Experimental organizations do not resist ambiguity and uncertainty, but rather embrace these by deliberately and recursively searching for reflexive responses or 'experiments'. We explore empirically and theoretically the doing of organizational experiments, and how organizations account for these.
Organizations face high hopes and big pressures to do good but have to deal with a variety of goodness (von Wright 1972) that cause frictions and leave organizations uncertain about the 'right' or appropriate behavior. We embrace the idea of the organization as a socio-ecological space of uncertainty, and want to explore from there what it means for organizations to learn and account for their actions. That is, what it means for organizations to be 'experimental'.
Experimental organizations do not resist or attempt to control ambiguity and uncertainty, but embrace these by deliberately and recursively searching for reflexive and situated responses or 'experiments' to occurring challenges. A specific strategy to cope with uncertainty and surprises is what Wildavsky coined as resilience (Wildavsky 1988). The strategy of resilience considers failure and success as two sides of the same coin (Mesman 2008). Can organizations become resilient by using experiments that are inherently unpredictable?
In this panel we want to explore and theorize the 'Experimental Organization'. We are interested in 1) how experiments are done, 2) how experimenting compromises conflicting values into 'goods', 3) how experimenting and resilience are related, and 4) how organizations account for these: experimenting does not mean 'acting in the wild' but rather evokes justification work (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006). Lastly, what does the experimental organization mean for the role of the researcher: if experimenting is central to organizational life, can researchers still stand on the outside and watch, or are they implicated in the experiment (Zuiderent-Jerak 2015)?