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Tackling Grand Challenges: Research Prospects at the Intersection of Robust Action Strategies and Power

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These slides accompanied a talk I gave at the 2017 Academy of Management Annual Meeting, August 7, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia, USA as part of a symposium on "Addressing Grand Challenges with Institutional Research: The Critical Role of Power." The session was organized by Florian Ueberbacher (University of Zurich), Giuseppe Delmestri (WU Vienna University of Economics and Business), and Elizabeth Goodrick (Florida Atlantic University). Presenters included: Joel Gehman (University of Alberta), Johanna Mair (Hertie School of Governance), Kamal Munir (University of Cambridge), and Florian Ueberbacher (University of Zurich). Discussants were Royston Greenwood (University of Alberta) and Andreas Georg Scherer (University of Zurich). The Symposium was sponsored by the Organization and Management Theory Division and co-sponsored by the Social Issues in Management and Critical Management Studies Divisions.

Abstract:
This symposium focuses on how grand challenges can be addressed by taking an institutional theory perspective, and it puts particular emphasis on the role of power in this regard. Taking an institutional theory lens for the study of grand challenges has the advantage of both improving our understanding of grand challenges and of further developing theory. In this symposium, we will focus on the role of investigating different forms of power for making institutional theory particularly appropriate and relevant for the study of grand challenges. In particular, we will critically evaluate (1) what the types and constellations of systemic forms of power are that underpin grand challenges, and (2) what types and constellations of episodic forms are necessary to tame and resolve grand challenges. The format we are proposing will create an environment of active debate among scholars from the fields of organization theory, business and society, and critical management studies.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Tackling Grand Challenges: Research Prospects at the Intersection of Robust Action Strategies and Power

  1. 1. Tackling Grand Challenges: Research Prospects at the Intersection of Robust Action Strategies and Power Joel Gehman Academy of Management Annual Meeting @joelgehman August 7, 2017
  2. 2. The issues we face are so big and the targets are so challenging that we cannot do it alone, so there is a certain humility and a recognition that we need to invite other people in. When you look at any issue, such as food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution. -- Paul Polman CEO of Unilever
  3. 3. “formulations of global problems that can be plausibly addressed through coordinated and collaborative effort.”
  4. 4. 1) What counts as a global problem, and which of the many potential formulations of such problems should prevail? 2) What counts as addressing such a challenge, and who might adjudicate whether and when this has occurred at all, to say nothing of globally? 3) How might we coordinate and collaborate on such efforts, which would seem to necessarily occur across people, places and times?
  5. 5. Robust Action: noncommittal actions that keep future lines of action open in strategic contexts where opponents are trying to narrow them Padgett & Powell, 2012
  6. 6. Tackling Grand Challenges at the Intersection of Robust Action and Power Faces of power (i.e., coercion, manipulation, domination, subjectification) Sites of power (i.e., power enacted in, through, over, and against) Grand challenges (i.e., complexity, uncertainty and evaluativity) • What role do the different faces of power play in the constitution of grand challenges? • What is the role of grand challenges in the constitution of these faces of power? • How is power sited in, through, over and against grand challenges? • How do grand challenges provide sites for power? Robust action strategies (i.e., participatory architecture, multivocal inscription and distributed experimentation) • How do robust action strategies enable and constrain the faces of power? • How do the faces of power enable and constrain robust action strategies? • How do robust action strategies enable and constrain sites of power? • How do sites of power enable and constrain robust action strategies?
  7. 7. Thank You!

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