In this conceptual paper, we ask: How does the larger cultural context influence the way that groups of managers deal with paradoxical tensions in strategy episodes? We focus on three sources of tension in the conduct and design of strategy episodes – inclusion, formality and coordination/communication. We argue that in each case, cultural influences affect the extent to which these facets of strategy episodes are dealt with using a paradox lens. Specifically, in Western cultural contexts, managers tend to have a lower proclivity for adopting a paradoxical frame resulting in a separation of tensions in strategy episodes; by contrast, managers in Eastern cultural contexts such as China more readily adopt a paradoxical frame, and embrace tensions in strategy episodes. We suggest that, over time, non-paradoxical thinking likely promotes inter-episode plurality and planned emergence, while paradoxical thinking tends to foster intra-episode plurality and emergent planning. We contribute to a deeper understanding of strategy episodes as culturally embedded practices.
European Management Journal
Decision making has been studied from various angles and perspectives. Despite much progress, the role of paradox and the ways it reveals itself in decision making has received little attention. Perhaps, part of the reason is that paradox has been studied in the West based on the analysis of Western managers’ activities while neglecting the fact that in the East, and especially in China, paradox has always been integral to managerial decision making. This “viewpoint” article seeks to highlight China as an important research setting that could add impetus to the study of paradox and decision making. It sheds light on questions such as: What do we know about paradox today and how do Western scholars treat this notion? What does research say about decision making in China? Is there a potential to get a better understanding of the concepts of paradox if study it in decision making in China?.