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The Neither-And thinking: Understanding James March’s unique solution to paradox

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Xin LiORCiD


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In this paper, I propose a typology of thinking pattern that helps us understand the variants of the so-called ‘both/and thinking’ shared by many organizational paradox scholars in the West and China. The variants are distinguished by the ‘primary thinking-secondary thinking’ structure between the combined elementary thinking. One of the variants, i.e., the Neither-And thinking, is associated with James March’s discussion of logic of consequences and logic of appropriateness. An examination of March’s writings reveals an additional ‘principle-practice’ structure underlining March’s unique solution to paradox. Incorporating the ‘principle-practice’ structure into the proposed typology in turn helps us better understand the other variants of ‘the both/and thinking’ such as ambidexterity, contingency and Zhong-Yong. The typology shows March’s Neither-And solution is unique because it embraces a primary neither/nor thinking while all the other variants do not. To demonstrate the value of March’s unique solution, I apply the Neither-And thinkingcharacterized by the ‘principle-practice’ relationship to paradoxes outside organization studies, e.g., in Deconstruction, Buddhism, and quantum physics. The wide application of the Neither-And thinking implies that James March’s unique solution to organizational paradox may have provided a key to understanding paradox in general.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li X

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Management and Organization Review

Year: 2021

Volume: 17

Issue: 4

Pages: 755 - 776

Print publication date: 01/10/2021

Online publication date: 15/04/2021

Acceptance date: 10/09/2020

ISSN (print): 1740-8776

ISSN (electronic): 1740-8784

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/mor.2020.74


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