Organizational Improvisation

Organizational Improvisation

Organizational Improvisation

Organizational Improvisation


Organisational improvisation has important implications for such subjects as product innovation, team working and organisational renewal, and this book brings together some of the best and most thought-provoking papers published in recent years.


Ken N. Kamoche, Miguel Pina e Cunha and João Vieira da Cunha

The chapters in this volume are part of an emergent discipline of organizational analysis which we believe now fully deserves the attention of organization theorists and practitioners. This emergent paradigm is in part an attempt to grapple with the complexities of a rapidly changing world and the need to look beyond the traditional sources of competitive advantage. The complexity of organizations indeed continues to keep theorists busy as they strive to tackle the perennial problem of how to design efficient and viable organizations and how best to respond to or anticipate new environmental challenges. These efforts have seen developments in a number of fields, from transaction cost economics (Williamson, 1979) to institutional theory (Meyer and Rowan, 1977) and the resource-based view of the firm (Barney, 1991; Grant, 1991).

Organizational improvisation is one of the more recent theoretical developments, and one which is only now beginning to capture the imagination of organization theorists. Improvisation has variously been described as the merging of planning and action, the realization of action as it unfolds, thinking and acting extemporaneously and so forth. Improvisation has slowly begun to generate some interest amongst researchers. Some people are drawn to it because it seems to offer novel interpretations of organizational action; others are no doubt curious about its potential contribution to our understanding of concepts like creativity, innovation, structure and so forth. Some are probably familiar with the manifestations of improvisational behaviour in other fields such as the arts and are interested to know how lessons from these fields can, if at all, be transferred to the field of organization studies. All these and many others are legitimate concerns. They are also to be expected in a field which is still in an embryonic stage.

Our purpose is to shed some light on these questions as well as to offer a sense of direction as to how research in organizational improvisation might proceed. We believe that improvisation is a central feature of organizational reality and indeed a definitive feature of the way we go about our day-to-day activities. Improvising takes place in much of what we do: from holding conversations to making fairly important decisions that have a fundamental bearing on our very existence. This reality is enacted in our personal lives as well as in the organizational context. There has been a growing awareness in recent years that the concept of improvisation constitutes a new opportunity to explore the nature of organizations. Indeed many researchers have been trying to understand the meaning of improvisation, the manifestations of improvisational behaviour, and the circumstances under which

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