Scandinavian Working Papers in Business Administration

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 2009:1: Of Managers, Ideas and Jesters

Guje Sevón () and Liisa Välikangas ()
Additional contact information
Guje Sevón: Dept. of Business Administration, Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden
Liisa Välikangas: Dept. of Organization and Management, Postal: Helsinki School of Economics, P.O. Box 1210 , FIN-00101 Helsinki , Finland

Abstract: Ours is an argument for ideas that become us. Illustratory is a statement by a well-known management author who lamented the difficulty of “escaping one’s past ideas”. Viewing himself a prisoner, his past published ideas had devoured him: they limited his ability to imagine or credibly present new, different ideas. The predicament reflects the perspective we wish to develop in this paper: Ideas may be seen as our embodiments rather than what is more often put forth, externalized as objects that we create and dismiss at will. We argue that a way of looking at ideas is to start by considering humans, and managers, as spokespersons for out-there ideas, which inhabit them at a time of readiness. People become possessed; they become imprisoned by certain ideas that they then begin to perform. A jester is an example of a performer of an idea of a fool even if occasionally, as we argue in this paper, the jester may also counterbalance the cognitive inertia of managers. We draw attention to the common difficulty managers have, to move beyond the particular idea that has become them, once – like the jester - they have begun performing the idea(s).

Keywords: manager; ideas; jesters; change

18 pages, January 20, 2009

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