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Call for Papers
Management and Organization Review
Special Issue on ‘Ambiguity and Decision Making in Chinese
Organizations and Thought’
Mie Augier, Naval Postgraduate School and Stanford University, US
James G. March, Stanford University, US
Mooweon Rhee, University of Hawaii, US
Xueguang Zhou, Stanford University, US
Submission Deadline: December 15, 2012
Ambiguity is an important yet elusive and often puzzling concept in studies of decisions and
organizations, ranging from calculations of risk and inference of preferences from hypothetical
lotteries, to ambiguity about preferences and even about the concept of ambiguity
itself (Ellsberg, 1961; Fox & Tversky, 1995; Heath & Tversky, 1991; de Lara Resende &
Wu, 2010; March, 1978; Rubaltelli, Rumiati, & Slovic, 2010). We consider four broad
classes of ambiguities: (1) Lack of clarity about preferences. (2) Lack of clarity about the
definition of action alternatives. (3) Lack of clarity about possible outcomes and their
likelihoods. (4) Lack of clarity about information (including translations) influencing decision
making. The phrase ‘lack of clarity’ is intended to encompass both vagueness and
inconsistencies (contradictions) in the premises of action. Although ambiguity is often either
ignored or reduced to risk or calculative uncertainty, and ambiguity aversion has been
found in some studies, we would like to explore alternative responses.
It is a cliché of organizational commentary to observe that how organizational members
and decision makers behave is shaped at least in part by the culture in which they are
embedded (Crozier, 1964). Readings both of contemporary reports on Chinese organizations
and of traditional Chinese philosophy and literature suggest that Chinese traditions
and practices may confront ambiguity with a frame that is different from the frame of
In Chinese thought, the simultaneous existence of contradictory states or feelings is
viewed as natural. Recent treatments of the idea of yin-yang and the I-Ching in Chinese
writing contrast the Chinese perspective not only with Western ideas of rationality but also
with Western ideas of dialectic (Chai & Rhee, 2010; Fang, 2012; Hsu & Chiu, 2008;
Julliene, 2011). As a result, according to some reports and speculations, Chinese organizational
practice may be, consciously or unconsciously, less directed to avoiding or removing
ambiguity in choice than to exploiting it.
Potential Research Topics
We invite papers that discuss one or more kinds of ambiguity and how they are confronted,
reduced, or embraced in Chinese organizational behaviors, theories, decisions, and
practices. We invite studies of ambiguity avoidance on the part of organizations, but we also
are interested in organizational responses to ambiguity that do not seek to remove ambiguities
or to avoid them, but embrace them as necessary aspects of choice, indeed as
possible symptoms or sources of intelligence (March, 1978).
We are interested in understanding Chinese organizational responses to ambiguity as
well as the rhetoric and philosophies surrounding those responses. To what extent do
Chinese organizations seek to eliminate ambiguity so as to confront a situation more
amenable to conventional rational choice? To what extent do Chinese organizations rely
on other, less consequential, procedures for choice?
The focus encompasses, but extends beyond, rational choice to include the role of
ambiguity in experiential adaptation to experience through learning or selection, in the
diffusion of knowledge, and in the evocation of the rules of identity. How do Chinese
organizations learn from ambiguous experience? What is the role of ambiguity in the
spread of practices or information in Chinese Organizations? How do individuals in
Chinese organizations confront ambiguities of contradictory identities and goals?
We are especially interested in papers that discuss the actual empirical nature of ambiguity
in Chinese organizations, and how Chinese ideas and organizations have ways of
conceiving, confronting, or embracing ambiguity that can cast light on a more general
theory of organizations. Among other things, this might include how ambiguity affects the
ways Chinese organizations formulate, develop, and implement strategies, organize information,
or learn from their experience. Another possible theme would be mechanisms
through which ambiguity is perceived and embraced (or not embraced) in organizational
decision making and how that influences organizational routines and learning.
Questions may be addressed to any one of the guest editors: Mie Augier (augier@
stanford.edu), James G. March ([log in to unmask]), Mooweon Rhee (mooweon@
hawaii.edu), or Xueguang Zhou ([log in to unmask]). Papers for the special issue
should be submitted electronically through MOR’s ScholarOne Manuscripts site at
http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mor and identified as a submission to the ‘Ambiguity
and Decision Making in Chinese Organizations and Thought’ special issue. All
submissions should follow the ‘MOR Author Guidelines’, available online at http://
Chai, S., & Rhee, M. 2010. Confucian capitalism and the paradox of closure and structural holes in
East Asian firms. Management and Organization Review, 6(1): 5–29.
Crozier, M. (1964): The bureaucratic phenomenon. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
de Lara Resende, J. G., & Wu, G. 2010. Competence effects for choices involving gains and losses.
Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 40(2): 109–132.
Ellsberg, D. 1961. Risk, ambiguity, and the Savage axioms. Quarterly Journal of Economics,
Fang, T. 2012. Yin Yang: A new perspective on culture. Management Organization Review,
Fox, C. R., & Tversky, A. 1995. Ambiguity aversion and comparative ignorance. Quarterly
Journal of Economics, 110(3): 585–603.
Heath, C., & Tversky, A. 1991. Preference and belief: Ambiguity and competence in choice under
uncertainty. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 4(1): 5–28.
Hsu, M., & Chiu, K. 2008. A comparison between I-Ching’s early management decision making
model and Western management decision making models. Chinese Management Studies,
Julliene, F. 2011. Silent transformations. Chicago University Press.
March, J. G. 1978. Bounded rationality, ambiguity, and the engineering of choice. Bell Journal of
Economics, 9(2): 587–608.
Rubaltelli, E., Rumiati R., & Slovic, P. 2010. Do ambiguity avoidance and the comparative ignorance
hypothesis depend on people’s affective reactions? Journal of Risk and Uncertainty,