Sustaining second‐order change initiation: structured complexity and interface management

Peter Y.T. Sun (Department of Management Systems, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
John Scott (Department of Management Systems, Waikato Management School, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Publication date: 1 December 2005

Abstract

Purpose

The paper sets out to provide a better understanding of the interfaces between second‐order change initiation by the “initiator” and the organizational contexts. It is an individual level study, and hence involves the dynamics experienced by the “initiator”. The type of second‐order change initiation under consideration is the book‐keeping model of cognitive replacement, i.e. a gradual and incremental replacement of the old cognitive framework.

Design/methodology/approach

A framework was developed using principles of complexity science to crystallize the thinking of the dynamics involved at the individual level initiation and organizational contexts. This formed the basis for the development of four research questions, explored using seven real world individual cases, taken from a variety of industry backgrounds.

Findings

The framework was refined using the case studies. The “initiator” goes through several stages in the gradual and incremental replacement of their cognitive framework. Four specific stages were observed: “embedded”, “embedded discomfited”, “scripted”, and “unscripted”. In each of the stages, issues in the interface with the organizational context were observed.

Research limitations/implications

Although saturation was reached after five individual cases, the research is limited by the number of individual cases.

Practical implications

Four practical avenues to nurture creativity in an organizational context are discussed: nurturing appropriate levels of contradiction in the organization, nurturing and encouraging creativity in others, developing self‐containment in individuals, and forming “opportunity‐finding teams” at middle level management.

Originality/value

The understanding of the interfaces between individual level initiation and organizational context is limited. This research provides insights into this phenomenon.

Keywords

Citation

Sun, P. and Scott, J. (2005), "Sustaining second‐order change initiation: structured complexity and interface management", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 24 No. 10, pp. 879-895. https://doi.org/10.1108/02621710510627037

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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