What is it about?

------------------------ Research Focus ------------------------ Our study investigates how sharing ventures address the paradox of balancing the aim to benefit society and the environment while minimising potential adverse effects. We conducted 38 in-depth interviews with founders and senior managers of sharing ventures in four European countries. They align with three distinct value focus types in their decision-making. They also use five mechanisms to conceal paradoxes that balance social/environmental, and economic contradictions. Our findings provide insights into the purposeful concealment of paradox as a counterintuitive strategic choice.

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Why is it important?

------------------------------------------------------- Contribution to Academic Scholarship ------------------------------------------------------- Sharing ventures have gained popularity for their ability to provide convenient and cost-effective services to consumers while promoting environmental sustainability and social responsibility. However, prominent sharing ventures like Uber and Airbnb have faced criticism for exploiting a marginalised workforce and perpetuating racial bias in their business models. Despite the significant impact of sharing ventures on business and society, their decisions in balancing social/environmental concerns with economic interests have not been thoroughly examined. Our comparative thematic analysis of the interview evidence leads to two main findings. First, the sharing ventures in our sample align with three distinct value focuses, shaping their strategic orientations. We refer to these as Earth Keepers (focused on environmental values), Community Builders (focused on social values), and Visionaries (focused on both environmental and social values). Second, we find that sharing ventures use five different mechanisms to conceal paradoxes in the sharing economy based on their value focus: addressing or ignoring responsibility for environmental destruction, addressing or ignoring responsibility for social damage, and passing responsibility for economic downturn. Sharing ventures' value focus helps them "deparadoxify" by making salient paradoxes latent and remaining actionable in their decision-making. Expanding the debate on the salience versus latency of managing paradoxes, our study contributes to the existing research on paradoxes. We add insights to the defensive approaches to managing paradoxes in sustainability contexts by demonstrating the performative nature of an organization'sorganisation's value focus and identifying the implicit mechanisms that sharing ventures use to "deparadoxify" inherent contradictions and tensions. Sharing ventures balance contradictory growth and sustainability objectives by purposely making salient paradoxes latent. Our findings challenge the conventional view recommending proactive paradox management to remain actionable as an organisation. We offer a framework that outlines the importance of value focus and the resulting mechanisms for concealing persistent contradictions and tensions in the decision-making of sharing ventures. ------------------------------------------------------- Contribution to Management Practice ------------------------------------------------------- Our study offers practical recommendations for navigating this emerging business environment by identifying mechanisms for concealing paradoxes in the sharing economy. In today's increasingly unstable and complex markets, management scholars emphasise the importance of identifying pragmatic approaches for managing persistent contradictions and tensions. Aligning mechanisms for handling paradoxes with the value focus of the firm can simplify managerial decision-making. Our findings provide a deeper understanding of the sharing economy by demonstrating how sharing ventures are shaped by distinct values that inform their strategic decisions. Organisational paradoxes can be challenging to manage as they represent a burden for organisational members and may go beyond their causal influence or recognition. Our framework is valuable for practitioners as it illustrates how sharing ventures can remain actionable in their decision-making contexts by addressing persistent tensions and contradictions related to their value focus while neglecting or passing on those outside their value focus to external stakeholders or authorities. The sampled sharing ventures make choices by aligning economic, social, and/or environmental orientations according to their value focus. This helps them avoid vicious trade-off cycles and persistent tensions and contradictions.


The sharing economy has the potential to induce significant societal-level changes. However, it is also characterised by persistent tensions and contradictions as it generates both positive and negative externalities for the common good. Our inductive study highlights the importance of sharing ventures' value focus and the mechanisms they use to address and conceal paradoxes to remain effective in a complex and contradictory decision-making context. These insights inform future theory development on the sharing economy and organisational paradox.

Full Professor Dirk Schneckenberg
ESC Rennes School of Business

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This page is a summary of: Deparadoxification and value focus in sharing ventures: Concealing paradoxes in strategic decision-making, Journal of Business Research, July 2023, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2023.113883.
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