Wendy Smith: "Paradox theory: a lens for understanding organizational tensions".
In an increasingly global world with high technological progress and new organizational forms, organizations and their leaders constantly have to deal with competing demands. Effectively managing these tensions is vital for an organization’s success and even survival.
To address these tensions, scholars have applied insights from theories of paradox, dualities and dialectics (Schad, Lewis, Raisch, & Smith, 2016, Smith and Lewis, 2011). Together, these approaches challenge academics and practitioners to explore both the contradictory and interdependent nature of such tensions. At the organizational level, scholars have explored tensions inherent to ambidexterity, organizational change (Lüscher & Lewis, 2008), organizational identity, and social responsibility.
At the individual level, studies expound our understanding of competing demands embedded in creativity, leadership and everyday work experiences. This proliferation of research suggests the value of a paradoxical approach to understanding and addressing our increasingly complex world (Schad et al., 2016; Smith & Lewis, 2011). In this masterclass, we will explore insights from research about the nature and management of paradox. We will unpack key 2 dimensions of paradox as contradictory, interdependent, persistent and unresolvable tensions. We will further explore strategies for addressing paradox from individual emotional and cognitive approaches, as well as organizational practices of differentiating and integrating. Finally, we will investigate how paradox theory can inform your own research questions.