The way we act collectively is changing quickly in a world where transportation and information technologies are expanding and where boundaries to the exchange of goods, services and knowledge are declining.
Have we, management scholars, put too much emphasis on research about competition and top down processes and not enough emphasis on cooperation?
What is missing from the policy analyst’s tool kit – and from the set of accepted, well-developed theories of human organization – is an adequately specified theory of collective action whereby a group of principals can organize themselves voluntarily to retain the residuals of their own efforts.
Elinor Ostrom (1996) Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action p. 25-26
New modes of production together with new ways of value creation and distribution are emerging and growing. For example: Free, open, crowd, peer, shared, distributed are now adjectives that designate software or hardware, manufacturing, sourcing or funding….
Old systems are transformed with new demands for cooperation at the political and productive macro, meso and micro levels. Think about global governance, inter-firm relationships, public-private partnerships, global value chains, multi-stakeholder initiatives, inter-departmental project management, teams focused on innovation….
Risks to our common goods are rising from the intended or unintended results of our actions, through war and conflicts, poverty, climate change, pollution, natural resource depletion….
Less centralised and hierarchical organisations are required but markets are not enough to drive innovation and to avoid the destruction of our shared planet.
Management is about the conduct of collective action. Because we must move beyond centralisation and hierarchy, concern with management cannot be limited to managers. With this broader perspective on management, the key question is: Is cooperation manageable? Can knowledge about cooperation help? Do we, human beings, have the capacity to develop more cooperative forms of organisations?
The French motto “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” may well inspire us. In Paris, we, engaged management scholars from diverse disciplinary, paradigmatic and national… origins, hope to cooperate in sharing and debating our approaches to cooperation: its aims and results, conditions, limits and drawbacks, the transitional steps toward more cooperative systems and behavior. We hope, as well, to tackle our own practice of cooperation and its evolution. Manageable Cooperation?