Visionary Ambiguity and Strategic Change

Scottwdw (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

When is ambiguity in business a positive thing? When it enables leaders to effectively initiate strategic change. The Journal of Management Inquiry (JMI) tells us how it’s done. Dennis A. Gioia of Pennsylvania State University, Rajiv Nag of Georgia State University, and Kevin G. Corley of Arizona State University published “Visionary Ambiguity and Strategic Change: The Virtue of Vagueness in Launching Major Organizational Change” on May 23, 2012 in JMI. To see other OnlineFirst articles, click here.

The abstract:

Can ambiguous vision statements help to initiate strategic change? We draw on organizational and political concepts to make the case that ambiguity in the expression of future aspirations enables a sense of alignment between local and larger organizational goals that eases the political path to successful change. We also explore the paradox that, occasionally, the path out of ambiguity involves the initial injection of even more ambiguity into an already ambiguous situation. In addition, we demonstrate that consideration of a practical problem (how to effectively initiate strategic change) and a nonobvious recommendation (to employ an intentionally ambiguous vision) leads to a deeper exploration of key processes involved in the revision of personal and organizational knowledge.

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