Innovation as a Parasitic Process: Towards Dark Organizational Theory

By Juan Espinosa and Steve D. Brown.

Published by Knowledge Management: An International Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: March 6, 2017 $US5.00

Innovation studies has been enriched by recent engagement with Actor-Network Theory (ANT), which appears to share many concerns with the management of externalities and the enrollment of allies. But this approach nevertheless renders the question of where innovation comes from mysterious. Drawing on the work of Michel Serres, we develop a “parasitic” account of innovation, where third spaces, inscribed in material artefacts and visual representation, intrude into the innovation process. Illustrating our argument with empirical material derived from a study of Med Dialysis—a medical technology company based in the UK—we propose that parasitic interventions distribute order and disorder in a reversible fashion within innovative organizations. Anticipating and responding to the parasite is treated as a central process for managers and engineers who engage with a representation of the world that is “constitutively vague.” We conclude with a proposal for developing an application of Serres’ work in management and organization studies—a “dark organization theory.”

Keywords: Materiality, Innovation Studies, Post-ANT, Serres, Zero Objects

Knowledge Management: An International Journal, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp.1-19. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: March 6, 2017 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.275MB)).

Dr. Juan Espinosa

Lecturer, Facultad de Economía y Negocios, Universidad Andrés Bello, Santiago, Chile

Steve D. Brown

Professor, Social and Organisational Psychology, School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK