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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Editorial reflections on unusual business of knowledge brokering
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Organizational Change Management, Volume 26, Issue 3
The third issue of JOCM appears in the middle of the calendar year, but at the end of the academic year: when attention goes to our holidays or summer jobs and the factories of knowledge and learning slowly slow down for the annual summer sleep. But ideas never sleep; if an Oxford fellow is to be believed, they even mate furiously and their promiscuous sex is responsible for the increasing rate of inventiveness of our species. Matt Ridley spoke on “TED” and entitled his brief presentation “When ideas have sex”. In a set of sweeping generalizations he stated that trade came before agriculture and social division of labor (gender at first, production and services later) made us all better off as Adam Smith rightly observed. Smith vindicated? Free trade and free markets as the locomotive of mankind? Well, at least a sentence coined by Noam Chomsky in order to illustrate a grammatically correct but semantically absurd utterance (“colorless green ideas sleep furiously”) now comes close to being vindicated on semantic grounds as well.
None of the papers in the present issue can match these sweeping statements, but they do offer a nice cross-section view of the multi-paradigmatic state of art in research on organizational change. Job Rodrigo-Alarcón considers the relationship between environmental dynamism and entrepreneurial orientation while Marie-Anne Chidiac reflects on Gestalt psychotherapy from the point of organizational change tool-kits. John Childers focuses on strategy and coaching in high-hazard industry, while Wendelin M. Küpers works with metaphors and narratives in organizational life-worlds of change. Aurelie Leclercq-Vandelannoitte goes for a Foucauldian view of contradictions in organizational change processes, while Dmitriy Nesterkin writes on organizational change and psychological reactance. Last, not least, Victor J. Callan and Paul H.J. Hendriks both focus on social division of labor in research organizations. The last author writes on a university setting of research activities – which should ring a bell for most of our readers, who have to put up with the imperfections of a class struggle of us (researchers-teachers-consultants-administrators of our own activities) against them (professional managers imposed on us from above and subject to neoliberal dreams of lean, mean reformed public management). We, in other words, are creative. They (deans, rectors, university presidents) are bureaucratic. We are Jekylls, they are Hides. Really? Most deans and rectors are us, some university presidents have academic past as well.
But the point is different: research activities and changing organizational landscape around them become a crucial arena of struggles to define the new dominant patterns of brokering knowledge in spite of specialization. Some natural languages or some species of rare animals may go extinct every year, but many new specialist jargons, dialects and languages emerge and so do new tribes of researchers. My favorite is an emergent tribe of researchers from many different disciplines (sometimes as far away from one another as phoneticians and paleontologists, historical linguists and biomedical researchers of vocal cords) who try to reconstruct the prehistoric “soup” of determinants, which came together in a big bang of the discovery of language-based communication and the invention of language.
But not everything is fine in our lively domain of socially organized research and teaching, applications and commercialization of ideas. Two models stand out: first of all the silicon valley model in which a university as Stanford is a “master of the universe” on good terms with powers that be, captains of industry and Wild West venture capitalists. Stanford may have lost to Cornell as far as the Roosevelt island project of a silicon alley in NYC is concerned, but it still rules supreme as the winner of fund raising for the university endowment (which allows the Stanford administrators to pay scholarships out to half of their students, who are bright enough but not rich enough to enter). Another is a high tech underground tunnel filled with wires and pipes and electricity (CERN’s large hadron collider) – which is a core of a continuously and continually developed web of networks, teams, projects, plans and organizational experiments with international division of labor (the late Max Boisot – accompanied by Markus Nordberg, Said Yami and Bertrand Nicquwvert, has entitled his book on this model “Collisions and Collaboration”). Perhaps more clumsy, too academic, too distant from pragmatic concerns, but in the long run – our European contribution to the future knowledge nrokerage.
Which one will prevail in future? Or what shall we learn from both and what new organizational forms for producing, spreading and using knowledge will emerge?