A figure is worth a thousand words: The role of visualization in paradox theorizing

Camille Pradies, Marco Berti, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Arménio Rego, Andrea Tunarosa, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Visualization (i.e., the use of figures and images to represent findings and conceptual models) is central to theorizing. Yet, by focusing solely on the textual content of papers, analysis has inadvertently marginalized the graphic representations of key ideas. We review the paradox literature not just in terms of what authors have written but also how they have visualized models concisely. An analysis of figures in paradox articles captures the essential role that visuals play in our understanding of competing tensions, leveraging the power of imagery. We explore paradox visually, searching for the figurative materialization of paradox; more particularly, we seek visual signs that render abstract ideas more saliently and concretely. We contribute to paradox theory in three ways. First, we show how visuals constitute the lynchpin between convergent and divergent forces, allowing scholars to simultaneously reinforce and challenge current understanding. Second, we offer a tool for scholars to theorize competing demands based on three key antinomies, or dualities, that define the terrain of research in our field. Third, we reveal the performative effect of figures by identifying the ongoing dominance of certain classes of paradox visuals, which allows us to point to uncharted territories for paradox research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231–1257
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • paradox theory
  • semiotics
  • theorizing
  • visual analysis
  • visual representation of paradox


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