Shaping strategic action through the rhetorical construction and exploitation of ambiguity

John Sillince, Paula Jarzabkowski, Duncan Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper extends existing understandings of how actors' constructions of ambiguity shape the emergent process of strategic action. We theoretically elaborate the role of rhetoric in exploiting strategic ambiguity, based on analysis of a longitudinal case study of an internationalization strategy within a business school. Our data show that actors use rhetoric to construct three types of strategic ambiguity: protective ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to protect particular interests, invitational ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to invite participation in particular actions, and adaptive ambiguity that enables the temporary adoption of specific values in order to appeal to a particular audience at one point in time. These rhetorical constructions of ambiguity follow a processual pattern that shapes the emergent process of strategic action. Our findings show that (1) the strategic actions that emerge are shaped by the way actors construct and exploit ambiguity, (2) the ambiguity intrinsic to the action is analytically distinct from ambiguity that is constructed and exploited by actors, and (3) ambiguity construction shifts over time to accommodate the emerging pattern of actions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-650
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization Science
Volume23
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jun 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2012

Fingerprint

Exploitation
Strategic action
Rhetoric
Industry
Common values
Intrinsic
Participation
Internationalization strategy
Longitudinal case study
Business schools

Cite this

Sillince, John ; Jarzabkowski, Paula ; Shaw, Duncan. / Shaping strategic action through the rhetorical construction and exploitation of ambiguity. In: Organization Science. 2012 ; Vol. 23, No. 3. pp. 630-650.
@article{b15a1195d3a8485a9e00bc7c9c359850,
title = "Shaping strategic action through the rhetorical construction and exploitation of ambiguity",
abstract = "This paper extends existing understandings of how actors' constructions of ambiguity shape the emergent process of strategic action. We theoretically elaborate the role of rhetoric in exploiting strategic ambiguity, based on analysis of a longitudinal case study of an internationalization strategy within a business school. Our data show that actors use rhetoric to construct three types of strategic ambiguity: protective ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to protect particular interests, invitational ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to invite participation in particular actions, and adaptive ambiguity that enables the temporary adoption of specific values in order to appeal to a particular audience at one point in time. These rhetorical constructions of ambiguity follow a processual pattern that shapes the emergent process of strategic action. Our findings show that (1) the strategic actions that emerge are shaped by the way actors construct and exploit ambiguity, (2) the ambiguity intrinsic to the action is analytically distinct from ambiguity that is constructed and exploited by actors, and (3) ambiguity construction shifts over time to accommodate the emerging pattern of actions.",
author = "John Sillince and Paula Jarzabkowski and Duncan Shaw",
year = "2012",
month = "5",
doi = "10.1287/orsc.1110.0670",
language = "English",
volume = "23",
pages = "630--650",
journal = "Organization Science",
issn = "1047-7039",
publisher = "INFORMS Inst.for Operations Res.and the Management Sciences",
number = "3",

}

Shaping strategic action through the rhetorical construction and exploitation of ambiguity. / Sillince, John; Jarzabkowski, Paula; Shaw, Duncan.

In: Organization Science, Vol. 23, No. 3, 05.2012, p. 630-650.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Shaping strategic action through the rhetorical construction and exploitation of ambiguity

AU - Sillince, John

AU - Jarzabkowski, Paula

AU - Shaw, Duncan

PY - 2012/5

Y1 - 2012/5

N2 - This paper extends existing understandings of how actors' constructions of ambiguity shape the emergent process of strategic action. We theoretically elaborate the role of rhetoric in exploiting strategic ambiguity, based on analysis of a longitudinal case study of an internationalization strategy within a business school. Our data show that actors use rhetoric to construct three types of strategic ambiguity: protective ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to protect particular interests, invitational ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to invite participation in particular actions, and adaptive ambiguity that enables the temporary adoption of specific values in order to appeal to a particular audience at one point in time. These rhetorical constructions of ambiguity follow a processual pattern that shapes the emergent process of strategic action. Our findings show that (1) the strategic actions that emerge are shaped by the way actors construct and exploit ambiguity, (2) the ambiguity intrinsic to the action is analytically distinct from ambiguity that is constructed and exploited by actors, and (3) ambiguity construction shifts over time to accommodate the emerging pattern of actions.

AB - This paper extends existing understandings of how actors' constructions of ambiguity shape the emergent process of strategic action. We theoretically elaborate the role of rhetoric in exploiting strategic ambiguity, based on analysis of a longitudinal case study of an internationalization strategy within a business school. Our data show that actors use rhetoric to construct three types of strategic ambiguity: protective ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to protect particular interests, invitational ambiguity that appeals to common values in order to invite participation in particular actions, and adaptive ambiguity that enables the temporary adoption of specific values in order to appeal to a particular audience at one point in time. These rhetorical constructions of ambiguity follow a processual pattern that shapes the emergent process of strategic action. Our findings show that (1) the strategic actions that emerge are shaped by the way actors construct and exploit ambiguity, (2) the ambiguity intrinsic to the action is analytically distinct from ambiguity that is constructed and exploited by actors, and (3) ambiguity construction shifts over time to accommodate the emerging pattern of actions.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84863095391&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://orgsci.journal.informs.org/content/23/3/630

U2 - 10.1287/orsc.1110.0670

DO - 10.1287/orsc.1110.0670

M3 - Article

VL - 23

SP - 630

EP - 650

JO - Organization Science

JF - Organization Science

SN - 1047-7039

IS - 3

ER -