Philip J. Boxer
2-day Professional Development Workshop: PDW7

This workshop will provide opportunities for participants to share their experiences of challenging situations in their own and in client organizations. Its aim will be to consider how individuals might learn from these situations if they consider their experience as symptomatic of how the larger organizational context resists innovation. We will focus on situations brought by participants that were responded to by these contexts as if in some way ‘beyond the pale’. We will be assuming that what makes these situations challenging doesn’t just create opportunities for learning on the part of the individuals involved. They will also be in some way symptomatic of how the larger organizational context organizes and conserves its existing approach to supporting vested interests by ‘walling off’ support for new kinds of vested interest, exerting counter-resistance. We will be working with the relationship between the individual’s experience and what might be going on in the larger context that would sustain this counter-resistance.

At the level of the economy as a whole, organizations in every sector are competing within ecosystems exhibiting market thickness (Langlois 2003), exposing them increasingly to competitive pressures from agile transformation (De Smet, Lurie, and St. George 2018), platform architectures (Tiwana 2014), horizontal transparency across networks (Parker, Van Alstyne, and Choudary 2016) and multi-sided markets (Evans and Schmalensee 2016). These pressures invert the organization, requiring it to shift its focus from internal activities to external activities in order to be able to follow their customers’ journeys (Seitz, Singla, and Tamayo 2018). The effect is to turn organizations inside-out, with functions from marketing to information technology and operations to strategy increasingly sourced from outside.

This inversion exposes individuals working inside organisations to demands for horizontal collaboration within networks that cross organisational boundaries and require distributed leadership (Boxer 2014). The horizontal dynamics of these networks will be responding at the edges of an organization to customers who will resist being given less than they expect. At the same time individuals will be vertically accountable to their organizations’ existing models of performance. The inversion will present individuals at every level with dilemmas in how to balance the interests of inside and outside, of the vertical with the horizontal, and of the counter-resistance of existing stakeholders with the resistance of customers. In the workshop we will be exploring the parallel processes arising at different levels from these experienced dilemmas.

The goal of the workshop will be to provide opportunities for experiential learning using plus-one process to explore the situations brought by participants (Boxer 2018). We will learn to use this process to uncover the gaps that underlie the dilemmas being faced, and to understand how the ‘walling off’ of these gaps shows up in resistance/counter-resistance dynamics at different levels of the organisation competing within its ecosystem. We will introduce Lacanian thinking to consider what unconscious dynamics these gaps might be symptomatic of, and to explore what forms of intervention will be needed to change the dynamics within the context of the larger ecosystem.

Philip Boxer BSc MBA PhD brings many years of strategy consulting experience to his work with clients in public, private and not-for-profit sectors, developing clients’ capabilities for leadership within highly networked environments; and using approaches that enable clients both to scale learning across networked organizations and to develop the agility of the supporting business platforms. Philip is a member of the (Lacanian) Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research and the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations. The focus of his research and writing is on ways of understanding and working through the maladaptive responses of organizations to turbulent business ecosystems in the pursuit of greater sustainability.