Open purpose : Embracing organizations as expressive systems
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionClegg, S., Pina e Cuna, M., Rego, A., Santos, F. (2021) ‘Open Purpose’: Embracing Organizations as Expressive Systems. Organization Theory, 4(2) 10.1177/26317877211054860
The concept of purpose gained prominence in organization theory in recent years but there are discrepant views of its meaning, which we review as evolving and different perspectives: economic theories of the firm; stakeholder approaches; integrative social contracts; and social mission. We elaborate these perspectives in terms of the ebb and flow of ideas and eras. Against these instrumental views, we revisit the work of Robert Cooper, namely the ever-open purpose of expressive organizations, and contrast this with fixist views of purpose in instrumental organizations. We engage with the logic of open purpose and sketch a way of rethinking purpose as a general orientation that constantly evolves and changes over time in interaction with its ecosystem.