Unpacking the Many Natures of Organizational Paradox: From Transformative Dynamics to Bundles of Paradoxes in Grand Challenges

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisExternal


Organizational paradoxes pervade grand challenges. Complex social problems are full of many persistent interdependent contradictions that are intertwined in different ways. Understanding how paradoxes relate to one another and unfold over time depending on actors’ responses is key to harnessing their generative potential. This understanding starts with the ontological assumptions from which we unpack paradoxes. Rather than being exclusive, different ontological understandings of paradox shed light on different aspects of the phenomenon. Accordingly, in this dissertation I put the focus on different instances of intertwined paradoxes in the context of grand challenges, unpacking them from different ontological perspectives. This dissertation consists of three studies: (1) A conceptual exploration of the dynamics of paradox across construal levels; in this study we bring together dynamic equilibrium and dialectics by introducing the distinction between abstract and concrete paradoxes, the interplay of which we unpack through a morphogenetic framework grounded in a critical realist ontology; (2) A qualitative study of social impact bonds across Europe to explain how institutional entrepreneurs work on the sociomaterial context to knot several paradoxes together and articulate responses to grand challenges; in this study we unpack paradoxical knots from a quantum ontology, highlighting their sociomateriality, and (3) A qualitative study of two organizations in the Spanish housing sector that need to balance commercial and social demands to explain how people morally respond to paradoxes; in this study we unpack the moral dimension of paradox by highlighting its nested nature from a constitutive ontology. Overall, this dissertation contributes to the understanding of (a) the ontology of paradox, as well as (b) the character of knotted, nested, and abstract and concrete paradoxes.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • ESADE Business School
  • Hehenberger, Lisa, Supervisor, External person
  • Hahn, Tobias, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date26 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2023


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