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Strategy without Design
The Silent Efficacy of Indirect Action


  • Date Published: March 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521189859

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About the Authors
  • Strategy exhibits a pervasive commitment to the belief that the best approach to adopt in dealing with affairs of the world is to confront, overcome and subjugate things to conform to our will, control and eventual mastery. Performance is about sustaining distinctiveness. This direct and deliberate approach draws inspiration from ancient Greek roots and has become orthodoxy. Yet there are downsides. This book shows why. Using examples from the world of business, economics, military strategy, politics and philosophy, it argues that success may inadvertently emerge from the everyday coping actions of a multitude of individuals, none of whom intended to contribute to any preconceived design. A consequence of this claim is that a paradox exists in strategic interventions, one that no strategist can afford to ignore. The more single-mindedly a strategic goal is sought, the more likely such calculated instrumental action eventually works to undermine its own initial success.

    • Provides an intriguing examination of many previously unquestioned assumptions in the field of strategy
    • Includes examples of unanticipated strategic successes as well as an examination of the underlying structural forces producing such successes, allowing readers to see the connection between empirical cases and theoretical arguments
    • Uses examples and arguments from a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, military strategy, economics and business
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Reviews of the hardback: 'A penetrating and revealing analysis of the inner nature of strategy in a rich range of social and economic contexts. The authors draw on a wealth of theoretical sources and practical examples to show that strategy is more a virtual, unfolding experience than a consciously planned operation. In short, the book compels us to think much more subtly and comprehensively about the latent forces that drive human agency.' Robert Cooper, Keele University

    'Strategy without Design is a provocative contribution to developing alternative ways of thinking about how organisations evolve and what the practice of strategic management means in this evolution. We are all experiencing a financial crisis and recession, the scale and consequences of which were unpredictable even a few months ago. They are not the realisation of any strategic intention. It is therefore now more important than ever to develop new insights into organisational functioning. This book presents an understanding of strategy as emergent patterns of action and draws our attention to the importance of ordinary, everyday interaction between people in organisations in producing such emergent patterns.' Ralph Stacey, Hertfordshire University Business School

    'I cannot remember when I last read an eye-opening book on strategy. But I do know that, most likely, this book tops the list. There is refreshing open-mindedness here, along with conceptual boldness, a strong interdisciplinary orientation, philosophical sophistication, and a willingness to see strategy in a non-conventional way (as immersed wayfinding, spontaneously emerging order, non-purposeful action). I particularly value the emphasis on ecological awareness, on process thinking and complexity that form the three main sources of inspiration for the book. Robert Chia and Robin Holt have done more than write a brilliant book: they have provided us the ingredients for a new kind of complex thinking we so much need in studies of strategy and management.' Haridimos Tsoukas, ALBA Graduate Business School, Athens and University of Warwick

    '[Chia and Holt's] case in Strategy without Design is at once counterintuitive and thoroughly compelling, and draws upon examples and analysis from business, economics, politics, philosophy and military history. … The strength of this publication lies in the breadth of its analysis and the erudition it clearly contains, a strength which is expressed in a way which nonetheless loses none of its accessibility or readability.' Journal of General Management

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521189859
    • length: 262 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.39kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Spontaneous order: the roots of strategy emergence
    2. Economic agency and steps to ecological awareness
    3. Reconceptualizing agency, self-interest and purposeful action
    4. The 'practice turn' in strategy research
    5. Building and dwelling: two ways of investigating strategy practice
    6. Strategy as immersed 'wayfinding'
    7. The silent efficacy of indirect action
    Epilogue: negative capability

  • Authors

    Robert C. H. Chia, Strathclyde Business School

    Robin Holt, University of Liverpool

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