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Paradoxical Relationships in Collaboration, Competition and Innovation: a Critical Systemic Perspective

Publiceringsår: 2009
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 1-16
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Workshop of Italian scholars on Organization Studies, 2009
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag
Förlag: Università degli Studi di Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy


This paper seeks to discuss the nature of complex relationships among participants in organizational life, including ways in which paradox and ambiguity in their interactions impact upon organizational performance.

Any relationship emerges and subsists through interaction between people. The nature of a relationship is the result of double description (Bateson, 2002). Each of the parties involved will have perceptions of contextually dependent aspects of their interactions with others, through which behaviour is generated reflecting the concept of ‘relationship’. Bateson points out that the relationship is there first – descriptions emerge from it. Where complex webs of interaction are involved (as in the case of organizational life as it is lived) then multiple levels of description will emerge reflecting inter-individual and inter-group dimensions. As pointed out by Bateson (1972), social interactions can be subject to double bind, in which individual and group descriptions of interactions lead to emergence of negative learning spirals in which participants become entrapped. Where this occurs, emergent behaviour may not be beneficial to individuals or the emergent group. Examples of this can be found in Argyris’ (1990) description of defensive routines which he describes as ‘skilled incompetence’. In order not to cause uncomfortable disturbance to a negotiated equilibrium in organizational relationships (i.e. not rock the boat) people will avoid dealing with problematic issues and allow them, therefore, to remain problematic. At times, a need to protect norms and values of group interaction (what Schein (2004) referred to as organizational culture) has an effect of paralysing organizational actors’ capability to bring about beneficial change. In effect, they have become locked into a “no-win” situation (a double bind). Theories that people espouse to describe their actions and motivations are not what other people can observe to be their theories in use.


  • Information Systems, Social aspects
  • Organisational Analysis
  • Complex Inquiry
  • Contextual Analysis
  • Critical Systemic Perspective
  • Paradoxical Relationships
  • Systems Analysis
  • Informatics
  • Information Systems


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