Pomo Periscope XX: Thomas Basbøll vs. Karl Weick
| Nicolai Foss |
Karl Weick may not really qualify as a bona fide pomo. He writes well and clearly and much of his work is quite in the mainstream of management research. Still, he has written about the favorite pomo notion of reflexivity (e.g., here), his authority is often invoked in prominent pomo tracts in management (e.g., here), and his notion of sensemaking has a distinct pomo connotation.
Weick’s work has recently been subject to close examination by my CBS colleague, Thomas Basbøll. In a recently published paper, “Softly Constrained Imagination: Plagiarism and Misprision in the Theory of Organizational Sensemaking,” Basbøll argues that Weick’s work suffers from ”significant instances of plagiarism and misreading” (p. 164). Wow! Here is the abstract:
While Karl Weick’s writings have been very influential in contemporary work on organizations, his scholarship is rarely subjected to critical scrutiny. Indeed, despite its open ‘breaching’ of the conventions of much academic writing, Weick’s work has been widely celebrated as ‘first-rate scholarship.’ As it turns out, however, his ‘softly constrained’ textual practices are rendered doubtful by both misreading and plagiarism, which makes his work resemble ‘poetry’ in a much stronger sense than perhaps originally intended. This paper draws inspiration from literary theory to analyze three cases of questionable scholarship in Weick’s 1995 book Sensemaking in organizations, framing them in the context of standard formulations of the methodology of sensemaking drawn from the literature. It concludes that we need to rethink our tolerance of the sensemaking style and re-affirm a commitment to more traditional academic constraints.