2022 Performing creativity, innovation and change: Communicating to reconfigure the organization

Convenors: Nicolas Bencherki, Sophie Del Fa and Alex Wright

 Thinking of organizations as continuously performed raises questions around how to theorize emerging and ongoing creation, innovation and change (Carton, 2020; d’Adderio & Pollock, 2014; Garud et al., 2011; Hall & Löfgren, 2017). The first sub-theme will therefore invite participants to reflect on a key feature of performative theorizing: what it means to do something “new” if nothing is ever permanent (Cooren & Matte, 2010; Taylor & Van Every, 2011). The sub-theme will challenge traditional conceptions of the role of communication, namely transmitting a manager-initiated decision to change to other parts of the organization. Instead, a performative view shows that communication performatively brings about change in a continuous way, making salient the dual issue of creating stability and of distinguishing a recognizably “new” reality from an older one (Ford & Ford, 1995). These issues are important concerns for organizational members, who must regularly update their strategy, try to be more creative and innovative, come up with groundbreaking products and form new relationships with others. Clarifying what the related notions of creativity, innovation and change mean for the CPO community will nurture theorizing that is directly relevant for practitioners. The sub-theme will welcome contributions addressing communication’s ability to alter routines (Wright, 2016; Wright, 2019), norms and processes, and question notions of creativity and innovation (Garud et al., 2018) through a performative view.

As it will most likely coincide with the publication of the Routledge Handbook of the Communicative Constitution of Organizations (a project initiated during the 2018 EGOS conference), the SWG’s inaugural subtheme will also be an occasion to invite reflections on the ways in which performativity and communication research can mutually develop to elucidate the ways in which organizing takes place and organizations are practically constituted.

Special event: The sub-theme will include a panel with F. Cooren, C. Vásquez, J.-P. Gond and P. Dick, on “Communicative performativity, performative communication: Exploring an emerging terrain?”

2023 Communicatively performing the future: How what does not yet exist already makes a difference

This sub-theme seeks to explore how performative communication makes the future present in the here and now of organizing. Some of the most important organizational activities such as strategizing and project organizing usually imply developing an envisioned future for the organization. This is typically done through utilizing various tools and practices, such as: strategic planning, scenario analysis, or other foresighting or strategic anticipation tools (Sergi et al., 2020). Organizing, strategizing and projecting are hence largely about imagining and negotiating futures (Beckert & Bronk, 2018; Doganova, 2018; Comi & Whyte, 2018; Wenzel et al., 2020; Plotnikof & Pedersen, 2019); importantly, they are also what brings the past, present and future of the organization together.

From design practices to technologies of forecasting and modeling (the topic of a sub-theme at EGOS 2017), all the way to imaginaries and works of fiction (see the 2019 EGOS sub-theme on imagined futures), representing future organizations takes on a multiplicity of communicative and technological forms. More than representation, though, we argue that organizational futures are performed into being through these attempts, which not only respond to signs and ideas of future needs, challenges or risks, but indeed – through communicating, demarcating, negotiating and defining future problems and potential solutions – these attempts also create and temporarily fix the possible futures of the present. In this sense, the CPO community will, in this subtheme, explore the ways in which ‘looking to the future’ aspirationally commits the presently becoming organization to promises, making certain temporalities powerful. This subtheme, then, invites contributions that bring a performative and communicative perspective into extant debates in organization studies about futurity, foresighting, anticipation, imagined futures, strategizing and time, developing theoretical and empirical insights into the constitution of these organizational concerns with futures-making.

2024 The performative communication of relationality and affectivity: New forms of (post-)humanism

This sub-theme focuses on developing our knowledge and understanding of (post-)humanist organizing through communicative performativity. Specifically, it is interested in exploring how new technologies (e.g., AI, conversational agents, virtual assistants, wearable devices and robots) make a difference to organizing – e.g., how such technologies perform new subjectivities and agencies; challenge existing dualisms (e.g., mind vs. body, human vs. machine); bring to the fore (new forms of) affectivity in organization that influences human lives in multiple ways. These new technologies may or may not affect intentionality, organizational processes, power, authority and subjectivity and sediment into new cultures of work (Beverungen et al., 2019; Faraj & Azad, 2012; Sawyer et al., 2014). As such, workers rely on technology; they are “extended” in their datafication, in their technological tasks and means of collaboration, making them, so to speak, cyborgs (Harraway, 1985).

New technologies challenge whether existing dualisms and distinctions remain helpful when analyzing the communication practices through which organizational reality is performed thanks to more-than-human relations and agencies (Ashcraft & Kuhn, 2017; Brummans, 2018). A performative stance suggests the need to study how technology creates not only new organizations, but new human workers. As a new mode of (unequal) power and agency, technology intersects with human experiences, affects and relations differently (McDonnell, 2018; Raman, 2001). Understanding the constitution of such (post)human performativity implies examining both the (un)intentional effects of technology – such as more data or faster communication – and the unequal power-production and unforeseen exacerbations of human/nonhuman relationalities (Barad, 2003). Teasing out these issues, then, requires that we develop new methodological and analytical approaches (Dille & Plotnikof, 2020) for which this sub-theme will engage the CPO community to contribute to.

2025 How are alternative forms of organizing, organization and organizationality communicatively performed?

This sub-theme explores a performative and communication perspective to examine how alternative types of organizing, organization and organizationality take form and endure through communicative performativity. Performative stances reject the distinctions between normative and descriptive agendas, and look for the way “good” (or “bad”) organizing emerges from the practices and relations of (human and non-human) actors. From such a stance, researchers can analyze, for instance, how actors justify their actions (Boltanski & Thévenot, 2006), how they invoke figures that legitimate certain actions (Cooren, 2016), or how they communicate tensions that, in the quest for alternatives, enable practices that challenge dominant organizational norms. It follows that performativity and CCO scholarship already show potential in pushing our understanding of alternative organizing further (e.g., Esper et al., 2017; Leca et al., 2014), yet this community can still do much more to fully articulate and contribute to a sophisticated, transformative agenda, not least by advancing better or different forms of organizing.

To expand theoretical and analytical vistas on alternative forms of organizing, we conclude the sequence of four sub-theme colloquia by joining forces with the open organizing community. This joint endeavor will allow reflections on how alternative organizing may take place outside of the usual expected organizational forms and hierarchies (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2011), and to look for organizationality in social movements, networks and other places (Dobusch, Leonard & Schoeneborn, 2015; Schoeneborn et al., 2019). Conversely, the sub-theme will also explore how organizations can be opened up, to include more voices and become more transparent, and how these processes of openness may rest on performative communication (Dobusch, Laura et al., 2019; Gegenhuber & Dobusch, 2017) .