MASTER'S DEGREE PROGRAMME

Innovation & Product Management

Knowledge
Projects

Boundaries

in

Innovation

Synopsis

by
Duraipandian Gajendran
January 2017

Thesis supervisor
FH-Prof. Dipl.-Wirtsch.-Ing. Dr. Christiane Rau

communication. and they offer a means to fruitfully approach jurisdictional issues at the workplace. but also as a means of representing and instigating difference and conflict. These studies suggest that artifacts can symbolize an individual’s membership in a particular social milieu. and struggling to gain control of the As a high-technology manufacturing firm. As such. fighting to maintain status. interpretation. Examining artifacts provides a window into the social dynamics of occupational groups. they highlight the social interaction coalescing around them: people cooperating to solve problems. EquipCo provided fertile ground for studying the meaning and influence of artifacts in the social structure of the production process. such as an occupational community. because as artifacts cross occupational boundaries.Abstract Title of your academic work BACKGROUND & STATEMENT PROBLEM Current State of Research and Discussion: Investigating occupational jurisdiction at the workplace level requires gaining analytical purchase on the moments in organizations when such claims take place. they have the potential to influence social relations between occupational communities. and thus they are a vital element of the work process. These artifacts cross occupational boundaries in the service of production. EquipCo was characterized by closely interacting occupational . and handoff of organizational artifacts. These previous studies suggest that artifacts are an important aspect of organizational life: they symbolize social categories and influence and constrain social action. and representation of every task area within an organization. People not only use objects as a means for presenting themselves as members of a culture. One such point is the creation. Because occupations use physical objects not only for technical purposes. We need to document the relations that emerge when American Journal of Sociology occupational groups intersect within an organizational structure. an analysis of organizational artifacts provides a lever for understanding interoccupational dynamics in the workplace. but also to invoke a particular definition of a situation (Goffman 1959). New prototypes were frequently developed and built to meet the demands of a quickly changing market.

involved both concrete physical interaction with the machine.” when responsibility shifted from engineering to prototyping to manufacturing. therefore. As they completed building. they rarely used them. The air circulation system in the spacious. as well as by identifiable workplace artifacts.Abstract Title of your academic work communities. which maximized the opportunities to witness the social interactions occurring between occupational communities in relation to these artifacts. they moved back into the final assembly clean room area to build the machines. The frequently changing designs and lack of space resulted in a chaotic work environment in which parts piled up in boxes and tools were strewn across benches. as they accumulated extensive hands-on product experience by building. or to look at a prototype that was already built for guidance. The technicians’ lab was the central point in the prototyping of new products. Assemblers had access to the technicians’ binders of redlined drawings and sometimes to the latest engineering drawings. boots. they provided feedback to engineers via “redlines. particle-free clean area kept the room quite cold. changing the drawings and the machine itself as they discovered ways to make it easier to manufacture. The 27 technicians sat at benches in an open room and built the machines on the floor space between them. as they found it more effective to ask the technicians or other assemblers for help. since the production process was less routine. I chose EquipCo’s new product line as the venue to study these handoffs. because they interpreted and redlined the drawings. where designs became reality and manufacturability became a consideration. and they were told to use only the drawings as a guide to building the machine. and abstract understandings of the product. while its constant whooshing . when the assemblers felt comfortable building a product on their own. Their work. However.” corrected engineering drawings. and a hood. The technicians started building from scratch using the preliminary engineering drawings. The clean room environment in which the assemblers worked mandated that they wear a special clean room suit—known as a “bunny suit”—along with gloves. The different occupational groups involved in the production process communicated via interaction around two central artifacts—the formal engineering drawings and the prototype machines—which changed hands during product “handoffs. in order to reduce the dust particles that could land on the machines and cause air leaks.After the training period.

So we redline it. along with the hoods worn by every member of the team. it’s our job to find the problems and make everything flow smoothly. since the technicians provided feedback to the engineers via redlines. authority. the machines were used for problem solving between technicians and assemblers (the appendix provides examples of these uses). Boundary objects are flexible epistemic artifacts that “inhabit several intersecting social worlds and satisfy the information requirements of each of them” (Star and Griesemer 1989. correct the things that were wrong with the documentation and give ideas about what would help for when it is manufactured. For the same reason. “What happens is you get to building it and discover that there were parts you weren’t supposed to put together that you already did. technicians. However. As one technician described. In the case of EquipCo. and assemblers around the drawings and machines at EquipCo can be characterized as three analytically distinct but interrelated dynamics of jurisdictional conflict: knowledge. p. Technicians were the “guinea pigs” working to catch the problems in the engineering drawings. Engineers used them to represent their ideas about what the machine would look like and how the parts would fit together. the drawings were used as boundary objects between engineers and technicians because both of these communities had working knowledge of them and were comfortable with communicating via the drawings. Engineers at EquipCo rarely had a conversation about a design without pulling out a sheaf of engineering drawings.the interactions of engineers. when engineers and assemblers needed to solve a problem together.Abstract Title of your academic work noise. In addition. When problems arose in the building process. 393). and legitimacy The drawings served as a source of knowledge for two occupational communities at EquipCo. made it somewhat difficult for assemblers to hear one another. Engineers and technicians also communicated with each other through the drawings.” Artifacts were also used to mediate across occupational boundaries during episodes of problem solving. they frequently . so they could build it. technicians used the drawings as an illustration of what the prototype should look like. both drawings and machines were used as boundary objects between occupational communities to help solve them. The engineers’ task area therefore shaped the jurisdictions of the other two occupational groups. We’re the guinea pigs.

the machine itself. can secure and strengthen jurisdiction. In essence. Engineers did not understand assemblers’ descriptions of the machines’ problems. the concrete nature of the machine engendered its usefulness as a boundary object for problem solving. As the example above demonstrated. Although the engineering drawings were the formal means of communicating how to build. in the sense of elaborated “layers of increasingly formal discourse” about a narrow topic (Abbott 1988. as the place where the “rubber hit the road. they did not always solve coordination problems across occupational boundaries. However. p. as an epistemic device. While the assumption at EquipCo was that the engineering drawings should be the best communication medium. Boundary objects are most effective for problem solving when they are tangible and concrete and when they are loosely enough defined to be usable by both groups (Bechky 2003. the machines were more effective at solving some of these problems. However. although their technical purpose was as a finished product. the drawings were highly formal and abstract instructions about the product. since they lacked the contextual knowledge of drawings that comes from daily use. they were able to fit the concrete manifestation into their understanding of the product and get the information they needed. 102).” was more effective for problem solving between these two communities. because they lacked the daily context of building machines and they approached the interaction with an abstract. The discourse surrounding the drawings strengthened the jurisdiction of engineers in two ways: it invoked the superiority of the abstract knowledge of engineers. rather than the drawings. As a result. in practice the language of the drawings was too abstract and unfamiliar for assemblers to associate with their concrete understanding of the machine. In contrast. Carlile 2002). Engineers created engineering drawings to communicate to one another specifically what the finished product should look like and to communicate to others how it should be built. and it reinforced the legitimacy of the representation of work that the drawings provided. by regularly asserting that the standardization and formalization of the drawings made them the most effective way to coordinate the tasks . despite the multipurpose intention of drawings. Abstraction. when the machine (or a part) was presented to engineers. schematic understanding of the drawings.Abstract Title of your academic work resolved such problems by using the machine.

the discourse supporting the use of standardized drawings that efficiently solved problems and effectively communicated the best way to build reinforced the status of engineers and helped them maintain their jurisdiction. further. as summarized in the third column of table 1. Artifacts allow for judgments of worth. The drawings were used to reinforce engineers’ authority over the task area of drawing. as some of the examples in this section demonstrate. as demonstrated above.Abstract Title of your academic work of production. because if every aspect of the work were easily codified and understood. the discourse emphasizing the exclusive use of drawings as an epistemic device was helpful in diverting attention from the less acceptable implications of their abstractness—the fact that drawings were incomplete and. Thus. while control of the machines provided a way for technicians to challenge engineers and maintain authority over the building domain. For drawings to be powerful as a tool to maintain occupational jurisdiction. thereby reinforcing the importance of the knowledge within their own domain. Thus. The knowledge and the authority represented in these artifacts were not distinct from one another but were drawn on simultaneously in their use at occupational boundaries. and even the engineers. by making claims about the interpretation of the drawings in order to blame others for mistakes. . but were also leveraging their interpretations of the knowledge embedded in the drawings. not as useful in problem solving at occupational boundaries as the machines were. but also for reasons of boundary maintenance and task control. the knowledge and authority represented in artifacts were not separable. engineers were not only asserting their authority to make judgments about the drawings. Artifacts. engineers would be unable to maintain their status as experts. were aware that the drawings would never truly represent how to build. they must be somewhat unclear to other groups. For instance. engineers could draw attention to the positive aspects of the drawings. Additionally. Therefore. engineers could strengthen their jurisdiction by reinforcing the superiority of their abstract knowledge. artifacts serve jurisdictional purposes as representations of legitimacy. the technicians. As a result. providing a reference point for valuing the work in the organization. Finally. By appealing to the valued goal of efficiency. therefore served as both the means to reinforce and contest authority over task areas. The drawings needed to remain abstract not only for their use as an epistemic tool.

individual and group reputations were established on the basis of producing good work. The hints offered by such studies. and defining task boundaries between them. Thus. those with traceable origins that can be directly attributed to an individual. and allographic objects. As an integral part of work processes. and cognitive factors all played a role in the settlement of these . objects help us to accomplish tasks.Abstract Title of your academic work individuals and groups can leverage artifacts to lay claim to the status of an occupational member in good standing. and perceptions of these objects influenced the behavior of other groups accordingly. symbolizing their knowledge. those whose origins cannot be traced. artifacts served as a means for the occupational groups to enact both individual and group legitimacy. support my contention that examining workplace enactment provides a fuller picture of the process of occupational conflict. institutional. however. In this article. subject to interpretation. different types of social relations inhere in objects depending on whether their origins can be distinctly identified. Artifacts. At EquipCo. Halpern’s (1992) study of four jurisdictional disputes among medical specialties demonstrates that political. The means by which individual and group status was related to the objects differed on the basis of the work practices of the groups. At EquipCo. Drawings and machines reflected the value of the groups’ work. participate in the constitution of the social dynamics of organizations. The analysis of EquipCo demonstrates that interoccupational conflicts in the workplace are an important means for maintaining and justifying occupational jurisdiction. artifacts were shown to mediate the relationships between three occupationalcommunities. Artifacts are an important part of organizational life: they surround us. These representations of legitimacy also were not separable from the representations of authority and knowledge analyzed earlier. As Goodman (1978) explains. as well as how identifiable the origins of the object were. it is rarely considered a significant force in the competition for jurisdiction. inciting their rhetoric. For instance. and it suggests that we should pay closer attention to the interactional dynamics of occupations. While much of the literature about the professions hints that the workplace is important. drawings were autographic and machines were not. He distinguishes between autographic objects. but not in a merely technical manner. and our work and roles are dependent upon them.

There is increasing practical and theoretical interest in how organizations can manage. industry watchers suggest that managing knowledge through the use of concurrent engineering and cross-functional teams will improve time to market. Leonard and Sensiper 1998) literature from numerous perspectives shows that there is an array of meanings in organizations: Understanding is situational. in analyzing product development and manufacturing firms. they can transform the understandings of others and generate a richer understanding of the product and the problems they face. and innovation (Eisenhardt and Tabrizi 1995. Multiple meanings emerge in organizations from various sources. In this paper. for the notion of knowledge transfer because if an expression of knowledge means something different to the receiver than it does to the communicator. cultural. In particular.The creation and enactment of organizational knowledge is therefore a complex process involving the understandings of multiple communities. 1993) and knowledge has always been important to the functioning of organizations. then it is not clear what knowledge is being transferred. Within organizations. and contextual. When communication problems arise. occupations. the enactment of occupational competition at the workplace was a means for settling such disputes. In decontextualizations. technology transfer. if members of these communities provide solutions that invoke the differences in the work contexts and create common ground between the communities. the locus of their practice. I find that the communities' knowledge-sharing difficulties are rooted in their work contexts. and their conceptualization of the product. Because the number of knowledge workers is rising (Blackler et al. functions. and networks. but in fact the words were . knowledge is likewise constructed and situated. including subcultures. I would suggest that in addition to these factors. organize. the successful pursuit of these activities may create competitive advantage. which differ on the basis of their language. my approach is to advance our understanding of the implications of situated meaning for knowledge sharing by exploring how local understandings are reconciled through a process of transformation that assists the sharing of understanding across communities. the machine or situation was presented in language that was assumed to be universal and unproblematic. In particular. and integrate knowledge.Abstract Title of your academic work jurisdictions.

not merely by the introduction of new knowledge. Both these understandings were necessary to create a working final product from an engineering design. an individual's understanding of the product. Shared Understanding Through Transformation. As I will describe below. and the conceptualization of the product and production process. enabling her to see that world in a new light. Common ground is the "sum of mutual. Engineers' understanding was fixed in the conceptual context of their drawing work while. the locus of practice. In transformations. enriching and altering what he knew. In these kinds of communication difficulties. This was accomplished through informal interaction between members of all the communities that resulted in transforming the local understanding of the groups to create richer.Abstract Title of your academic work incomprehensible to those who did not share an understanding of the context of the situation. members of the groups had to cocreate some common ground (Clark 1996). beliefs. p. misunderstandings between the groups were reconciled through the use of tangible definitions to cocreate common ground. Transformation occurred when a member of one community came to understand how knowledge from another community fit within the context of his own work. In order to develop shared understanding between groups that had different work contexts. 93). process. different understandings of the product and process emerged from the work contexts of the communities. but their divergent nature did not allow for the straightforward transfer of knowledge that is suggested by some of the literature on organizational knowledge and learning. and suppositions" (Clark 1996. Because the groups' understandings were rooted in these . the situated understanding of the groups had to be reconciled in some way that could allow for understanding to spread across the communities. the understanding of assemblers centered on their concrete work building the machine. or joint knowledge. but by placing that knowledge within her own locus of practice in such a way that it enhanced the individual's understanding of her work world. In the creation of common ground. Instead. or organization was expanded. the members of the groups were able to recontextualize local understandings. more broadly shared understandings. Transformation. common. providing the context needed to create shared understanding across communities. Transformations created common ground by invoking the key differences in work contexts—the language. in contrast.

dependence. and pragmatic (see Shannon and Weaver 1949) and three progressively complex processes—transfer. Tangible definitions allowed people to ground their divergent understandings in the physical world— essentially providing a concrete hook on which to hang their contextual interpretations. semantic. translation. Implicit in the effectiveness of this effort is the existence of a common knowledge1 that actors use to share and assess each other’s domainspecific knowledge. In this way. Demonstrating the process by which transformations occurred at EquipCo extends our understanding of how common ground can be created in organizations. the three following properties of knowledge at a boundary will be discussed: difference. but also assess each other’s knowledge. and invites new ways of thinking about the perspectives of communities of practice. A focus on the effectiveness of managing knowledge across boundaries clarifies that the relationship between actors is one where they not only share their knowledge. a framework is developed that describes three progressively complex boundaries— syntactic. The use of tangible definitions to create common ground at EquipCo illustrates that the transformation of local understandings is vital to effective knowledge sharing in organizations.Abstract Title of your academic work differences. a demonstration that served as a basis for linking different contexts together. points to how boundary objects are used in organizational learning and problem solving. it has allowed us to persist with a somewhat mechanistic and simple conception of knowledge sharing that could be greatly enriched with a focus on the more organic conception of transformation. and novelty . and transformation. Acknowledging both domain-specific knowledge and common knowledge at a boundary provides a useful distinction to better understand the challenges as actors try to work across domains when innovation is desired To develop the framework. While examining knowledge transfer has been a fruitful avenue of inquiry. only by bringing these differences to their attention could their understanding be transformed. tangible definitions aided transformation by providing a physical touchstone.

Abstract Title of your academic work Using the image of the vector described above. semantic. we scale the relative complexity of the circumstances at a boundary using Shannon andWeaver’s (1949) three levels of communication complexity: syntactic. and pragmatic Deducing to the problem to be addressed: .

.......III 1............................................3...........................................III 2 Introduction...................................1....1 Figures............................................................4........III 1....................................................................................................................................2 Using direct and indirect quotations.....7 Legal aspects...................................................2....................5 Referencing other sources......................................................4.................................................................................................III 1.......3..4 Quick parts....................................................................................III 1......3 Shortcuts...........................................................................III 1........................3 .........................5...............................II 1.5..................III Abstract........................7................................Contents ROUGH STRUCTURE OF THE WORK Preface/Acknowledgements........1 Heading of level 5..................III 1......1 Heading of level 4...5...............1 Reference within the text (PDK).........................................................III 1..................................................................................................................5.............6 Style.....................................................7...................................III 1.........................................5.......................................................1.........................1 Use of the template..............................7..........................................................................3 Reference within the text with numbers (VTP............2 Headings.................III 1........III Kurzfassung...........................II 1.....3 5 Summary/Conclusion...................................................................1 Sworn declaration......................................................1 Important notes on referencing........................2 Reference in the footnote (MeWi)......................................................III 1.......5...................................2....................2.........................................................................................................................................III 1..................................1 Heading of level 3.............................................3 Different types of citations................................III 1..........2 Copyright...III 1...3 Trademarks........................................................................................III 1. MeWi...............................................III 1...............3 6 List of abbreviations [optional]...III 1.................................................................................................. MKT)........................................................................III 1..3.................................................3 3 Main chapter 1...3 Equations..........4......2 Tables............III 1..........3 4 Main chapter 2..........III 1..III 1...................1........................................

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