Many countries have experienced unprecedented levels of economic development over the last three decades. Economic activity – ranging from manufacturing production in newly industrialized countries to the blossoming of the creative industries in post-industrial societies and an expanse of the professional services sector in nearly all locales – has grown rapidly. Moreover, pressures for further globalization have removed pre-existing barriers, such that labor, financial capital, and products are now moving even more freely than in the late Victorian age. These worldwide shifts have provided abundant opportunities in the form of rising societal affluence, organizational effectiveness, and social mobility of talents.
Yet these shifts have simultaneously placed new demands and strong pressures on businesses, societies, and the natural environment. An increasing scarcity of natural resources and spiking emission rates of CO2 gas and other pollutants constitute a serious threat to future economic growth and societal well-being. Moreover, unemployment rates – especially amongst younger generations – have risen substantially in a variety of national contexts. And the devastating mortgage, banking, and sovereign debt crises of the last decade have ravaged societies and organizations in many corners of the world.
All in all, these repercussions of nearly unbridled economic growth have resulted in societal disgruntlement and severe blowback concerning the way in which privileged groups in society, large organizations, and entrepreneurs have exploited society and the natural environment in the perennial search for profits and growth. These repercussions have also triggered intense discussions about the feasibility and acceptability of the measures we might take towards durably ensuring the provision of goods and services, while safeguarding extra-economic values like equality, justice, and citizenship.
As these challenges have radically changed the global landscape in which individuals and organizations act, they bring novel questions to the centre-stage of our organizational scholarship. The 2014 EGOS Colloquium will provide an opportunity for organizational scholars to reflect on these global challenges, and to reimagine, rethink, and reshape our scholarship in light of the deeply invasive period of stagnation and decline we currently face:
- How can we ensure that the ways in which organizations generate profits and benefits contributing to human development today do not compromise or jeopardize the well-being of other societies or future generations?
- What are the implications of the current economic and social challenges for the way we live, design our organizations, and support our society?
- How can we change our ways as organizational scholars to stimulate organizational and societal reflexivity on these pressing themes more effectively?
In Rotterdam, the processes of reimagining, rethinking, and reshaping are wholly ingrained in the local DNA. Being a port city, Rotterdam has always attracted people from a wide variety of nationalities, some of whom passed through, while others stayed permanently. They brought with them foreign ideas, cultures, and practices, which challenged, provoked, and eventually changed the local customs. More dramatically even, the near complete destruction of Rotterdam in the mid-20th century at the same time offered an opportunity to reimagine, rethink, and reshape the entire urban plan of the city. This natural experiment has shown that the processes of reimagining, rethinking, and reshaping are not easy and never complete. Yet the beauty behind it all is that to be in Rotterdam is to be in a place that is constantly in the process of reinventing itself, and to be able to witness the remnant of reinvention attempts that are now abandoned but that have left behind flotsam and jetsam that is too beautiful or interesting to discard wholly.
We look forward to seeing you in Rotterdam!