OMT WebOrganization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management
University of Cyprus and University of Warwick
(view video of thank you here)
I am very sorry that, for family reasons, I am unable to be with you at Anaheim. I am humbled to receive the Joann Martin Trailblazer Award. Thank you for this great honor. Coming especially from the OMT Division, the flagship of AoM, it means a lot to me.
I have long taken the view that an important aim of our research is to renew the vocabulary through which we understand the problems we explore. As the late Richard Rorty remarked, the world does not speak; only humans do. And the way we speak deeply matters for how we seek to understand.
Complex problems like those formal organizations and, more broadly, organizing projects of all kinds face today – ranging from the traditional problems of structuring, coordinating and designing organizational processes to developing innovative, resilient and responsible responses in a dynamic, open-ended world - call for a complex language of analysis. It seems to me that such a complex language will likely emerge to the extent organizational researchers are willing to forego the narrow confines of their own discipline to reach out for insights from other disciplines.
For example, how can we understand change better unless we renew the underlying philosophical vocabulary through which change has been traditionally understood? How can we incorporate time in our analyses unless we engage with those disciplines (e.g. history, historical sociology) that have sought to do so long before us? Or how can we better understand the ethical ground and the cultural roots of all organizing unless we creatively incorporate insights from moral philosophy and anthropology?
For me, starting new conversations by drawing on extra-disciplinary vocabularies has always been enormously important, leading to what I call (after Edgar Morin) the “conjunctive style of theorizing”. The latter seeks to make connections between diverse elements of human experience through making distinctions that will enable the joining up of concepts normally used in a compartmentalized manner. A new vocabulary, if rich and robust enough, makes us see new things and see old things in fresh ways.
Of course, starting a new conversation may turn out to be unproductive or not as promising as one might have hoped - like similar attempts at a dinner party, others may not be interested! Blazing a new trail may lead to nowhere. Realizing the contingent nature of such an accomplishment makes one more aware of the complexities involved and the need to be attentive to context, timing, and history. It seems to me that an important part of the role of journal editors and authoritative figures in our multi-disciplinary field is to create conditions for new conversations to emerge, which will, in turn, make it possible for new trails to be blazed. After all, let us not forget that, as John Dewey reminded us long time ago, reflective thinking begins with a sense of “mental unrest”, or, to change the metaphor, with an aporia – the inability to find one’s way. Like a traveler in a jungle, we need to blaze new trails when we are confronted with an aporia. And the scholarly game is the only game in town which is designed to preserve this dialectic: the creation of aporias - the blazing of new trails in the jungle of understanding - the creation of new aporias - and so on.
No blaze trailing is a solitary effort – the lonely pioneer who pushes ahead is a figment of our individualistic imagination. I have been particularly lucky in my scholarly life to have come across colleagues without whose trust and cooperation I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything. I am grateful to the EGOS Board for entrusting the editorship of Organization Studies to me in 2003. The editorship gave me the opportunity to self-consciously shape the intellectual agenda of the journal and contribute indirectly, even a tiny bit, to the broader discourse of the field.
I am grateful to Ann Langley for joining forces with me to create the International Symposium on Process Organization Studies and the accompanying Oxford University Press book series. Without Ann’s enviable scholarship and rare collegiality, none of these projects would have come to fruition as successfully as they have. Thank you Ann for this rewarding intellectual companionship. This award is as much for me as it is for you.
And, again, my sincere thanks to the OMT Division for this great honor. In scholarship, recognition is more important for the activity it draws attention to than the persons engaged in it. Eucharisto poly.
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