Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation

Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation

Elgar original reference

Edited by Tyrone S. Pitsis, Ace Simpson and Erlend Dehlin

The Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation places humans, their acts, practices, processes and fantasies at the core of innovation. Bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers, academics and professionals, both established and emerging, this multidisciplinary book provides a comprehensive picture of the vibrant and engaging field of organizational and managerial innovation.

Chapter 13: Surprising organization

Miguel Pina E Cunha, Stewart Clegg and Arménio Rego

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, organisational behaviour, strategic management, innovation and technology, organisational innovation


Psychological research suggests that ‘people want their lives to be predictable, orderly, and sensible, and they fear chaos, randomness, and unpleasant surprises’ (Hogan and Shelton, 1998, p. 130). Organizations provide the type of environment that is supposed to guarantee order, predictability and routine. In fact, the theory of organizations can be viewed in historical terms as a campaign in which the protagonists were organizing against uncertainty. Organizations, much as the people that make them, have been regarded as fearful of chaos, randomness and surprise. In fact, surprise and organization are almost antonyms: to be organized is supposed to make us immune to surprise; to be surprised suggests that one was not organized sufficiently to have anticipated something or other. Fear of uncertainty is unfortunate because all but the most boring of organizations must confront it. Organizational life, when interesting, complex and realistically grasped, is full of chaos (Stacey, 1991), randomness (Taleb, 2004) and surprise (Watkins and Bazerman, 2003). As Farazmand (2009, p. 406) argued, ‘The age of rapid globalization, information technologies, and nonlinear chaotic changes dictates the prescription of “surprise” as the “most commanding dimension of uncertainty” and hyper-complexity.’ It is hardly strange to be surprised as an organizational actor by the random and chaotic nature of events. Indeed, it would be unusual to be unperturbed, to exist in a state of blissful repetition or boring routine – depending on one’s predilections.

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