Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022 – the theory of practice and the practice of theory

Practitioners often have an ambivalent relationship with theory, and much academic writing may not help. Academic articles can often seem obscure and are usually aimed at other academics rather than managers and consultants working in every day organisational life. Scholars in business schools have long been aware of the problem and have written about the crisis of relevance of organisational scholarship. Equally, there may also be a tendency among consultants to climb aboard the latest bandwagon, to try too quickly to squeeze complex ideas into grids and frameworks, and to instrumentalise. Consultants are paid to know and perhaps to simplify.

How, then to navigate between the potential collapse of important ideas into instrumental two by two girds and frameworks, on the one hand, and the kind of knowledge that is valued in the Academy? What kind of knowledge do we need from practice for practice?

During next year’s Complexity and Management Conference, June 3-5th 2022, we are delighted to welcome Prof Davide Nicolini to help stimulate our thinking about practice and knowledge.  Davide is Professor of Organization Studies at Warwick Business School where he co-directs the IKON Research Centre and co-ordinates the Practice, Process and Institution Research Programme. His current research focuses on the development of the practice-based approach and the refinement and promotion of processual, relational and materialist research methods. 

As usual the currency of the conference is discussion, and the weekend will comprise lots of opportunities to talk about the experience of trying to get things done together. The conference will begin 7pm Friday 3rd June and end at lunchtime on the Sunday. The booking website will go up in the New Year.

3 thoughts on “Complexity and Management Conference 3-5th June 2022 – the theory of practice and the practice of theory

  1. Chris Biggadike

    I am very excited to see this. My PhD is on the application of Complexity Leadership theory and I am just about to start a 2 year Action Research programme in a large organization. I will definitely do everything I can to be there.

    Reply
  2. Farshid Azadegan

    Disappointed to read the opening paragraph: “Practitioners often have an ambivalent relationship with theory, and much academic writing may not help.”
    Isn’t this a rather grand generalization? and most un-CRP perspective?
    Sadly the disappointment continued in reading the rest of the paragraph: “ .. Academic articles can often seem obscure … “
    Surely some academic articles may well seem (feel) obscure to some either the first time or depending on their mind sets at the time, etc.. but isn’t this a reflection of the complex responsive processes of how each of us engage with a reading rather than an fixed attribute of the particular article? Doesn’t meaning of every single word, phrase or paragraph emerge and evolve in each interaction (conversations with others, or even a second read of the paragraph / article)
    Other disappointments included in the way, probably a rather overlooked way, that the sentences set out to divide e.g. “ .. (some) consultants (i.e. the bad ones) to climb aboard the latest bandwagon, to try too quickly to squeeze complex ideas into grids and frameworks, and to instrumentalise.
    My disappointment peaked in reading the ‘rescue’ paragraph: “How, then to navigate between the potential collapse of important ideas into instrumental two by two girds and frameworks, on the one hand, and the kind of knowledge that is valued in the Academy?
    Isn’t a strand of CRP perspective concepts critique of prescriptivity, “How to” and “Self-help & self-improvement” books, literature and TV makeover shows and online consultancy sites, dieting sites about how we can, if ‘we’ want to, bring about change (class-based, changing our bodies, minds, thinking ..)?
    I’d welcome any comments please? Thanks

    Reply
    1. Gerrit Van Wyk

      The problem is not with the statements, the problem is they point to another question; why is that so? The theory of CRP struggles with the same issue; what does the complexity of CRP mean? To all of us raised in and practicing in a Western clockwork mindset complexity is a thing that can be taken apart and studied, but what if complexity is the ontology instead? Once you walk through that door everything changes and so does your understanding of the questions above. What I am arguing for is Tsoukas’ argument complexity is not a thing, it is how you see reality, or your ontology to use the academic term; something is not inherently complex, the more parts and interactions you add to what you look at the more complex it becomes and the more you ignore or take away the simpler, which is our Western clockwork ontology. Two-by-twos and just about all of our research, theories, and methodologies are based on the latter which is why they break down if reality is complex, not simple. By definition you cannot simplify complexity. The theory of CRP takes a step in the right direction by pointing out complexity is like a CAS but then stops short of passing through the door. There is a magic world on the other side of that door but be warned of two things. Doing so takes away the firm intellectual ground we all stand on and is destabilizing in a similar way to dropping Newtonian for quantum mechanics. In the same way it better describes important aspects of social reality. Secondly, in a Kuhnian way the ontological paradigm is clockwork; expect to become an outsider and rejected if you do. Desperately hanging on to the paradigm is not intellectually based, it is social and psychological. Your last paragraph points to what is on the other side of the door; the navigating is accepting clockwork as reality, the non-prescriptivity is complexity. I am not rejecting the theory of CRP, I use it but also consider what it could look like if taken to its full consequences. Perhaps this makes a little bit of sense, or perhaps not.

      Reply

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