Shadow organizing refers to the emergence of parallel arrangements that sit alongside and imitate mainstream or conventional ways of organizing. It can be a response to challenges that require new ways of working without abandoning what is valuable about conventional arrangements. However, the processes through which shadow organizing is accomplished are not well understood; there is a need to go beyond traditional notions of mimicry and metaphor. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
This paper demonstrates how a Tardean approach to imitation can address this gap. It deploys imitation as an explanatory concept, based on contemporary readings of Tarde, as well as understandings of organizing as an unfolding process. Child and Family Centres in Tasmania (Australia), are used as an example of shadow organizing, delivering integrated health and education services in an emerging parallel arrangement.
The analysis highlights an imitation dynamic which is far from straightforward mimicry. Rather, it comprises repetition and generation of difference. This dynamic is conceptualized in Tardean fashion as three patterns: the imitation of ideas before expression; the selective nature of imitation; and insertion of the old alongside the new.
The paper moves beyond metaphors of shadow organizing, and understandings of shadow organizing as mimicry. Conceptualizing imitation in an alternative way, it contributes fresh insights into how shadow organizing is accomplished. This enriches and expands the conceptual apparatus for researchers wishing to understand the betwixt and between of shadow organizing.
The authors wish to thank Stephen Billet and Laurent Filliettaz for their invitation to put together a symposium in the EARLI SIG 14 Learning and Professional Development conference in 2018. Discussions prompted by the symposium, convened by Silvia Gherardi were highly formative in the ideas presented here. The authors are also grateful to the two reviewers for their engaging and helpful comments, particularly pointing us to resonances with Rogers’ work, and extending our thinking of what the implications of our ideas might be. The research in the CFCs was part of an Australian Research Council funded project, number DE150100365. Ethical approval was granted by Ethics approval was granted by South Western Sydney Local Health District Research and Ethics Office (HREC/15/ LPOOL/77) and ratified by the University of Technology Sydney HREC (2015000284). Research in Tasmanian CFCs was approved by the Educational Performance Research Committee of the Tasmanian Department of Education (File 2016-35).
The empirical research referred to in this paper was funded by the Australian Research Council, Project ID DE150100365. The authors are grateful to the Department of Education Tasmania for their support for the project, and to all staff, volunteers and families in the CFCs who participated. The authors also wish to thank Laurent Fiellietaz and Stephen Billett for their kind invitation to present a draft of this work at a symposium of the EARLI SIG 14 conference in Geneva, 2018. The authors also thank our colleagues and co-presenters in that symposium: Silvia Gherardi, Angelo Benozzi, Anders Buch, Eli Tronsmo and Monika Nerland.
Hopwood, N. and Jensen, K. (2019), "Shadow organizing and imitation: new foci for research", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 197-214. https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-04-2019-1743Download as .RIS
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