Sub-theme 78: Using the Arts to Re-vision Sustainable Ways of Organizing

Donna M. Ladkin
Antioch University, USA
Hanna Lehtimäki
University of Eastern Finland, Finland
Steven Scott Taylor
WPI Foisie Business School, USA

Call for Papers

Our ways of organizing need to be seen from fresh perspectives in order for business and society to move towards sustainability. As a major shift from the current extractive economic model, sustainable circular economy (CE) requires a systemic transition, an extensive and radical change, in the prevalent societal and business systems (Geels & Schot, 2007). Sustainable circular economy involves re-designing products, services, and business models to minimize waste and to extend the value of products and materials. It requires the inclusion of environmental, social and cultural values along with economic values in the assessment of any operation’s impact. In disrupting the dominant linear logic of economic development, sustainable CE triggers both resistance to change and the imagination to create novel solutions. Such a profound transformation engages with emotions and changes the cultural narratives and worldviews.
The arts can foster the development of new discourses and sense-making in service of organizing for sustainability. The power of visual images as compelling catalysts in the systemic transition has already been manifested in the raised awareness of climate change by images of ocean plastics and polar bears suffering from melting ice. The arts an catalyse systemic transition in encouraging self-motivation of agency, prompting reflection on sustainability issues, creating visions of a sustainable circular economy, designing out waste and pollution, finding ways to keep products and materials in use longer, and regenerating natural systems. Artistic methods and actions can make us see things from a new angle.
This sub-theme aims to foster conversations about ways in which artists and art-based interventions can be utilized to develop new languages and ways of understanding the requirements of sustainable circular economy approaches. Arts-based methods are increasingly utilized in organizational development processes (Taylor & Ladkin, 2009) and have been recognized for their ability to spark innovation (Ibbotson & Darso, 2008) foster greater attentional capacity, (Springborg, 2010), enable individuals to manage their emotions more effectively (Taylor & Statler, 2009) and generate spaces in which people can create alternative visions for new futures (Barry & Meisiek, 2010). Additionally, there is a growing interest in how the arts and art-based interventions can be used to bring about more sustainable ways of living (Dieleman, 2007). In order to develop that stream of inquiry, we invite papers, performances, and artistic research projects, which explore how artistic sensibility and arts-based interventions can be leveraged to help develop more socially and ecologically sustainable ways of organizing our communities, societies, and work organizations.
We imagine topics of interest would include (but not be limited to) areas such as:

  • How can artists help us to rethink organizational dynamics and flows?

  • What is artistic sensibility and how can it help us to rethink business and organizations?

  • Case studies which have applied particular art-based methods to organizational restructuring

  • How can artists and organizational designers speak to one another in productive ways?

  • How do artists conceptualize ‘sustainability’ and how can those ways of conceptualizing it be applied to organizations?

  • How can artistic interventions be applied to particular organizational systems aimed at delivering sustainable ways of operating, such as creating circular economy relationships?

  • Are there particular barriers to artists working with organizations or enablers which can increase their effectiveness?

  • How might arts-based interventions foster engagement from a wide variety of stakeholders in order to create more sustainable futures?


  • Barry, D., & Meisiek, S. (2010): “Seeing more and seeing differently: Sensemaking, mindfulness, and the workarts.” Organization Studies, 31 (11), 1505–1530.
  • Dieleman, H. (2007): “Sustainablity, art and reflexivity: Why artists and designers may become key change agents in sustainability.” European Sociological Association Conference: New Frontiers in Arts Sociology, 1–26.
  • Geels, F., & Schot, J. (2007): “Typology of sociotechnical transition pathways.” Research Policy, 36 (3), 399–417.
  • Ibbotson, P., & Darso, L. (2008): “Directing creativity: The art and craft of creative leadership.” Journal of Management and Organization, 14 (5), 548–559.
  • Springborg, C. (2010): “Leadership as art – Leaders coming to their senses.” Leadership, 6 (3), 243–258.
  • Taylor, S.S., & Ladkin, D. (2009): “Understanding arts-based methods in managerial development.” Academy of Management Learning and Education, 8 (1), 55–69.
  • Taylor, S.S., & Statler, M. (2009): “Material matters: Using media to manage emotion in arts-based learning processes.” Working paper.
Donna M. Ladkin is Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Antioch University’s Graduate School of Leadership Change, USA. She is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of leadership with a particular interest in the aesthetics of leadership and how arts-based methods can be used in the development of ethical mastery. Donna has published in journals such as ‘Leadership Quarterly’, ‘Business Ethics Quarterly’, ‘Academy of Mangement Learning and Education’, and ‘Journal of Business Ethics’. The second edition of her award-winning book, “Rethinking Leadership: A New Look at Old Leadership Questions”, will be published in 2020 by Edward Elgar.
Hanna Lehtimäki is Professor of Innovation Management at the University of Eastern Finland Business School, Finland. Her research examines innovation and renewal with theoretical frameworks on strategic management, stakeholder theory, leadership and social network analysis. In her research, Hanna focuses on constructionist meaning making, language, a humanist view on strategizing and relational leadership. She has over 60 academic peer-reviewed publications and a broad experience in the societal impact of research.
Steven Scott Taylor is Professor of Leadership and Creativity and the Interim Dean at the WPI Foisie Business School, USA. His research is focused in two areas: organizational aesthetics and reflective practice. The former applies art-based scholarship and practice to management and organizations; the latter focuses on the ability to analyze our own actions and learn how to be more effective, ethical, and artful as managers and leaders. Steven’s research has been published in academic journals including ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Leadership Quarterly’, ‘Leadership’, ‘Academy of Management Learning and Education’, and ‘Journal of Management Studies’.