Paradox as Analytical Tool for Managing Organizational Complexity: A Novel Typology and Paths Forward

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In light of increased organizational and environmental complexity, research turns ever more often to the notion of paradox to investigate how managers can navigate conflicting demands. However, the internal dynamics of paradox remain unclear, making it difficult to understand what exactly is meant by the concept, and how it can be managed in practice. This article notes that the full potential of paradox as an analytical tool for understanding complex situations of organizational life has not been reached and reveals instances of organizational complexity that appear even more radical than current definitions of paradox posit. Using a systems theory perspective, we unfold the complexity of such situations and develop a typology that includes a novel and more complex type of nested paradox that appears underexplored. We add to paradox theory by showing how different types of paradoxes and their respective relations can relate and transform over time, thereby, expanding on dominant (both/and) explanations of paradox dynamics. Thereby, we also engage with calls for more vibrant and polyphonic theory-building. We discuss our findings and managerial implications and point towards future research.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-first Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonia Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021: Bringing the Manager Back in Management - Online, Virtual, Online
Duration: 29 Jul 20214 Aug 2021
Conference number: 81


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2021
CityVirtual, Online
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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