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Thursday, July 28 • 4:30pm - 5:00pm
Opportunity Tension at the Center of Sustainable Organization: Positive Organizational Scholarship and Generative Emergence

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2786 It is widely understood that the complexity of the challenges we face globally and locally in this increasingly interdependent and VUCA world require our collective intelligence to create emergent adaptive approaches that sustain. Benyamin Lichtenstein has developed a framework for emergence that synthesizes previous scholarship and has gone further to identify the concept of “opportunity tension” that is at the core of the individual and collective entrepreneurial spirit that can create generative emergent social structures through acts precipitating sufficient disequilibrium in a system. Opportunity tension combines the extensive entrepreneurial literatures of both opportunity and motivation. This paper posits the critical and pivotal nature of opportunity tension as a driver of emergence. Five factors are identified that contribute to a nonlinear increase in the sense of opportunity tension. 1) The sense of opportunity tension perceived by those involved is expanded in a mutually reinforcing way as participants bring their capital (physical, human, social, cultural) to the endeavor. The more capital, the more opportunity surface is exposed. 2) Positive organizational behaviors (positive emotions, high-quality connections, enhanced knowledge creation, positive human traits, etc.) are mutually reinforcing and are consistently associates with positive outcomes in groups. They are attractive and inherently motivate participation. 3) Mutual reinforcement creates an upward spiral (nonlinear) sense of increased opportunity 4) All of these factors operate from the micro to the meso to the macro creating a web of reinforcing forces across scale and across units of analysis. This cross-hierarchical web becomes a powerful driver of cross scale action and cross-scale disequilibrium. 5) Emergence manifests across scale as a result contributing to a rising tide effect. The evidence for this deepening theory of opportunity tension comes from very extensive literatures in positive organizational scholarship, recent frameworks for types of emergence, and a developing body of thought around complexity leadership. The paper draws together these bodies of literature and the empirical evidence to create a richer theory of generative emergence of collective social structure from individual intention and sense of opportunity. Understanding this process is critical to developing organizations that use positive organization behaviors grounded in a relational calculus of organization as organism rather than organization as machine.

avatar for Louis Klein

Louis Klein

SIG Chair: Organizational Transformation and Social Change, louis.klein@segroup.de
Vice President Conferences (2015), International Society for the Systems Sciences SIG Chair:    Systems Applications in Business and Industry SIG Chair:    Organizational Transformation and Social ChangeLouis Klein is an internationally recognized expert in the field of systemic... Read More →

Thursday July 28, 2016 4:30pm - 5:00pm MDT
ECCR 200

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