Rigorous investigation of organizational epistemology, or what can an organization know and why, is a sadly underdeveloped field. Knowledge management as a field has suffered from naïve assumptions about what knowledge is and how it can(not) be shared. David Seidl in E:CO (2007) made a significant contribution to organizational epistemology, which I want to further problematize. Seidl made two assumptions: one ontological namely that organizations know things; and one epistemological namely that knowledge can be defined as perceptual complexity reduction. I wish to counter that persons and not organizations know things and that knowledge is more social than perceptual. I will argue that the problem of social knowing is not so much grounded in the epistemological question of knowledge / nonknowledge—that is, in the relations of foreground and background, facts and assumptions or knowledge and hermeneutics, as in the much more radical circularities of eternal return (duration) and the continual (re-)founding of social order. I will be inspired for the first point by Pierre Klossowski and for the second by Michel Serres.
This is a conceptual paper about ‘affordances’. It is inspired by Gregory Bateson (1972) who argued that consciousness is a person/environment interactive process; we will focus on how relationships between environments and organisms lead to perceived possibilities, actions, and cognition. Both the relationships between environments and persons, and the relationships between persons and environments count. The connection between world and consciousness is dynamic. There is a mutual causal link between circumstances and organisms. We argue that the world via affordances presents itself to consciousness. Emergent possibilities afford; complexity affords. Scott Kelso’s ‘complementary relating of contrarieties’ affords. Affordances are the dynamic reciprocal relationships between animate persons and their environments. Affordances are in-between—their cognition is situated and contextual. Affordances are the a next frontier for organization studies.
We should view organizations as complex cognitive systems, made up of people who see and interpret the world around them, and who strive to create values which have meaning to them and coherence with the group. Our corporations are populated with individuals who are striving for meaning, trying to understand what the company is about and what they have to do to succeed. If we view organizations in this way, we must have an acute awareness of how we create meaning in our organizations, of the messages which are sent, the symbols which define our organizations, and the cues given by the policies and practices. (Gratton, 2000)
Emergence must not become yet another excuse for idealism and the assumption that the idea behind appearances is the truth; or for empiricism and the claim that the world outside of consciousness is true while subjectivity is false. Emergence enables the phenomenal study of organization as social process(es) to acknowledge intentionality and ethics. In his […]
The articles in this issue of Emergence display differing assumptions about organizing—i.e. about how the reproduction and renewal of structure take place. How are lines of demarcation drawn? Organizing’s forms, limits and structures are visible in institutions and organizations. These institutions and organizations are products of regulative processes. But in what sort of space does […]
The role of knowledge workers in our society is an increasing focus of press and academic attention. Letiche suggests that knowledge workers often both work in and create “McDonaldized” simulacra, i.e. spaces for action that are less than real. He argues that the very concept of organizing is challenged by the tensions implicit in the semi-ness of the semi-reality of subspaces. The arena for his argument is that of information technology. The language of his argument is that of identity, self, logic and activity—terms more often found in European academic debate than in American management practice. Forgive Letiche’s use of academic literary forms. This world of emergence and cyborgs and of warfare with cognitivist (social) Darwinism may be a bit alien to some readers, but the argument and message will not be. In the semi-real spaces of managing, creativity is bought only at a large cost to others and managers find themselves needing to determine when that price is worth paying.