A stupidity-based theory of organizations

Alvesson, Mats and Spicer, Andre (2012) A stupidity-based theory of organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 49 7: 1194-1220. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01072.x

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Author Alvesson, Mats
Spicer, Andre
Title A stupidity-based theory of organizations
Journal name Journal of Management Studies   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0022-2380
Publication date 2012-09-10
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2012.01072.x
Open Access Status
Volume 49
Issue 7
Start page 1194
End page 1220
Total pages 27
Place of publication West Sussex, United Kingdom
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Abstract In this paper we question the one-sided thesis that contemporary organizations rely on the mobilization of cognitive capacities. We suggest that severe restrictions on these capacities in the form of what we call functional stupidity are an equally important if under-recognized part of organizational life. Functional stupidity refers to an absence of reflexivity, a refusal to use intellectual capacities in other than myopic ways, and avoidance of justifications. We argue that functional stupidity is prevalent in contexts dominated by economy in persuasion which emphasizes image and symbolic manipulation. This gives rise to forms of stupidity management that repress or marginalize doubt and block communicative action. In turn, this structures individuals’ internal conversations in ways that emphasize positive and coherent narratives and marginalize more negative or ambiguous ones. This can have productive outcomes such as providing a degree of certainty for individuals and organizations. But it can have corrosive consequences such as creating a sense of dissonance among individuals and the organization as a whole. The positive consequences can give rise to self-reinforcing stupidity. The negative consequences can spark dialogue, which may undermine functional stupidity.
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Article first published online: 10 SEP 2012

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2013 Collection
UQ Business School Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 52 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 64 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Tue, 26 Mar 2013, 15:47:55 EST by Karen Morgan on behalf of UQ Business School