Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation: Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

Abstract

For many years within Organization Studies, broadly conceived, there was general agreement concerning the pitfalls of assuming a ‘one best way of organizing’. Organizations, it was argued, must balance different criteria of (e)valuation against one another – for example ‘exploitation’ and ‘exploration’ – depending on the situation at hand. However, in recent years a pre-commitment to values of a certain sort – expressed in a preference for innovation, improvisation and entrepreneurship over other criteria – has emerged within the field, thus shifting the terms of debate concerning organizational survival and flourishing firmly onto the terrain of ‘exploration’. This shift has been accompanied by the return of what we describe as a ‘metaphysical stance’ within Organization Studies. In this article we highlight some of the problems attendant upon the return of metaphysics to the field of organizational analysis, and the peculiar reemergence of a ‘one best way of organizing’ that it engenders. In so doing, we re-visit two classic examples of what we describe as ‘the empirical stance’ within organization theory – the work of Wilfred Brown on bureaucratic hierarchy, on the one hand, and that of Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch on integration and differentiation, on the other – in order to highlight the continuing importance of March’s argument that any organization is a balancing act between different and non-reducible criteria of (e)valuation. We conclude that the proper balance is not something that can be theoretically deduced or metaphysically framed, but should be based on a concrete description of the situation at hand.
For many years within Organization Studies, broadly conceived, there was general agreement concerning the pitfalls of assuming a ‘one best way of organizing’. Organizations, it was argued, must balance different criteria of (e)valuation against one another – for example ‘exploitation’ and ‘exploration’ – depending on the situation at hand. However, in recent years a pre-commitment to values of a certain sort – expressed in a preference for innovation, improvisation and entrepreneurship over other criteria – has emerged within the field, thus shifting the terms of debate concerning organizational survival and flourishing firmly onto the terrain of ‘exploration’. This shift has been accompanied by the return of what we describe as a ‘metaphysical stance’ within Organization Studies. In this article we highlight some of the problems attendant upon the return of metaphysics to the field of organizational analysis, and the peculiar reemergence of a ‘one best way of organizing’ that it engenders. In so doing, we re-visit two classic examples of what we describe as ‘the empirical stance’ within organization theory – the work of Wilfred Brown on bureaucratic hierarchy, on the one hand, and that of Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch on integration and differentiation, on the other – in order to highlight the continuing importance of March’s argument that any organization is a balancing act between different and non-reducible criteria of (e)valuation. We conclude that the proper balance is not something that can be theoretically deduced or metaphysically framed, but should be based on a concrete description of the situation at hand.
LanguageEnglish
Title of host publicationManaging ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials
EditorsMikael Holmqvist, André Spicer
Place of PublicationBingley
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Date2013
Pages249 - 279
ISBN (Print)9781781905050
ISBN (Electronic)9781781905067
DOIs
StatePublished - 2013
SeriesResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
Volume37
ISSN0733-558X

Keywords

    Cite this

    du Gay, P., & Vikkelsø, S. (2013). Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation: Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'. In M. Holmqvist, & A. Spicer (Eds.), Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials (pp. 249 - 279). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol.. 37, DOI: 10.1108/S0733-558X(2013)0000037013
    du Gay, Paul ; Vikkelsø, Signe. / Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation : Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'. Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials. editor / Mikael Holmqvist ; André Spicer. Bingley : Emerald Group Publishing, 2013. pp. 249 - 279 (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, ???volume??? 37).
    @inbook{686e4f8c1e634478846650208b30aa7b,
    title = "Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation: Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'",
    abstract = "For many years within Organization Studies, broadly conceived, there was general agreement concerning the pitfalls of assuming a ‘one best way of organizing’. Organizations, it was argued, must balance different criteria of (e)valuation against one another – for example ‘exploitation’ and ‘exploration’ – depending on the situation at hand. However, in recent years a pre-commitment to values of a certain sort – expressed in a preference for innovation, improvisation and entrepreneurship over other criteria – has emerged within the field, thus shifting the terms of debate concerning organizational survival and flourishing firmly onto the terrain of ‘exploration’. This shift has been accompanied by the return of what we describe as a ‘metaphysical stance’ within Organization Studies. In this article we highlight some of the problems attendant upon the return of metaphysics to the field of organizational analysis, and the peculiar reemergence of a ‘one best way of organizing’ that it engenders. In so doing, we re-visit two classic examples of what we describe as ‘the empirical stance’ within organization theory – the work of Wilfred Brown on bureaucratic hierarchy, on the one hand, and that of Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch on integration and differentiation, on the other – in order to highlight the continuing importance of March’s argument that any organization is a balancing act between different and non-reducible criteria of (e)valuation. We conclude that the proper balance is not something that can be theoretically deduced or metaphysically framed, but should be based on a concrete description of the situation at hand.",
    keywords = "Exploration, Exploitation, Learning, Metaphysical stance, Empirical stance, Task at hand",
    author = "{du Gay}, Paul and Signe Vikkels{\o}",
    year = "2013",
    doi = "10.1108/S0733-558X(2013)0000037013",
    language = "English",
    isbn = "9781781905050",
    pages = "249 -- 279",
    editor = "Mikael Holmqvist and Andr{\'e} Spicer",
    booktitle = "Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials",
    publisher = "Emerald Group Publishing",
    address = "United Kingdom",

    }

    du Gay, P & Vikkelsø, S 2013, Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation: Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'. in M Holmqvist & A Spicer (eds), Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials. Emerald Group Publishing, Bingley, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, vol. 37, pp. 249 - 279. DOI: 10.1108/S0733-558X(2013)0000037013

    Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation : Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'. / du Gay, Paul; Vikkelsø, Signe.

    Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials. ed. / Mikael Holmqvist; André Spicer. Bingley : Emerald Group Publishing, 2013. p. 249 - 279.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

    TY - CHAP

    T1 - Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation

    T2 - Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'

    AU - du Gay,Paul

    AU - Vikkelsø,Signe

    PY - 2013

    Y1 - 2013

    N2 - For many years within Organization Studies, broadly conceived, there was general agreement concerning the pitfalls of assuming a ‘one best way of organizing’. Organizations, it was argued, must balance different criteria of (e)valuation against one another – for example ‘exploitation’ and ‘exploration’ – depending on the situation at hand. However, in recent years a pre-commitment to values of a certain sort – expressed in a preference for innovation, improvisation and entrepreneurship over other criteria – has emerged within the field, thus shifting the terms of debate concerning organizational survival and flourishing firmly onto the terrain of ‘exploration’. This shift has been accompanied by the return of what we describe as a ‘metaphysical stance’ within Organization Studies. In this article we highlight some of the problems attendant upon the return of metaphysics to the field of organizational analysis, and the peculiar reemergence of a ‘one best way of organizing’ that it engenders. In so doing, we re-visit two classic examples of what we describe as ‘the empirical stance’ within organization theory – the work of Wilfred Brown on bureaucratic hierarchy, on the one hand, and that of Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch on integration and differentiation, on the other – in order to highlight the continuing importance of March’s argument that any organization is a balancing act between different and non-reducible criteria of (e)valuation. We conclude that the proper balance is not something that can be theoretically deduced or metaphysically framed, but should be based on a concrete description of the situation at hand.

    AB - For many years within Organization Studies, broadly conceived, there was general agreement concerning the pitfalls of assuming a ‘one best way of organizing’. Organizations, it was argued, must balance different criteria of (e)valuation against one another – for example ‘exploitation’ and ‘exploration’ – depending on the situation at hand. However, in recent years a pre-commitment to values of a certain sort – expressed in a preference for innovation, improvisation and entrepreneurship over other criteria – has emerged within the field, thus shifting the terms of debate concerning organizational survival and flourishing firmly onto the terrain of ‘exploration’. This shift has been accompanied by the return of what we describe as a ‘metaphysical stance’ within Organization Studies. In this article we highlight some of the problems attendant upon the return of metaphysics to the field of organizational analysis, and the peculiar reemergence of a ‘one best way of organizing’ that it engenders. In so doing, we re-visit two classic examples of what we describe as ‘the empirical stance’ within organization theory – the work of Wilfred Brown on bureaucratic hierarchy, on the one hand, and that of Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch on integration and differentiation, on the other – in order to highlight the continuing importance of March’s argument that any organization is a balancing act between different and non-reducible criteria of (e)valuation. We conclude that the proper balance is not something that can be theoretically deduced or metaphysically framed, but should be based on a concrete description of the situation at hand.

    KW - Exploration

    KW - Exploitation

    KW - Learning

    KW - Metaphysical stance

    KW - Empirical stance

    KW - Task at hand

    U2 - 10.1108/S0733-558X(2013)0000037013

    DO - 10.1108/S0733-558X(2013)0000037013

    M3 - Book chapter

    SN - 9781781905050

    SP - 249

    EP - 279

    BT - Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials

    PB - Emerald Group Publishing

    CY - Bingley

    ER -

    du Gay P, Vikkelsø S. Exploitation, Exploration and Exaltation: Notes on a Metaphysical (Re)turn to 'One Best Way of Organizing'. In Holmqvist M, Spicer A, editors, Managing ‘Human Resources’ by Exploiting and Exploring People’s Potentials. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing. 2013. p. 249 - 279. (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 37). Available from, DOI: 10.1108/S0733-558X(2013)0000037013