Organization and Management Theory OMT

AAT Symposium (Synchronous Panel Presentation) on “Impacting Grand Challenges: A ‘Both/And’ Approach”

  • 1.  AAT Symposium (Synchronous Panel Presentation) on “Impacting Grand Challenges: A ‘Both/And’ Approach”

    Posted 08-05-2020 07:52

    AAT Symposium (Synchronous Panel Presentation) on "Impacting Grand Challenges:  A 'Both/And' Approach" (session 71)

    Date and Time: Friday, August 7, 2020, 14:00-16:00 EDT  


    ·       Andrew J. Hoffman (University of Michigan)

    ·       Anita McGahan (University of Toronto)

    ·       Robin Ely (Harvard University)

    ·       Tobias Hahn (Ramon Llull University)


    ·       Wendy K. Smith (University of Delaware)


    ·       Natalie Slawinski (Memorial University)

    ·       Wendy K. Smith (University of Delaware)


    Dear colleagues,

    We invite you to join our All-Academy Theme panel symposium on the topic of grand challenges and paradox. The 2020 Academy of Management Theme description recognizes that "the most pressing challenges in the 21st century are directly or indirectly related to management and organizations... [yet] we often lament that our field is not as relevant [to address these challenges]".  This assertion echoes significant organizing across the globe to focus energy on expanding concerns, recently captured in efforts such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in which 193 member countries made a commitment in 2015 to address 17 goals with 169 targets by 2030. Management scholars have called on one another to focus our scholarship toward addressing these goals.

    We note that research and scholarship around addressing these important issues traditionally adopts an either/or approach, framing attention, resources, and identities as zero-sum tradeoffs. Traditionally, organizations are either for-profits that prioritize revenues, markets, and the bottom line or they are nonprofits/NGOs that seek to address a broader set of issues. Resources either are used to reinvest in an organization or they are used to make an impact on a broader community of people. Moreover, we further see competitive tensions and concerns about resource scarcity arise between different grand challenges, pitting one critical challenge against another. However, as the All-Academy Theme notes, these either/ors often reflect a false self-imposed dichotomy that prevents more expansive and synergistic thinking.


    To advance scholarship and insights about the management of grand challenges, we turn to paradox theory, an organizational lens gaining attention among organizational scholars that explores the nature of competing demands and unpacks approaches to move beyond either/or thinking into more both/and approaches. In this panel symposium, we explore the value of both/and thinking and how paradox theory could advance how management scholars address grand challenges broadly, as well as the unique demands of distinct issues. The panelists for this symposium have deep and rich knowledge addressing grand challenges in our world. We structured this session to be an interactive panel, where scholars can both share their knowledge, as well as engage in a robust and provocative discussion to address important questions about the role of both/and thinking to address grand challenges, and how management scholars can advance that work. We hope that bringing a paradox lens to these issues will deepen our scholarship, as well as help push forward on practices in academia that allow us to be more relevant and impactful in building a more thriving and sustainable world.

    We look forward to seeing you at the symposium!

    Natalie Slawinski (Memorial University)
    Wendy Smith (University of Delaware)


    Wendy K. Smith

    Deutsch Family Fellow

    Professor, Business Administration

    Co-Director, Women's Leadership Initiative at Lerner 

    234 Alfred Lerner Hall | University of Delaware | Newark, DE 19716
    302-831-1570 | | @profwendysmith |

    Join us for the next Lerner Women's Leadership Forum  November 18-20, 2020