Pandemic, power and paradox: Improvising as the new normal during the COVID-19 crisis

Ace Volkmann Simpson, Alexia Panayiotou, Marco Berti, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Shireen Kanji, Stewart Clegg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


The global COVID-19 pandemic made salient various paradoxical tensions, such as the trade-offs between individual freedom and collective safety, between short term and long-term consequences of adaptation to the new conditions, the power implications of sameness (COVID-19 was non-discriminatory in that all were affected in one way or another) and difference (yet not all were affected equally due to social differences), whereas most businesses became poorer under lockdown, others flourished; while significant numbers of workers were confined to home, some could not return home; some thrived while working from home as others were challenged by the erosion of barriers between their private and working lives. Rapid improvisational responding and learning at all levels of society presented itself as a naturally occurring research opportunity for improvisation scholars. This improvisation saw the arrival of a ‘New Normal’, eventually defined as ‘learning to live with COVID-19’. The five articles in this special issue capture critical aspects of improvisation, paradoxes and power made salient by the COVID-19 pandemic in contexts ranging from higher-education, to leadership, to medical care and virtue ethics. In their own ways, each breaks new ground by contributing novel insights into improvisation scholarship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3–13
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • COVID-19
  • improvisation
  • paradox
  • power


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