The Cognitive Limits on Organisational Reframing: A Systems Perspective Based on the Theory of Autopoiesis

  • Brocklesby J
  • Mingers J
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Abstract

Organisational reframing is founded on the belief that many managers adopt a narrow perspective in defining and dealing with organisational issues. This type of manager is deemed to be less effective than those who are capable of handling and co-ordinating multiple logics, and therefore have more choices available. While reframing has been one of the more significant recent developments in management studies, the idea has been criticised most notably because the link between reframing and action is nowhere near as straightforward as its advocates would have us believe. To this end the paper focuses on one such constraint: that which involves human cognition. Using a broad perspective on cognition arising out of Humberto Maturana's contributions to the biology of cognition paradigm, to its progeny: autopoiesis, and to a particular way of thinking about human knowledge based upon his ontology of the observer, the paper comments on and critically assesses the cognitive assumptions that underpin the idea of reframing. The overall argument is that a broad systemic perspective on human cognition is necessary to fully comprehend the complex issues that are involved in both individual and collaborative organisational reframing. We conclude that bringing about multiframe thinking and/or reframing has ramifications way beyond the specific individuals who might be involved, and can be extremely difficult. At the same time we submit that having a better understanding of these difficulties paves the way for those involved, including facilitators, to take steps to maximise the chances that the expected outcome of linking reframing with action will eventuate.

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Authors

  • John Brocklesby

  • John Mingers

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