Towards a theory of organizational improvisation: looking beyond the jazz metaphor

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171 Citations (Scopus)


This paper calls for research on organizational improvisation to go beyond the currently dominant jazz metaphor in theory development. We recognize the important contribution that jazz improvisation has made and will no doubt continue to make in understanding the nature and complexity of organizational improvisation. This article therefore presents some key lessons from the jazz metaphor and then proceeds to identify the possible dangers of building scientific inquiry upon a single metaphor. We then present three alternative models - Indian music, music therapy and role theory. We explore their nature and seek to identify ways in which the insights they generate complement those from jazz. This leads us to a better understanding of the challenges of building a theory of organizational improvisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2023-2051
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003


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