I am investigating the phenomenon of ‘surprise’ and how ‘alternative’ organizations experience it, respond to it, and are impacted by it for my doctoral research at Oxford Brookes University.

I am looking for people with experience of ‘alternative’ organizations to help me by talking to me about their experiences of ‘surprise’.

I want to understand how ‘alternative’ organizations deal with things that ‘surprise’ them, for example, the absence of the expected, or the presence of the unexpected.
— Richard Longman

Inviting you to participate in research. Research shows us that ‘surprise’ is important to organizations, because it challenges them to stop and think about how they try to control people, the things these people do, and where they do it. Much of the knowledge we have about ‘surprise’ comes from mainstream organizations, and it is about time we had a broader perspective. We can learn fascinating things from ‘alternative’ organizations, and the way in which they do things differently. It is really interesting to explore the way they deal with the expected and the unexpected elements of ‘surprise’. And it is important that we understand how this works, because knowing more about ‘surprise could have significant implications for the way mainstream organizations operate.

Two key words: ‘surprise’ and ‘alternative’. It might help you to think of an ‘alternative’ organization as one that does things differently – at least in some ways – to the mainstream organizations we encounter every day. And, you might like to think of ‘surprise’ as either something that happens when we are not expecting it, or something that doesn’t happen when we are expecting it.

Please contact me at if you would like to know more.



Why me? I am keen to engage with people who know about ‘alternative’ organizations. This is not just because of their expertise in thinking about organizing in different ways, or because of their experience with different organizations who go about organizing differently, but because they also are inclined to think about larger objectives of organizations in society, and share what they know through stories.

Do I have to? Participation is entirely voluntary. If you do decide to take part you will be given this information sheet to keep and be asked to sign a consent form. If you decide to take part you are still free to withdraw at any time and without giving a reason.

What happens next? I have been observing and participating in Enlivening Edge. Mostly this has involved reading and listening to what people have to say, thinking about this, and seeing what all these ideas have in common and how this relates to those moments of ‘surprise’ we experience. I would like to arrange an interview with you, as one of 30-40 participants. I want to talk about the themes my observation and participation has generated, to ask you to reflect on them, and to encourage you to tell me stories from your experience which relate to these themes. I expect the interview will last anything up to 90 minutes. With your permission, I will make an audio (or possible audio visual) recording of the conversation to transcribe at a later date to help me with my analysis.

What’s in it for me? I’ve found that people engaged in ‘alternative’ organizations are committed to talking about their work, especially in the hope that others will gain something from their experience and enthusiasm, and that they, in turn, will learn more.

What about confidentiality? All information collected about you will be kept strictly confidential (subject to legal limitations). I would like your permission to include details of the stories you tell me, and will follow stringent guidelines to preserve its confidentiality, privacy and anonymity in its collection, storage and publication. I will keep data collected from you secure at all times, especially when not collected at my desk in Oxford Brookes University. Data will be stored in Google Drive, for which the University has a security agreement. In line with my University’s policy on Academic Integrity, the data collected from you will be kept securely in paper or electronic form for a period of ten years after the completion of a research project.

How can I get started? Please contact me at if you would like to know more, or to get on with setting up an interview.

What happens with the results? The results of the research will form an important part in a thesis I am writing for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in the Faculty of Business at Oxford Brookes University. I am happy to share with you an electronic copy of my thesis once it has been examined and released by the University.

Who is supporting the research? Oxford Brookes University has chosen to support this important research as part of the way in which it is marking its 150th birthday. I am specifically attached to the Department of Business and Management in the Business School, which forms part of the Faculty of Business.

Who says it is okay? The research has been approved by the University Research Ethics Committee, Oxford Brookes University.

Who else can I contact? My email address is given above. You are welcome to contact me with questions relating to my research at any time. If you want to talk to somebody else who knows about my research then I am being supervised by Dr Judie Gannon, at Oxford Brookes University. Or, if you have concerns about the way in which the study has been conducted that you don’t first want to raise with me, then please contact the Chair of the University Research Ethics Committee at Oxford Brookes University.


The important small print. You will be required to give your consent to participating in this research. You will be asked to confirm that you have read and understand the relevant information and have had the opportunity to ask questions; that you understand that your participation is voluntary, and that you are free to withdraw at any time, without giving reason. You will also be asked to confirm that you agree to the interview being audio recorded, and that you agree to the use of anonymised quotes in publications. Finally, you will be asked to consent that your data, gathered in the course of this study, may be stored (after it has been anonymised) in a specialist data centre and may be used for future research.