Department of Management


Date of this Version



Academy of Management Journal 2007, Vol. 50, No. 3, 515–543.


Copyright of the Academy of Management, all rights reserved. Used by permission.


A decision to offer breakfast to homeless people led to radical change in a church and its environment. Existing theories of change do not fully explain observations from our qualitative study; however, complexity theory constructs suggest how and why such change emerged. We offer four key findings. First, the radical change was unintended, emergent, and slow. Second, destabilizing conditions helped small changes to emerge and become radical. Third, subsequent actions amplified an initial small change and, though not intended to do so, promoted radical change. Finally, the dynamic interaction of amplifying actions, contextual conditions, and small changes led to continuous radical change.