New Book on Organizational Memory as a Function

My former colleague Felix Langenmayr (University of Zurich) just published an insightful book at Springer VS: Organisational Memory as a Function: The Construction of Past, Present and Future in Organisations. In his study, he applies a “communication constitutes organizations” (CCO) perspective (grounded in Luhmann’s theory of social systems) to examine how organizations construct their past, present and future. However, if we assume that organizations are constituted in and through communication, how do they ensure their constant reproduction? This ‘problem of connectivity’ is addressed by the functions of memory and oscillation, i.e. by how an organization selectively draws on past and future horizons as resources to construct a constant social reality in which communication is able to overcome its own improbability. Felix Langenmayr elaborates on memory as a functional solution to the problem of sustaining organizations as an interrelated network of communications. In that regard, as he writes, “the function of organizational memory is an answer to the problem that communication is not necessarily an ongoing process, but rather unpredictable and fragile” (p. 175). Felix Langenmayr grounds these theoretical considerations in an empirical study at a European online gaming and gambling company, demonstrating how organizations, given that they are not able to access their past or future, actively and selectively construct these time dimensions in the present. I can recommend the book to everyone who is interested in learning more about how the Luhmannian variant of CCO thinking can be fruitfully employed for conceptual and/or empirical inquiries!

Off-EGOS Workshop on Space, Creativity, and Organizing

I’ve been meaning to link to the Off-EGOS Workshop on Space, Creativity, and Organizing for weeks without getting around to do it. No more excuses to Nicolas about not linking or participating in the workshop. I’ll be attending to casually analyze some data (or so I have been told) with the aid of wine (which certainly helps in terms of creativity) and crackers (which may or may not help with creativity, but they go well with the wine, that’s for sure). Be sure to sign up!


From Membership to Contributorship

There is no organization without individuals. There is no communication without individuals. Still, organization studies necessarily emphasize the organization or organizing and happily neglect the individual. Individuals only enter the picture through the backdoor of membership. Thus, it is not the individuals who make up the organization but the negotiated roles they take on to participate in communication.

McPhee & Zaug (2000) point to membership negotiation. Luhmann (2000) recalls March & Simon (1958) in a similar vain when he points out that individuals are part of the organizational environment. And now the Montreal School as one of the three pillars of CCO thinking (Schoeneborn et al., 2014) moves on the idea of membership with a conception of contributorship. You’ll find the article of Bencherki and Snack on Contributorship and Partial Inclusion: A Communicative Perspective behind the paywall of the online-first section over at the Management Communication Quarterly.

  • Luhmann, N. (2000). Organisation und Entscheidung. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.
  • March, J. G., & Simon, H. A. (1958). Organizations. New York, NY: Wiley.
  • McPhee, R. D., & Zaug, P. (2000). The Communicative Constitution of Organizations: A Framework for Explanation. Electronic Journal of Communication, 10(1/2).
  • Schoeneborn, D., Blaschke, S., Cooren, F., McPhee, R. D., Seidl, D., & Taylor, J. R. (2014). The Three Schools of CCO Thinking: Interactive Dialogue and Systematic Comparison. Management Communication Quarterly, 28(2), 285–316.

Change is the Only Constant

In organizational studies, we frequently say that change is the only constant. I don’t really know who said this to begin with, and it really doesn’t matter, but change really is the only constant, not least because any communication event or episode is new another next first time (Garfinkel, 2002). How, then, do we go about change? From a CCO-friendly perspective, there is conversations of change (Ford & Ford, 1995), organizational becoming (Tsoukas & Chia, 2002), etc. And now there is even a virus to bring about change. Forthcoming in the International Journal of Technology Management (which, to be honest, I never read before) is an article by Steffen Roth on Growth and Function: A Viral Research Program for Next Organizations. It relies heavily on Luhmann, so be careful to put on your thinking cap before immersing yourself in the constructivist thought of viral change.

  • Ford, J. D., & Ford, L. W. (1995). The Role of Conversations in Producing Intentional Change in Organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 541–570.
  • Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s Program: Working out Durkheim’s Aphorism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Tsoukas, H., & Chia, R. (2002). On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking Organizational Change. Organization Science, 13(5), 567–582.

Call for Papers on Discursivity, Relationality, and Materiality

The idea of a communicative constitution of organization (CCO) has led to a number of special issues in communication and organization studies over the past years (e.g., Management Communication Quarterly, 2010, Vol. 24, Issue 1; Organization Studies, 2011, Vol. 32, Issue 9). Communication Research and Practice has a call for papers out for a special issue on discursivity, relationality, and materiality. The deadline for submission is April 1, 2016. So go, get your manuscript ready.


Paper on “The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous” just published in JMS

Anonymous-logo-flag-1551A common feature of most organization-as-communication approaches is a processual view on organizational formation and reproduction, emphasizing the inherently precarious character of even the most bureaucratic organizations. But what about loose social collectives, such as online communities, terrorist networks, or hacker collectives? Is the notion of ‘organization’ useful for describing such fluid social collectives at all?

In a recent article published in the Journal of Management Studies (JMS)*, Leonhard Dobusch and Dennis Schoeneborn suggest using the term ‘organizationality’ for a gradual differentiation of social collectives regarding the degree to which they achieve the status of organizational actorhood. In the authors’ view, one crucial precondition of organizationality is the accomplishment of some form of collective identity through speech acts (“identity claims”) that try to delineate – and thus attribute – what the social collective is or does.

To address the research question on how identity claims contribute to the communicative constitution of fluid social collectives as organizational actors, Dobusch and Schoeneborn mobilize a ”communicative constitution of organizations” (CCO) perspective. Empirically, the authors are investigating the case of the “hacktivist” (i.e., hacker activist) collective Anonymous. Their study contributes to organization studies by showing that fluid social collectives (such as Anonymous) are able to temporarily reinstate organizational actorhood through the performance of carefully prepared and staged identity claims.

* Full reference: Dobusch, L., & Schoeneborn, D. (2015). Fluidity, Identity, and Organizationality: The Communicative Constitution of Anonymous. Journal of Management Studies, 52(8), 1005-1035 (the article is available open access until December 4, 2015).


Round Table Discussion of the Paper Development Workshop (PDW) Investigating the Constitutive Role of Communication for Organization and Organizing

As mentioned in a previous post the new EGOS Standing Working Group had a happy launching at the 2015 colloquium. This started, on July 1, with the pre-colloquium Paper Development Workshop (PDW) Investigating the Constitutive Role of Communication for Organization and Organizing organized by Michael Etter, Nicolas Bencherki, and Consuelo Vasquez. The PDW brought together a total of 36 junior and senior scholars for vivid conversations on how to further advance their research projects and papers. During the PDW Linda Putnam (University of California Santa Barbara), Cliff Oswick (Cass Business School) and Dan Kärreman (Copenhagen Business School) shared their thoughts and reflection on the challenges and new avenues of communicative and/or discursive approach to study organization and organizing. The video of this round table discussion and the Q&R that followed is now available.