Crises, Rare, and Oddball Events: Strategic Opportunity or Strategic Drift?
CERAM Sophia Antipolis (France)
University of California at Los Angeles (USA)
University of Metz (France)
Call for papers
Crises, rare, and other unusual events may precipitate organizational change. They sometimes are a catalyst for jolting the organization into a strategic redirection, especially when there is strategic will to use them that way. The event may be what was needed to break blockages, to change and mobilize around a new strategy. When this happens, then even negative events may be looked back upon with the adage 'there is a silver lining in every cloud'. In other cases the organizations are too set in their ways to be capable of effective adaptive response to the event, which then accentuates problems and may be viewed as the starting point of strategic drift. We dub such events 'organizing' in the same sense in which a magnet organizes randomly distributed ferrous objects in its field of attraction; we are interested in events that realign strategic priorities in an organization, and in understanding how this happens.
This sub-theme focuses on the way in which oddball events affect corporate strategy and on the central question of controlling their effect to the advantage of the organization. We are not focusing on strategies for crisis management, or on strategies to anticipate the events. Rather, we propose to look at how organizations use those events in reshaping their overall strategy.
Examples abound from within and without the corporate world, of upsetting events being astutely used to give a new strategic impetus that would otherwise have been impossible or significantly more difficult to achieve. For instance, the French authorities used the need for mob control after the revolution of 1848 to justify the remodeling of the city of Paris by Baron Haussmann, destroying much of the medieval town and creating the now widely admired boulevards. In more recent times the fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe highlighted the necessity of formulating and implementing new strategic responses in the conditions of post-rupture discontinuity. Product crises and scandals lead many corporations to fundamentally remake their strategic identity. Other companies, on the other hand, do not deal with crises strategically and drift in directions over which they have no control. If they arrive somewhere nice, it is by pure luck.
We invite contributions that shed light on what is it that makes organizations capable to confront unusual events and exploit opportunities created by them, as well as contributions that address the reverse situation, helping us to better understand processes that lead to failures or drift when faced with unforeseen and sudden change. Path dependency and organizational inertia may militate against adaptive capability, whereas anticipatory strategic processes, resolute decision-making, and flexible organizational designs may contribute positively. Participants may propose a variety of perspectives.
The sub-theme encourages theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions. To stimulate potential contributors, some example themes of interest follow:
- Theories or partial theories on the relationship between maintaining existing strategic and organizational processes and structures during crises on the one hand, versus using crises and rare events as cues for revitalizing strategy and organizing on the other
- Theories or partial theories on relationship between classical crisis management and utilization of crises for strategic realignment
- Reflections on the ontology of such events; even if their exact timing and characteristics can not be forecast, are there some general characteristics for which an organization can prepare?
- Other epistemological and methodological contributions for improving research on extreme events
- Quantitative studies of upsetting events and their effect on corporate strategy
- In-depth longitudinal case studies, covering specific organizations before, during and after the rare event.
About the convenors
Renata Kaminska-Labbé is professor of management at CERAM Sophia Antipolis School of Business where she lectures on strategy and organization. She is also a visiting professor at Leon Kozminski Academy of Management and Entrepreneurship, and Krakow University of Economics. She is educated in Poland, Canada and France and holds a Doctorate in Management from the University of Nice. She combines a career in teaching, research and continuous education. Her research focuses on knowledge management, strategy development and organizational design mainly in post-rupture contexts.
Bill McKelvey received his PhD from the Sloan School of Management at MIT and is Professor of Strategic Organizing at UCLA's Anderson Graduate School of Management. His book, Organizational Systematics (1982), remains a definitive treatment of organizational taxonomy and evolutionary theory. He co-founded of UCLA's Center for Human Complex Systems & Computational Social Science. Recently McKelvey co-edited Variations in Organization Science (with Joel Baum, 1999). Current publications focus on: philosophy of science; complexity science, econophysics, organization design; and agent-based, adaptive-learning models.
Catherine Thomas is a professor in Management at the University of Metz, France and a member of the RODIGE team of GREDEG (Groupe de Recherche en Droit, Economie et Gestion, UMR 6227, CNRS) research laboratory. Her current research interests include knowledge management and more precisely knowledge codification and the conception of ICT solutions in a use-oriented, co-constructionist perspective. She has coordinated an interdisciplinary project 'Knowledge Management Platform' whose objective was to develop and implement a competence based web site for a network of firms and research institutions in the telecommunication industry. Currently she also pilots a RODIGE research group working on the Dynamics of Knowledge and Competencies.