Scott Sonenshein


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Scott Sonenshein’s research employs field methodologies (primarily involving qualitative data) to explain the resourceful actions of employees to advance organizational and social/ethical change. Scott’s work usually follows an inductive approach, posing broad research questions grounded in the literature that enable the development and elaboration of theory—often in unexpected directions. This has led to contributions to a variety of theoretical perspectives including sensemaking, narratives, social influence, creativity and decision making. He has made these contributions by locating generative field settings ranging from fashion to food trucks, banking to booksellers, and entrepreneurs to environmentalists.  While his studies often contain an “inductive surprise,” his work coalesces around illuminating the skill, agency, and motivation of individuals to contribute to their workplaces or the social good as well as the corresponding organizational practices that foster these outcomes. Scott’s interest in positive organizations started from his recognition that while scholars have dedicated substantial attention to explaining unethical behavior they have provided limited insights into explaining ethical behavior. His research on ethics and social change explains how individuals navigate and shape complex organizational contexts to make them more ethical and socially oriented. His recent work has examined the social psychological foundations of being an effective agent for social and ethical change, how organizations foster collective creativity during organizational change and how organizations shape employees’ interpretations of positive self-change.