Complexity and Management Conference 3/4/5/ June 2011

Complexity and the embodiment of power and identity in organisations


About the conference

The eighth annual Complexity and Management Conference of the University of Hertfordshire’s  Business School will take place at Roffey Park starting at 7pm on Friday 3rd June 2011 and ending after lunch on 5th June. This event is a very informal conference where prepared papers and presentations are minimal and serve the purpose of introducing themes for discussion amongst conference participants.  In organising this conference we seek to maximise the possibility of discursive conversation. The original purpose of the conference was to provide an opportunity for past, present and possible future participants on our MA/Doctor of Management programme to discuss their experience and ideas with one another, but over the years leaders, managers, consultants and academics who are interested in our work on complexity and emergence in organisations have also attended the event making it very vibrant and diverse.

This year’s theme

Much contemporary organisational literature is highly abstract and is replete with tools and techniques. There is very little acknowledgement that organisations arise from the interactions of thinking, feeling bodies engaged in conflict and co-operation in a particular context at a particular time. Somehow this central aspect of human experience is covered over, or denied. Does this partly arise because of the appeal to scientific method and the idea of management as science, with the assumption of the detached, objective observer? What has contributed to our suspicion of subjective experience and how possible is it to talk of ‘embodiment’ without in turn mystifying what we are talking about, or perhaps instrumentalising the body as a tool of management, in effect reaffirming Cartesian subjectivity rather than challenging it?

In this year’s conference we have decided to address what we consider this neglect of this core aspect of human relating and have invited Dr Ian Burkitt of Bradford University (Social Selves: Theories of Self and the Body, London: Sage, 2008; Bodies of Thought, London: Sage: 1999) to help us initiate our discussions on Saturday morning 4th June. In the afternoon Professor Ralph Stacey will respond to Dr Burkitt’s keynote with some reflections of his own. On Sunday morning Dr Karen Norman and Professor Henry Larsen will talk about a piece of work they have undertaken together using theatre and improvisation with groups of managers.

There will be parallel sessions following the keynotes, where conference participants will be able to explore themes which have struck them as being important in conversation with others. Between now and June we will be uploading posts on this blog  to talk to the theme and to provoke discussion in advance of the conference. Anyone wishing to put forward ideas for parallel sessions is welcome to do so.

You can download the conference brochure here: Complexity and Management Conference brochure

Contact Chris at  c.mowles@herts.ac.uk or Angela Digby a.m.r.digby@herts.ac.uk  for payment details.

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