36th EGOS Colloquium
Organizing for a Sustainable Future:
Responsibility, Renewal & Resistance
University of Hamburg
July 2–4, 2020
36th EGOS Colloquium
July 2–4, 2020
Contemporary organizations operate increasingly according to a logic of speed and instantaneity, while at the same time
increasing their temporal spans to either draw upon their histories or to cope with distant future challenges (Schultz &
Hernes, 2013). Within widely varying “temporal depths” (Bluedorn, 2002), different organizational actors carve out wide combinations
of temporal structures (Ancona et al., 2001) and trajectories (Lawrence et al., 2001) that shape the organizations themselves
and their relationships with other organizational actors. Recent work in organization theory has begun the search for ways
to analytically and empirically handle the temporal complexity that organizational actors face (Hussenot & Missonier,
2016). This sub-theme aims to extend this work through joint inquiry.
Within organization theory, many of the actions and outcomes we study are the result of processes that occur over long periods of time (Bluedorn & Denhardt, 1988; Goodman et al., 2001; Lee & Liebenau, 1999). These processes reach into the distant past, but also stretch into the unknown future. In spite of this, within much macro-level research, temporal issues are rarely theorized rigorously. As such, we seek to host a discussion among colleagues from across the range of organization theories to (a) more comprehensively theorize the past, present, and future in relation to organizations and organizing, and (b) stimulate work on theories of time itself (Pierson, 2004). This discussion, we believe, will have profound implications for our understanding of organizations and how they evolve. In particular, this sub-theme builds on the first sub-theme of the SWG (in 2019) to focus on the various ways the past are used in organizations and enacted in the present. We also include topics related to how expectations for the future intersect with uses of the past. Organizations draw upon their own past across widely different timespans, which may extend from a few days to centuries; they also draw upon past practices and symbols from craft, traditions, regions, or myths (e.g., Dacin et al., 2018; Schultz & Hernes, 2013).
Our goal for this sub-theme, therefore, is twofold – to more comprehensively theorize the past, present, and future in relation to organizations and organizing (e.g., fostering more complete analyses of complex temporal processes), but also to stimulate theory about the past, present, and future in a phenomenological sense. We seek to build an inclusive conversation that appeals to many theories and methods within organization theory. For example, we are not simply interested in understanding long periods of time as path-dependent processes, but in understanding things like temporal trajectories, time as a social construct, the past as a resource in the present, and the cumulative evolution of institutions and their underlying values.
The resulting discussion presents the opportunity for an exciting avenue of research that includes, but is not limited, to the following:
To explore the effects of “ancestry” and “legacy” on the founding, evolution, and dissolution of descendent organizations (Walsh & Bartunek, 2011).
To understand the role of rhetoric in constructing history that serves as a source of competitive advantage for organizations (Suddaby et al., 2010).
To focus on the nature of the distant past, exploring how organizations draw on historical artifacts and narratives to build authenticity and shape identity (Hatch & Schultz, 2017).
To understand how organizations and other social actors use history strategically to foster identification with key stakeholders (Suddaby et al., 2015).
To study character and values as historically-accreted commitments that create meaning for individuals within institutional contexts (Chandler, 2014; Kraatz & Flores, 2015).
To conceptualize how distant pasts and distant futures connect, in the present (Chandler & Foster, 2015; Schultz & Hernes, forthcoming). Distant pasts can be evoked in the present, but in a processual or pragmatist view any evoking of the past has a future orientation.
In this spirit, researchers across the range of organization theories are encouraged to apply for this sub-theme to help place the past, present, and future on a firmer theoretical footing. Our goal is to foster discussions that encompass theory (e.g., path dependence, sedimentation) and methodology (e.g., qualitative analysis, rhetorical analysis) to enable the more effective theorization and empirical study of the essential role of the past, present, and future in understanding organizations and organizing processes.