University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Organization Theory Seminar Series > The Strengths of Strangers: The Unrecognized Role of Outsider-Insiders in Influencing Organizational Change Processes

The Strengths of Strangers: The Unrecognized Role of Outsider-Insiders in Influencing Organizational Change Processes

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Actors’ social positions are critical in influencing the role they play in organizational change. This paper develops theory to explain the process by which outsider-insiders, a social position that has not been theorized in past research, influence sensemaking in ways that can enhance insiders’ change capacity. Drawing on Simmel, we find that interactions between outsider-insiders and organizational insiders can co-construct outsider-insiders as strangers. This co-construction of the stranger role is concurrent with sensemaking of the change process. Concurrent co-construction of the stranger role and sensemaking of the change process, strangers develop local knowledge that they draw in in subsequent interactions with insiders. Through an iterative process in which strangers’ local knowledge informs subsequent sensemaking of the change process, interactions between strangers and organizational insiders can develop insiders’ change capacity.

This talk is part of the Organization Theory Seminar Series series.

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