Shadow organizing and imitation: new foci for research

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 2019
Issue Date:
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© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited. Purpose: Shadow organizing refers to the emergence of parallel arrangements that sit alongside and imitate mainstream or conventional ways of organizing. It can be a response to challenges that require new ways of working without abandoning what is valuable about conventional arrangements. However, the processes through which shadow organizing is accomplished are not well understood; there is a need to go beyond traditional notions of mimicry and metaphor. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: This paper demonstrates how a Tardean approach to imitation can address this gap. It deploys imitation as an explanatory concept, based on contemporary readings of Tarde, as well as understandings of organizing as an unfolding process. Child and Family Centres in Tasmania (Australia), are used as an example of shadow organizing, delivering integrated health and education services in an emerging parallel arrangement. Findings: The analysis highlights an imitation dynamic which is far from straightforward mimicry. Rather, it comprises repetition and generation of difference. This dynamic is conceptualized in Tardean fashion as three patterns: the imitation of ideas before expression; the selective nature of imitation; and insertion of the old alongside the new. Originality/value: The paper moves beyond metaphors of shadow organizing, and understandings of shadow organizing as mimicry. Conceptualizing imitation in an alternative way, it contributes fresh insights into how shadow organizing is accomplished. This enriches and expands the conceptual apparatus for researchers wishing to understand the betwixt and between of shadow organizing.
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