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Evolutionary awareness: Darwin among the organizational sciences

Thomas Duening (College of Business and Administration, University of Colorado Colorado Springs , Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
Nigel Nicholson (London Business School, London, UK)
Jill Bradley-Geist (College of Business and Administration, University of Colorado Colorado Springs , Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)

International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior

ISSN: 1093-4537

Article publication date: 11 November 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

Recent criticisms of organizational science theory have lamented a lack of depth and a growing “maturity” that is impeding empirical advances. The purpose of this paper is to propose that organizational scientists can address this problem by embracing “evolutionary awareness” (EA). EA builds on theories and constructs developed in the evolutionary sciences that serve to add depth to theory building.

Design/methodology/approach

The design of the paper is first to introduce the concept of EA and identify its four key constructs. Next, the authors apply EA to three areas of research within organizational science: human motivation, interpersonal communication and leadership. The authors’ intent is to show that EA constructs extend and deepen traditional organizational science theorizing. Thereby, the authors show that the problems noted above, i.e., lack of depth and maturing theories, can be addressed by embracing EA.

Findings

The findings are that EA substantially enhances and freshens theorizing in the organizational sciences in the areas of human motivation, communication and leadership. By extension, other areas of interest will also benefit by embracing the EA perspective.

Research limitations/implications

The implications of the research are many. Organizational scientists can advance theory building, research and practical prescriptions by embracing EA. They can also engage in interdisciplinary research programs with scholars in the evolutionary sciences eager to see their work having practical implications. The limitation of this work is that the authors were only able to show a limited application of EA to three areas of interest to organizational science scholars.

Practical implications

The practical implications of this research are potentially far reaching. At this very moment, scholars in a wide array of disciplines are re-casting their views of humanity, cognition, values and other constructs based on the acceptance of evolution and its primary mechanism, variation and selection based on consequences. These changes will usher in new ideas about leadership, work-life balance, organizational purpose and many others.

Social implications

A much-needed “consilience” across the human sciences through embracement of the EA perspective may provide insights that will advance human flourishing in organizations and beyond. The authors believe that an increasingly veridical understanding of humanity will produce substantial social impact.

Originality/value

This work will provide an encompassing perspective that will assist organizational scholars in advancing their theory building and research questions. A much-needed “consilience” across the human sciences may provide insights that will advance human flourishing in organizations and beyond.

Keywords

Citation

Duening, T., Nicholson, N. and Bradley-Geist, J. (2019), "Evolutionary awareness: Darwin among the organizational sciences", International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 297-312. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOTB-12-2018-0127

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited