions on paradox and tensions more broadly that may not clearly fit these three dimensions but will benefit from our focus on moving paradox theory forward.
 


References


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Katrin Heucher is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Innovation Management and Strategy at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. Her work research lies at the intersection between organizational sustainability and paradox and has received several awards. In exploring phenomena of organizational sustainability efforts empirically, she uses qualitative methods and, in particular, ethnographic research.
Garima Sharma s an Assistant Professor at Kogod School of Business, American University, USA. Her research focuses on sustainability, social entrepreneurship and related tensions of purpose and profits. She is also interested in understanding how research impacts practice, and the topics of rigor-relevance and knowledge cocreation. Garima’s research has been published in ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Business Venturing’, ‘Organizational Research Methods’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Journal of Management Studies’, among others.
Harald Tuckermann is Professor for Managing Pluralistic Organizations at the St. Gallen University, Switzerland. He studies decision-making as process using paradox theories in pluralistic organizations like hospitals. His interests also include dialogue, advancing executive education and the relationship of practice and research. Harald’s publication mirror these interests and occur in academic journals like Organization Studies and in practitioner outlets for healthcare professionals.