Yuan Li (Saint Mary's College of California)
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From latency to salience to knotting: A dynamic disequilibrium model of paradox management

Recent paradox scholarship has paid increasing attention to the latent versus the salient state of a paradox and the knotting of multiple paradoxes. However, the endogenous mechanisms that render latent paradoxes salient and foster their knotting or about the impact of knotted paradoxes on organizations remain unclear. We conducted a longitudinal case study on an online marketing and sales business unit newly established during the digital transformation of a large industrial company. Our findings on four cycles of transformative change of the online unit inform a model of paradox management that delineates several key multi-level evolutionary processes. At the organizational level, generative reorganization and transparadoxical metaphors by corporate managers bring latent paradoxes to saliency, thus opening a malleable space for initiatives. At the business unit level, elastic enactment by middle managers and employees knots multiple paradoxes and amplifies their imbalances. The imbalances trigger new generative reorganizations that untie the previously knotted paradoxes but also create a new cycle of paradox emergence and knotting. Our study contributes to paradox management by offering dynamic disequilibrium as an alternative model in which intraorganizational interactions play a central role in the process of shifting paradox saliency and knotting.

Yuan Li

Dr. Yuan LI is an associate professor at Saint Mary's College of California. She obtained her PhD in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. Before Saint Mary’s, she was an assistant professor of Strategy and Organization at the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University in Canada. Her research concerns the cultural processes of organizational, institutional, and technological change. She studies how change agents use rhetorical tropes, arguments, and symbols to make meaning and shape reality. Published work has examined the diffusion of managerial innovations such as the Total Quality Management, China’s capitalist transformation, discourse in organizational development and change, and organizational event stigma. She has published and has continued to work on theoretical models on institutionalization and decoupling as the coevolution of microlevel and macrolevel semiotic and social mechanisms. These models have practical implications for a wide range of cases such as the adoption of DEI, ESG, and new technologies. She is also interested in integrating ideas of Western and Eastern philosophies to produce practical management knowledge.

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