Opportunity Tension at the Center: Positive Organizational Behaviors, Participant Capital, and Social Emergence



opportunity tension, positive organizational behavior, social capital, generative emergence, collaborative emergence, social emergence, multilevel mutual causality


This theoretical essay connects 1) collaboration in voluntary groups that create social value, 2) interpersonal behaviors of the participants, and 3) various forms of “capital” participants bring to opportunities for which they are highly motivated. Positive behaviors and accumulation of participant capital mutually reinforce the sense of opportunity and motivation participants feel for a given project and increase the attractiveness and sense of opportunity for others. This “opportunity tension” grows in a non-linear fashion resulting in increasingly disruptive participant action that ultimately drives the production of emergent social value. A complex systems lens emphasizes mutual reinforcement at multiple scales and containment that bounds interaction. Support for the argument comes from a wide range of literature and peer-reviewed journal articles citing empirical evidence for the individual effects between the various factors. By understanding these dynamics social sector collectives can proactively design their interaction to become more effective in responding to the serious challenges we increasingly face.

Author Biography

Jim Best, Saybrook University

Scholar-Practitioner at Large

Jim Best (BS Neuroscience, University of Michigan; MBA Telecommunications Management, Golden Gate University; PhD Organizational Systems, Saybrook University) is a former healthcare IT architect supporting care delivery, care providers, hospital operations, and organizational telecommunications infrastructure in 36 U.S. hospitals over two decades.

Jim brings a complex systems and network systems lens to the study and development of high performing cross-functional groups coordinating interdependent tasks typically found in health care delivery. Other special interests are positive organizational scholarship, Relational Coordination theory, Liberating Structures, and facilitating generative conversations that tap the collective wisdom of diverse groups.