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Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change


The Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change (ODSC) Group comprises a cluster of researchers at the University of Sydney Business School. The Group is associated with the International Centre for Research in Organizational Discourse, Strategy and Change (ICRODSC).

ICRODSC links international researchers who share an interest in developing and applying discourse methods to the study of organizations. It brings together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, provides a critical mass in research expertise, facilitates cross-disciplinary research, provides a banner for new research initiatives, provides contacts and support for doctoral students, and provides resources for workshops, studies, and other activities.

ICRODSC was launched in 2001 by four institutions - the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, King's College at the University of London, and McGill University. Since then, it has grown to include 15 institutional partners.

The group of researchers at the University of Sydney Business School share an interest with colleagues located at these other institutions in developing and applying discourse methods to the study of organizations.

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Recent Research Projects

The Silent Killer: Advancing Knowledge on Silence and its Impact on Errors and Safety (2016-2019)

ODSC Investigators: Dr Helena Nguyen; Dr Anya Johnson

This project will investigate how silence emerges in teams, what sustains it, and how it affects error and safety outcomes. Employees often choose to remain silent about important issues at work, which can have devastating consequences. Although silence is a complex individual phenomenon, there is little knowledge of silence as a collective phenomenon, or how it spreads and becomes the norm in teams and organisations. This project will investigate silence using multilevel, longitudinal designs and by testing novel interventions. This research is expected to affect how teams work and communicate effectively to reduce dangerous forms of silence and improve safety.

Compassion at the heart of well-being: An inter- disciplinary study of well-being in a healthcare setting (2016-2018)

ODSC Investigators: Dr Anya Johnson; Dr Helena Nguyen

This project uses multiple disciplinary perspectives to explore: a) the nature of compassion and well-being, and the ways they are related; b) the acceptability and effectiveness of interventions to enhance compassion and well-being; and c) the effects of these interventions on both the individual and those around them. The core of the project is a randomised control trial with nurses, for whom compassion and well-being are vital to the provision of quality care, but who often work in settings which produce high stress, emotional overload, overwork, and ‘compassion fatigue’. The RCT compares two compassion-based interventions and a control condition using a research design which incorporates qualitative and quantitative outcome measures in participants as well as staff and patients with whom they interact. The study employs a number of objective measures such as psychophysiological markers of stress and resilience, social network analysis, and ethnographic observations. Our project aims to contribute to the best-practice design of interventions to enhance compassion and well-being.

Australia's role in Global Financial and Production Networks (2016-2018)

ODSC Investigators: Dr Eric Knight

The project intends to address a major deficit of knowledge about the ways financial centres develop and compete among a network of international centres. Australia’s long-term economic future is closely tied to providing financial services throughout Asia. Yet very little attention has been given to analysing the structures and networks that enable internationalisation, in particular the performance of Sydney and Melbourne as competitive financial centres within a network of financial centres in East and South-East Asia. Using specialist industry databases and intensive case study methods, this project plans to examine the processes underpinning the growth of this network, map scenarios for the next two decades, and advise on policy implications arising from the 2013–14 Financial System Inquiry.


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Recent Events and Workshops

The Practice of Broking in Competitive Markets: Reinsurance Brokers as Self-interested Organizations

8 March 2017

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski

Professor Paula Jarzabkowski, Professor in Strategic Management, CASS Business School City University of London, presented the studies examining the practices of brokerage work in competitive markets. Drawing on an ethnographic study of the two largest brokerage organizations in the global reinsurance industry, Paula showed the practices through which brokers enact the complex and contradictory work of both bringing parties with conflicting interests together to enable market exchange and setting them apart in order to maintain the brokerage role of intermediating the market.

The study found that fluid iterations of four brokers’ practices - rationalizing, humanizing, expertizing and intervening - are performed interchangeably, enabling the duality of two contradictory brokerage approaches – ‘tertius iungens’ of bringing together and ‘tertius gaudens’ of setting apart.

This duality is critical to brokerage in a competitive market, enabling brokers maintain their role as self-interested organizations who must counteract competitive threats by:

  1. retaining indirect relationships;
  2. eroding direct relationships; and
  3. competing with other brokers.

Bringing these elements of the findings together into a conceptual framework has extended the organizational literature on brokers to account for the duality of practices in brokerage work and the dynamic relationship of the brokerage approaches of tertius iungens and tertius gaudens. Through this understanding, we illuminate brokers as self-interested organizations in competitive markets, an element which existing organizational studies on brokers have not yet examined.

Workshop on “Organizational Paradox: Rethinking Discourse, Strategy and Change”

16 & 17 February, 2017

This workshop brought together leading and emerging scholars on paradox, focusing on the areas of discourse, strategy and change. The participatory and interactive workshop built on the emergence and growth of paradox theory within organizational studies (e.g. recent SI in Organization Studies, SWG at EGOS, and a forthcoming OUP Handbook). Day One featured feature keynote speeches by Professors Marianne Lewis and Paula Jarzabkowski (slides available for download) and a panel discussion featuring Professor Haridimos Tsoukas. Day Two consisted of presenter papers, and a series of interactive, guided practical exercises and roundtable discussions around key themes at the intersection of paradox scholarship.

Notable speakers included:

  • Professor Marianne W. Lewis, Dean of Cass Business School and Professor of Management delivered a keynote on paradox theory and its application
    Download presentation
  • Professor Paula A. Jarzabkowski, Professor of Strategic Management at Cass Business School delivered a keynote on paradox, practice and rhetoric
    Download presentation
  • Professor Haridimos Tsoukas, Distinguished Research Environment Professor of Organization Studies at Warwick Business School and the Columbia Ship Management Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Cyprus, joined a panel of the value of the paradox lens

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