46: Classics of Management and Organization Theory – AoM 2018 Workshop LIVE

With Speakers Paul Adler, Silvia Dorado, Siobhan O’Mahony, and Marc Ventresca

A special recording from a workshop on management classics held at the 2018 Academy of Management Conference in Chicago. Hosted by Pedro, this PDW intended to raise interest towards classic authors/ideas in the field of organization and management theory. It offered scholars from all levels the opportunity to reflect on insights of earlier scholarship and their relevance for current research, complementing the strong emphasis (on new ideas and approaches. This is of great importance as the field has thus far been more attentive to disruptions than continuities; pursuing novelty over tradition.

In the workshop, senior scholars presented talks on four classic authors (Karl Marx, Mary Parker Follett, Mary Douglas, and Albert Hirschman) to discuss their contemporary relevance. This was followed by a roundtable discussion limited to fifty participants.

The workshop demonstrated how attentive (re)readings of classic scholarship reaffirm time and time again their enduring importance. The discussion provided valuable insights on central organizational research problematics (e.g., coordination and control), stimulated complex thinking, enabled analytical comparisons between current and past phenomena (e.g., industrialization and digitization), and serve as ‘exemplars’ of academic excellence and of research that is problem-driven and focused on real-world issues.

We are working to include a similar workshop at next year’s conference and hope to make this a routine event at future AOMs!

Available on the website are four flyers prepared by the Talking About Organizations team that introduce each of the classic authors and a set of photographs from the event. We hope you enjoy the discussion!

All of us at Talking About Organizations are to the four terrific speakers – Paul, Silvia, Siobhan, and Marc – for their outstanding contributions!

Flyers of the Four Classic Authors Discussed:

Click on the links below to access the information sheets provided at the workshop.

Albert O. Hirschman | Karl Marx | Mary Douglas | Mary Parker Follett

Photos from the Workshop (click on a thumbnail to enlarge):
To find out more:

Adler, P. S. (2009). A social science which forgets its founders is lost. In The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies Classical Foundations. Oxford University Press.

Barley, S. R. (2015). 60th Anniversary Essay: Ruminations on How We Became a Mystery House and How We Might Get Out. Administrative Science Quarterly, 1–8.

Davis, G. F. (2016). Organization Theory and the Dilemmas of a Post-Corporate Economy. Research in the Sociology of Organizations (Vol. 48, pp. 311–322). Emerald Group
Publishing Limited.

Davis, G. F., & Zald, M. N. (2009). Sociological Classics and the Canon in the Study of Organizations (pp. 1–13). Oxford University Press.

Gay, du, P., & Vikkelsø, S. (2016). For Formal Organization. Oxford University Press.

Hallett, T., and M. J. Ventresca (2006). “Inhabited Institutions: Social Interactions and Organizational Forms in Gouldner’s Patterns of Industrial Bureaucracy.” Theory and
Society, 35: 213–236.

Hinings, C. R., Greenwood, R., & Meyer, R. (2016). Dusty Books?: the liability of oldness. Academy of Management Review.

Kilduff, M., & Dougherty, D. (2000). Change and Development in a Pluralistic World: the View From the Classics. Academy of Management Review, 25(4), 777–782.

Lounsbury, M., & Carberry, E. J. (2016). From King to Court Jester? Weber’s Fall from Grace in Organizational Theory. Organization Studies, 26(4), 501–525.

Pugh, D. S., & Hickson, D. J. (2007). Writers on organizations.

Stinchcombe, A. L. (1982). Should sociologists forget their mothers and fathers? The American Sociologist, 17, 2–11.

Thornton, P. H. (2009). The Value of the Classics: 1–19. In The Oxford Handbook of Sociology and Organization Studies Classical Foundations. Oxford University Press.

40: Symposium on the Gig Economy LIVE


The TAOP Symposium on the Gig Economy was a unique, one-day interdisciplinary symposium on the forms and effects of management in the contemporary sharing (a.k.a. gig) economy that took place on 15 December 2017 at the University of Sussex. Blending individual and panel presentations from leading scholars and commentators with group conversations, we wanted to examine the continuities – as well as disruptions – in the ways that work is organised through, and in light of, online platforms such as uber, deliveroo, upwork.

The aim of the symposium was to advance understanding of the sharing economy, with particular attention to its relation to the classics in management and organizational scholarship; as well as to explore methods suitable to grasp the sharing economy as an object of inquiry.

We are extremely pleased with all the wonderful feedback received from the delegates, as well as with developmental feedback – thank you all so much! Reflecting on the original goals of the symposium, it seems that our ambition to hold three types of conversation in one day was perhaps too ambitious. The keynote, panels and all the panelists were amazing, but did not leave as much space for open discourse as we had envisioned. Still, the conversations we did witness and take part in were phenomenal and it really was rewarding to engage with such a diverse group of first-class (Taylor pun intended) scholars.


You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3



32: Organizational Stupidity with Mats Alvesson and Bjorn Erik Mork LIVE

With Special Guests Mats Alvesson and Bjørn Erik Mørk

Mats Alvesson

Bjørn Erik Mørk

Ralph attended the 2017 Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities conference in Valladolid, Spain and had the opportunity to discuss The Stupidity Paradox: The Power and Pitfalls of Functional Stupidity at Work (Profile Books), co-authored by Mats Alvesson and André Spicer, with Mats Alvesson (keynote speaker) and Bjørn Erik Mørk (OLKC board member). This was another special recording to bring listeners engaging conversations about current work in organizational science and learning. Thanks to the OLKC 2017 organizing committee for making this possible.

OLKC is an annual conference that gathers scholars and practitioners in the field of Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities to present and discuss their latest research and practice.

“Functional stupidity” is the term used by Alvesson and Spicer to describe a strange phenomenon they observed in practice: smart people in organizations that do seemingly not smart things because people are discouraged to think and reflect. Examples of functional stupidity include being encouraged not to ask difficult questions, not “rocking the boat,” adoption of management fads and excessive focus on brand and image. In rare cases, functional stupidity can be adaptive because it supports order and stability, but there is great potential for catastrophe in the form of financial insolvency, organizational chaos, and technical error that leads to loss of life. Mats, Bjørn, and Ralph talked about functional stupidity and real world implications for nearly an hour after Mats’ keynote speech at the conference.

We hope you find their conversation engaging and stimulating!

You may also download the audio file here:  E32

31: Process Studies, PROS and Institutional Theory LIVE

With Special Guests Trish Reay, Tammar Zilber, Hari Tsoukas, and Ann Langley

Ann Langley

Hari Tsoukas

Trish Reay

Tammar Zilber

Please join us for the first of two fascinating special episodes recorded from the International Process Symposium 2017. The aim of the Symposium is to consolidate, integrate, and further develop ongoing efforts to advance a sophisticated process perspective in organization and management studies. PROS is an annual event, organized in conjunction with the annual series Perspectives on Process Organization Studies published by Oxford University Press, and it takes place in a Greek island, in June every year.

In the first installment, Dmitrijs and Ella sit down to talk to Professors Trish Reay (University of Alberta) and Tammar Zilber (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) about institutional theory. The second is a conversation that Dmitrijs and Ella had with Professors Hari Tsoukas and Ann Langley about the process view in general and about PROS, as an academic congregation, in particular. At the end of the episode, Hari and Ann say a few words about the 2018 conference, it’s theme and the motivation behind it.

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2

21: Small Research, Big Issues with Brian Pentland and Katharina Dittrich LIVE

From the ‘Connections in Action’ workshop held by the IKON Research Unit at the University of Warwick, 5-6 December 2016

(Left-to-Right) Brian, Katharina, Dmitrijs, and Pedro

What a treat! Joining us for this Special Episode from the fascinating ‘Connections in Action’ workshop at the University of Warwick are Katharina Dittrich and Brian Pentland (aka Doctor Decade)! To our great delight, Doctor Decade provided the live intro music for this episode and even performed one of his songs (Ruts in the Road)! 

This episode has been recorded in two parts – Part 1 before the event, where Dmitrijs, Pedro, Katharina and Brian discussed what may be the issues of interest with regards to drawing connections between the macro and the micro, and Part 2, recorded after the workshop, where they reflected on all the new things that they have learned.

One of the challenges that process, practice and organizational routine studies share with other micro-sociological approaches is how to deal with some of the ‘big issues’ or ‘grand challenges’ of our times. Examples of such issues include the nature and functioning of financial markets, the rise and fall of large institutional arrangements, the global travel of idea and ideologies, inequality, the bureaucracy and its failures, climate change and the future of the planet.

The aim of the workshop was to bring together scholars who explore how we can account for and keep track of large phenomena utilising existing and new ‘micro-sociological’ and relational approaches in organization studies. The purpose of this was to (1) advance theorizing about large social phenomena, (2) re-imagine our methods of inquiry in a way that they are more productive in dealing with the complexity of contemporary organizing, (3) exchange about the challenges in doing this kind of research and (4) develop exemplary studies that pave the way for a new stream of research. The workshop was be speculative in character with the intent to learn from each other and generate new ideas through dialogue and listening. So, needless to say, this was amazing and you should definitely keep an eye out for the second iteration of the event which will take place in Zurich, Switzerland.

Also, as a bonus, here is one of the methodological postcards recorded by the editorial team of the podcast exclusively for this event. This one is provided by Dr. Christian Bueger. Enjoy!  

You may also download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2

Also read a similar reflection on another academic event — our own Ella Hafermalz’s “Reflections on the ‘Process and Practice Perspectives on Organisation Studies’ Workshop at the University of Queensland Business School

15: Doing Interesting Research with Jorgen Sandberg LIVE

With Special Guest Dr. Jorgen Sandberg

This episode suitable for everyone, but should be especially useful for PhD and early-career researchers!

Jorgen Sandberg

What is it about research that makes it interesting? Or, rather, at which point does a study become interesting (or not)? The more common answer to these questions would most certainly place emphasis on the results and outcomes of a study – i.e. the research is interesting if the findings are interesting. In their 2013 book – Constructing Research Questions: Doing interesting research – Mats Alvesson (Lund University, Sweden) and Jorgen Sandberg (University of Queensland, Australia) propose that the focal point of what contributes to something being interesting is found way before any results or implications. The focal point of what makes a research interesting has to do with the assumptions that go into the design of that research. 

This book is just as relevant for new researchers and research students as it is for more seasoned academics (albeit for different reasons). First and foremost it highlights the need to be creative and self-aware when formulating research questions. Alvesson and Sandberg, however, go beyond mere critique and also specific ways of how to overcome some of the issues that make research less interesting.

In the book, Alvesson and Sandberg develop a problematization methodology for identifying and challenging the assumptions underlying existing theories and for generating research questions that can lead to more interesting and influential theories, using examples from across the social sciences. They highlight that established methods of generating research questions tend to focus on ‘gap-spotting’. While they emphasize that there is nothing inherently wrong with this method, the overuse of it does mean that existing literature remains largely unchallenged. Alvesson and Sandberg show the dangers of conventional approaches, providing detailed ideas for how one can work through such problems and formulate novel research questions that challenge existing theories and produce more imaginative empirical studies. Joining us for this disc is Professor Jorgen Sandberg, one of the authors of the book! We sat down with Jorgen to talk about his work and get some clarifications about what is it that makes research interesting (and for whom), how is this relevant to new and experienced academics and what is the purpose of writing a book such as this. 

All researchers want to produce interesting and influential theories. A key step in all theory development is formulating innovative research questions that will result in interesting and significant research!

You may also download the audio files here:  E15

Read with us:

Alvesson, M. and Sandberg, J. (2013). Constructing research questions : doing interesting research. London: Sage Publications, 2013.

Alvesson M. and Sandberg J. (2011). Generating Research Questions through ProblematizationAcademy of Management Review, 36(2), 247-271.

To Learn More:

Okimoto, T. (2014). Toward More Interesting Research Questions: Problematizing Theory in Social JusticeSocial Justice Research, 27: 395-411.

Alvesson, M. and Sandberg, J. (2014). Has management studies lost its way? Ideas for more imaginative and innovative research. Journal of Management Studies, 50: 128-152.

Alvesson, M. and Sandberg, J. (2014). Habitat and habitus: Boxed-in versus box-breaking researchOrganization Studies, 21: 967-987.

Book Review: Constructing Research Questions: Doing Interesting Research by Mats Alvesson & Jorgen Sandberg by Joanna Lenihan

Book Review by Professor Jean M. Bartunek, Department of Management and Organization, Boston College.

12: On the Value of Conferences with Emma Bell and Paul Duguid LIVE

From the Organizational Learning, Knowledge, and Capabilities (OLKC) 2016 Conference, St. Andrews, Scotland

In late April 2016 Dmitrijs and Ralph happened to co-attend a conference on Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities together. Even though this was not a podcast-centred event, they decided to take the opportunity to try something different and record an episode in situ (as opposed to our regular, geographically distributed model) AND with two guests. On top of this they video-taped the whole thing! Below is a chronicle of those pioneering events…

A few words about the Conference first! The OLKC annual conference provides a meeting point for scholars and practitioners interested in the field of Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities (hence the name!). It is a comparatively small, supporting yet growing and dynamic community that brings leading scholars, young researchers, and scholar-practitioners together to present and discuss their research and practice. In many ways, OLKC is a fantastic compromise between smaller events aimed at only a very specific sub-group of scholars, and huge events where people see each other at the reception and then never again. For Talking About Organizations, OLKC holds special significance as this is where Dmitrijs and Pedro met Ralph back in 2014, thus cementing the future cast of this pod (pod + cast, right?).

OLKC 2016, which was held in St. Andrews, Scotland, by the lovely people out of the University of Saint Andrews, bore witness as Dmitrijs and Ralph were joined by Professors Paul Duguid and Emma Bell to talk about the value and form of conferences in promoting, disseminating and facilitating knowledge. The four of us shared some personal conference-attending experiences, considered the current format and emergent alternatives, and pondered on the nature of knowledge as such. In addition, we learned that Paul, just like Ralph, came into academia as a practitioner (unlike Dmitrijs and Emma who are ‘pure’ academics), and what that experience was like!

Also, a great, big Thank you goes to the Board of OLKC, who kindly allowed us to make this episode happen and provided an unexpected degree of support! Also, we are grateful to Dr. Gail Greig, Dr. Kevin Orr and Christopher Mueller for their direct assistance!

You may also download the audio files here: Part 1 | Part 2