Socio-technical Change: The Equilibrium Paradox

Louise Harder Fischer, Richard Baskerville

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review

357 Downloads (Pure)


In the domain of change and information systems (IS), we have persisted in the assumption that a well-functioning IS exhibits a balance between the social and the technical structures such that this system rests in a state of stable equilibrium. When transformational change arises, the system falls into a state of disequilibrium, until it reaches a new state of equilibrium. This as-sumption no longer gives a full explanation of the complex dynamics in today’s enterprise. In this paper, we explain the concept of unstable equilibrium that results from the continuous change that individuated individuals make in socio-technical structures. Our findings arise from a critical realist perspective used to interpret data from an e-group interview with 11 profes-sionals working in platform-based organizations. We find that a generative mechanism of con-tradictory complementarity, denoted as individualization and socialization, now inhabits the IS and causes outcomes that are both individual-technical and socio-technical. Now change hap-pens in the surface-structures resting in unstable equilibrium, while the deep structures remain in stable equilibrium. This equilibrium paradox in socio-technical change explains how plat-form-based organizations achieve change by both achieving agility from their IS while simulta-neously achieving stability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECIS 2018 Proceedings
Number of pages16
Place of PublicationAtlanta, GA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems. AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Publication date2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes
Event26th European Conference on Information Systems, ECIS 2018: Beyond Digitization – Facets of Socio-Technical Change - University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Jun 201828 Jun 2018
Conference number: 26


Conference26th European Conference on Information Systems, ECIS 2018
LocationUniversity of Portsmouth
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems


  • Socio-technical change
  • Platform-based organizations
  • Generative mechanisms
  • Contradictory-complementarity
  • Individualization and socialization
  • Equilibrium paradox

Cite this