Grand Challenges and Robust Action

Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited

My latest paper — Tackling Grand Challenges Pragmatically: Robust Action Revisited — is now available online. Co-authored with Fabrizio Ferraro (IESE Business School in Bacelona) and Dror Etzion (McGill University in Montreal), in the paper we theorize a novel approach to addressing the world’s grand challenges based on the philosophical tradition of American pragmatism and the sociological concept of robust action. Grounded in prior empirical organizational research, we identify three robust strategies that organizations can employ in tackling issues such as climate change and poverty alleviation: participatory architecture, multivocal inscriptions and distributed experimentation. We demonstrate how these strategies operate, the manner in which they are linked, the outcomes they generate, and why they are applicable for resolving grand challenges. We conclude by discussing our contributions to research on robust action and grand challenges, as well as some implications for research on stakeholder theory, institutional theory and theories of valuation.

For those without access to a university library, the paper is available through ResearchGate.

Phenomenology and Institutional Theory

Another paper I recently completed is entitled “Phenomenology and institutional theory: Should institution be taken for granted?”

This paper investigates the concept of institution, a concept which has been used by scholars from across a number of disciplines to explain a wide variety of phenomena. Among organization scholars working in this tradition, one fundamental idea is that institutions become taken for granted to some degree. Over the years this linkage between the two concepts has itself become institutionalized and taken for granted. Any sense of difference that may have once existed between institution and taken for granted seems to have been forgotten.

In an effort to retrieve this distinction, the paper returns to Husserl, on whose philosophy these concepts rest. In doing so we find a richness and distinction otherwise glossed by merely reciting the idea that institution becomes taken for granted. The paper concludes that institution and taken for granted are phenomenologically distinct concepts. Through writing and documentation institution can become taken for granted. However, the process is reversible. Indeed Husserl’s real project seems to have been a demonstration of how taken for granted can and must become institution if we are to ever truly know ourselves and our world.

You can download a copy of the paper at the link below, or by visiting the Research section of my blog. As always, I invite your comments and feedback.

Download Working Paper From SSRN (93k .pdf)