Paradox may be the ground zero for disciplined speculation that forces individuals, organizations and societies to challenge normality and existing mental frames. Paradox can be a threat, and paradox can be a source for new insight. This paper examines how a paradox can emerge and develop in organizations. I will argue that the organization can be seen as a complex social system, and that the paradox rises as the system faces increased complexity in its environment, while equipped with an information processing architecture that reduces the complexity in an inadequate way. Following a review of classes of paradoxes: rhetorical, logical and social, the paper describes an organization as a complex social system with cognitive operations. The cognitive operations include drawing of distinctions, forming of categories, individuation of the system and the boundaries to the environment, and adaptability as a second order reorganization. The paper then discusses the dynamics and micro-foundation of how a paradox is formed based on this model. Three categories of social paradoxes: paradox of belonging, paradox of learning, and paradox of organizing, are analyzed and described as dynamic behavior in a system. The paper intends to inform a trans-disciplinary approach to describe phenomenon in organizations seen as complex social systems, and to contribute with conceptual understanding to be applied in empirical studies of paradoxical situations in organizations.
The epistemological and methodological implications of complexity theory for understanding urban sprawl are discussed. It is argued that urban spatial forms, such as sprawl, emerge from nonlinear, self-organizational, and dynamic urban processes. Because of this, there cannot be a universal theory of sprawl and each case should be investigated within its context. The micro—macro problem provides the conceptual grounding for these investigations. Agent-based simulations can be used to investigate the micro—macro transformations in urban systems. Implications of complexity theory for understanding the role of urban policies are discussed.
This paper argues that sociological and social psychological concepts, through a theory of action perspective, can contribute to defining coarse-grained social structures as multidimensional attractors (Goldstein, Hazy, & Lichtenein, 2010) and fine-grained human interaction dynamics as sources of nonlinear and unanticipated social outcomes. By using Gidden’s (1984) structuration theory to define the dimensions of the coarse-grained social system and applying Stones’s (2005) “strong” structuration theory to the fine-grained social system, we clarify the aspects of human interaction dynamics and their relationship to the coarse-grained social system. The paper concludes with three interrelated conclusions and their implications for understanding the “dynamics” of human interactions.
This paper uses a complex systems perspective to develop a theory of how human interaction dynamics (HID)—strategic decision processes and organizational mechanisms—for knowledge production under uncertainty give rise to a new organizational form. Our theoretical framework is derived from an inductive study of the international expansion of 14 Indian biotechnology and software firms. It suggests that to manage the knowledge production cycle dynamically under uncertainty firms must: (1) use a decision process driven by entrepreneurial aspirations and opportunity seeking; (2) adopt a variety of organizational mechanisms to acquire, exchange and appropriate knowledge. Over time, adopting these mechanisms leads to the emergence of a complex organizational system and a new organizational form—heteromorphic organizational form (H-form). Coupling evolving aspirations with mechanisms associated with H-form organization to manage knowledge production provides new insights into how fine-grained interactions during international expansion give rise to the emergence of coarse-grained properties, regularities and structure.
The goal of this paper is to describe a mind set for those in leadership roles that is needed to succeed in today’s increasingly complex and fast-changing business environments. Over the course of several action research projects in Sweden over the last few years, my colleagues and I have identified what we believe is a distinct mode of thinking, communicating and interacting with others. The Greek word for “flow” is rheo, so I call it: Rheo Leadership. The concept of Rheo Leadership aims to clarify for practitioners how to lead effectively in modern organizations. Successful managers understand and make use of two kinds of structures: those consciously formulated by managers and those that are tacit and emergent within the workgroup. Each of these influences the same three sub-categories of activities: acting, thinking and relating. Within the social context, leaders influence outcomes by thoughtfully and skillfully using three dualities that are inherent within human interaction dynamics: the value creating and discovering activities, the convergent divergence of evolving patterns, and integrated autonomy of individual actors. Effective use of the opposing poles of these dualities to efficaciously channel forward momentum is called “rein control”. The final section describes field experiences from research as well as successful interventions with first line managers in what I call the rheo task for leaders.