Title: Constructing sustainability in organisations: identity and boundaries in complex adaptive systems

Authors: Terry B. Porter; José-Rodrigo Córdoba-Pachón

Addresses: Maine Business School, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, USA ' School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Hill, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, London, UK

Abstract: In this paper, we advance the argument that sustainability in organisations is constructed through actors' negotiation of identities and boundaries in complex systems. The paper offers a process-based, practical approach to understanding and constructing sustainability in a complex systems framework, to our knowledge for the first time. Theoretically we draw from complexity theory, systems theory and social constructionism in building our perspective. Practically, we assert that boundary critique and identity work, both established methodologies in the social sciences; become core tools of the sustainability-minded manager. The paper aims to make three contributions. First, we present a conceptual framework for understanding sustainability from a systems perspective, specifically within the context of complex adaptive systems (CASs) and social construction. Second, we advance boundary critique and identity work at the edge of chaos as the means and locus of constructing sustainability, demonstrating our approach through original examples from our own research. Third, we discuss the implications of our arguments for practising managers and offer suggestions for further research.

Keywords: complex adaptive systems; CAS; boundaries; identity work; boundary critique; social constructionism; systems theory; sustainability; edge of chaos; complexity theory; sustainable development.

DOI: 10.1504/IJCLM.2014.064454

International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, 2014 Vol.2 No.4, pp.239 - 258

Published online: 13 Sep 2014 *

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