Sub-Plenary 1-4

Retrospection and Projection in
Generating Better Pasts and Futures


Thursday, July 6, 2023, 16:00–17:30 CEST

Campus Economia | Via Sant’Ignazio 74 | 09123 Cagliari
Building A, floor 0, room: B

Tim Weiss, Imperial College, United Kingdom
Jens Beckert, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany
Davide Ravasi, University College London, United Kingdom
Violina P. Rindova, University of Southern California, USA
Klaus Weber, Kellogg School of Management, USA

The purpose of this sub-plenary is a dialogue on perspectives on how constructions of the past and the future shape the futures we actually create and how we evaluate them. This approach recasts understandings of legacy and imagination from a present point of view as questions of retrospect and projection, looking back and looking forward. We treat the contrasts of “past : future”, and “retrospection: projection” as orthogonal, so that imagined pasts and legacy futures are of equal interest as more conventional alignments.

This sub-plenary focuses on two central issues:

  • a dialogue about concepts that join the past to the future, from identity, reputation and strategic capabilities; to design processes, entrepreneurial projects and cultural narratives, to the structuring of political and economic resources; and

  • the concrete practices of how futures take on reality, so that processes of retrospect and projection are not detached cognitive hypotheticals but deeply embedded in organizational and societal practices and structures.

Rather than focusing on a specific field of study or on specific dimensions of ‘the good life”, this sub-plenary is designed to survey the theoretical landscape of contemporary scholarship related to temporal agency, and find common ground as well as points of divergence. To this end, the session brings together four prominent scholars with long-standing expertise and extensive knowledge of work on legacy and imagination: Jens Beckert, Davide Ravasi, Violina Rindova, and Roy Suddaby. While their work emphasizes different temporal orientations (future–history) and is grounded in different disciplines (from sociology, to strategy, to organization theory) and phenomena (from identity and reputation to entrepreneurship and capitalist systems), each panelist has also developed groundbreaking theoretical perspectives that offer starting points for the dialogue. Each panelists will outline a point of view of central concepts and questions and then engage with the others.
This sub-plenary directly addresses the overall Colloquium theme with a focus on constructionist perspectives in theorizing legacy and imagination in organization studies. Attendees will walk away with novel insights into how the process and content of engaging with the past and the future shapes how we innovate, generate organizational life (good or bad), and how we (fail to) address societal problems.

Jens Beckert is a Professor of Sociology and Managing Director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany. His research concerns the role of imagined futures and fictional expectations in economic action, the sociology of organizations and markets, and inheritance and wealth inequality. Recent publications include Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics [Harvard University Press, 2016], and ‘The Firm as an Engine of Imagination: Organizational prospection and the making of economic futures’ [Organization Studies, 2021;].
Davide Ravasi is a Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and the Director of UCL School of Management, University College London, United Kingdom. His research concerns organizational identity, culture and change; design processes, and symbolic value and aesthetics. Recent publications include ‘Dealing with revered past: Historical identity statements and strategic change in Japanese family firms’ [Strategic Management Journal, 2020, 41 (3), 590–623] and ‘Identity trajectories: Explaining long-term patterns of continuity and change in organizational identities’ [Academy of Management Journal, 2020, 63 (4),].
Violina P. Rindova is the Captain Henry W. Simonsen Chair in Strategic Entrepreneurship, at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, USA. Her research concerns organizational reputation; dynamic capabilities, strategy and entrepreneurship, and temporality in organizations. Recent publications include ‘Futurescapes: Imagination and temporal reorganization in the design of strategic narratives’ [Strategic Organization, 2021, 20 (1), 200–224] and ‘Shaping Possibilities: A Design Science Approach to Developing Novel Strategies’ [Academy of Management Review, 2021, 46 (4), 800–822].
Klaus Weber is the Thomas G. Ayers Chair in Energy Resource Management and a Professor of Management & Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management, USA. His research uses cultural and institutional analysis to study the dynamics of organizational and institutional sustainability transitions; social movements, corporations, and markets; and economic globalization. Recent publications include ‘Constructing a Distant Future: Imaginaries in Geoengineering’ [Academy of Management Journal, 2019, 62 (6), 1930–1960] and ‘Organizational Structure from Interaction: Evidence from Corporate Sustainability Efforts’ [Administrative Science Quarterly, 2020, 65 (1), 226–271].'
Tim Weiss is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship at Imperial College, United Kingdom. His research sits at the intersection of entrepreneurship and society, analyzing the changing nature of entrepreneurship and its societal effects, in settings ranging from Silicon Valley to Nairobi, Kenia. Recent publications include Digital Kenya: An Entrepreneurial Revolution in the Making (Springer, 2017) and ‘Making Sense of Africa’s Emerging Digital Transformation and its Many Futures” [Africa Journal of Management, 2017, 3 (3–4), 328–347].