Is Play the Future of Office Space?

Sage Interiors
8th August 2017[We’re pleased to welcome authors Anna Alexandersson and  Viktorija Kalonaityte of Linnaeus University. Alexandersson and Kalonaityte recently published an article in Organization Studies entitled “Playing to Dissent: The Aesthetics and Politics of Playful Office Design,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they speak about the inspiration for conducting this research:]

OSSWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

The idea that play at work is a way to tap into employee creativity and boost their motivation has been growing in popularity over the recent years, particularly within industries that prize fast-paced innovation. Playful office design appears to be an extension of this idea, characterized by colorful open-plan office architecture alluding to non-work spaces such as nature, personal homes, clubs, fairs and amusement parks. Typically, images of playful offices are displayed online by the companies themselves, and re-posted by various office design communities, making them widely available to many different audiences. But what exactly is it that makes these spaces playful? What kind of play do they encourage? And, more importantly, are there limits to play even in the context of playful office design? With these overarching questions guiding our inquiry, our paper builds on a study of playful office images that are some of the most shared online, as these images provide a persuasive visual representation on how play at work can be understood.

Our analysis suggests that playful office design removes many of the traditional boundaries of the working life. For example, it builds in leisurely and private spaces into the office, makes it difficult to discern organizational hierarchies, and promotes collective forms of play and creativity. However, these office spaces cannot resolve a fundamental tension between play and work: even in the most playful work life settings, play needs to be aligned with corporate goals, meanwhile, free creative play disrupts and transcends all social divisions, including those of based on profitability and utility.

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Office photo attributed to James Robinson. (CC)

Call for Papers: Management Teaching Review

MTR_cover.inddMake an impact on management teaching and submit to the Management Teaching Review!

Management Teaching Review (MTR) is currently seeking manuscript submissions. MTR is committed to serving the management education community by publishing short, topically-targeted, and immediately useful resources for teaching and learning practice. The published articles and interactive platform provide a rich, collaborative space for active learning resources that foster deep student engagement and instructor excellence.

For more details click here.

Manuscripts should be submitted electronically to http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mtr.

You will need to create an account in order to submit your manuscript. The system will notify you once we receive the manuscript and have sent it out for review.

Don’t forget to sign up for email alerts through the journal homepage so you never miss the latest research.

Seeing and Sensing the Railways: A Phenomenological View on Practice-Based Learning

gleise-1066111_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Dr. Thijs AH Willems of Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Dr. Willems recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “Seeing and sensing the railways: A phenomenological view on practice-based learning,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Willems reveals the inspiration for conducting this research and the impact it has on the field:]

mlqb_48_3.cover

What motivated you to pursue this research?

For my PhD research I conducted an ethnographic study on the Dutch railway system to understand how different railway organizations collaborate during various kinds of disruptions and incidents. The performance of the railway organizations is being watched closely by both the general public as well as by the government and public agencies. Large and unforeseen disruptions or a very unpunctual train service due to unexpected breakdowns or external influences are usually a topic of heated debates in the following days. During my research I found that many of the organizational attempts to deal with these unexpected events were aimed at providing rational explanations to legitimize the performance of the railways. So the structures, procedures and rules of many of the employees were made more rigid and their practices became more controlled by managers. While this did not strike me as particularly interesting in the beginning – as railway employees are responsible for offering a punctual and, most importantly, safe train journey to their customers – this kind of rational thinking and acting stood in stark contrast with the conversations I had with many train dispatchers. These professionals, who have often been dispatchers for several decennia, would explain their work much more in terms of their experience and that they would often ‘just feel’ what had to be done. This apparent discrepancy was the start of the study for this article.

What has been the most challenging aspect of conducting your research? Were there any surprising findings?

Without a doubt, the greatest challenge for this particular aspect of my study was how to methodologically study ‘feel’ and ‘experience’. At the beginning I tried to translate the suggestions and examples of train dispatchers into the more widely used vocabulary of the railway organizations. But I soon realized that, in the process of doing so, I would actually reduce dispatching work to a set of predefined and so-called rational parameters, something which had motivated my research in the first place. So I had to find ways to take the ‘feeling’ and ‘experiencing’ of dispatchers more seriously, and I then became interested in a phenomenological approach to the study of dispatching practices and knowledge.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

I think my article will be valuable for scholars who are interested in knowing more about the role of the body and senses in the context of work practices. Moreover, I specifically focus on how such practices are learned and how the necessary knowledge to become a ‘good’ dispatcher is transferred not only through handbooks and procedures but also through the body and in practice. The field of organization studies has only just started exploring these issues and my phenomenological focus, I hope, extends this literature. I also think that the empirical richness of my study helps the field in understanding theoretical notions of embodiment and knowledge in more concrete and grounded ways.

 

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Journal of Management Education’s 2016 Award-Winning Article

On behalf of the Journal of Management Education, SAGE Publishing would like to congratulate co-authors Richard J. Miller and Rosemary Maellaro, both of the University of Dallas, for winning the Fritz Roethlisberger Award for 2016 for their article, “Getting to the JME_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgRoot of the Problem in Experiential Learning: Using Problem Solving and Collective Reflection to Improve Learning Outcomes,” which can be found in the April 2016 issue of JME. The award’s criteria include scholarly grounding, expected longevity, potential impact, and potential to reach across disciplines.

The article is currently free to read for a limited time.

The abstract for the article is below:

Experiential learning alone does not guarantee that students will accurately conceptualize content, or meet course outcomes in subsequent active experimentation stages. In an effort to more effectively meet learning objectives, the experiential learning cycle was modified with a unique combination of the 5 Whys root cause problem-solving tool and a collective reflection step. Applying these modifications through multiple iterations of in-class exercises, students in lean operations and leadership courses were able to move beyond treating symptoms of problems and generate more viable alternative actions for future applications of their learning. Improved grades, greater achievement of learning objectives, and positive student reactions provide evidence of the modified experiential learning cycle’s success. A generalized framework for using the modified learning cycle in other management courses is also presented.

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How Do New Theorizing and Shifts in Learning Emerge?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Birgit Helene Jevnaker and Atle A. Raa of the Norwegian Business School, Oslo. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled, “Circles of intellectual discovery in Cambridge and management learning: A discourse analysis of Joan Robinson’s The Economics of Imperfect Competition,”  Below, Jevnaker and Raa describe the inspiration for the study and key findings:]

We share an interest in how ideas in management learning can originate from early thinkers aJevnaker_teaser.jpgnd books.  For instance, we are interested in how classic economic thinking has influenced management learning and practice. In our article, we elaborate and discuss how Joan Robinson – in interaction with a circle of other Cambridge economists – developed a new theory of the firm in imperfect competition. In her opinion, imperfect competition was the normal market situation. It could be a limited number of firms that represented the total supply of a consumer product like carbonated soft drinks.

Joan Violet Robinson was a member of an informal group of a younger generation of economists in Cambridge, UK. Through her first book, The Economics of Imperfect Competition, she actually became an innovator of new ideas and comlqncepts. In this book, published in the wake of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she explains new principles of how markets operate in different ways depending on the nature of the competition. By recognizing that some enterprises can affect prices and competition, this opened up for later, new thinking of how firms act and learn differently.

We were surprised by two things:

  • First, she became a transformer of earlier ideas of perfect competition into ideas of imperfect competition. It is remarkable that a young woman economist, without any formal position in the academy of Cambridge, could quickly synthetize new thinking of how markets are different.
  • Secondly, we noted that a younger generation of academics engaged collectively in critical and alternative theorizing. Robinson and her friend, the economist Richard F. Kahn, as well as other companions met regularly and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s arguments. We call this “epistemic interaction”. By this we understand mutual or reciprocal actions or influence in developing the grounds of knowledge and understanding among agents. In Greek, knowing and its possibility of understanding is episteme.

Through our discourse analysis of Robinson’s 1933-book and its emergence, we seek to explain our story beyond the perspective of a great economist finding new ideas by herself. Her book uncovers several important contributors; Robinson herself anchors her book in both established and new theorizing of firms and markets.

Joan Robinson points to the common existence of a limited number of firms with monopoly power over their offerings. Inspired by the 1930s reality as well as earlier writings, she offers new concepts, for example for exchange situations with only one buyer (monopsony). This is a situation where exploitation of labour can emerge, she points out. Robinson no doubt had a certain pedagogical style. She made many of the complicated economic ideas easier to understand by examples and metaphoric language. She claimed that the tool-users had been given “stones for bread” from the toolmakers (the economic thinkers). Still, she stressed that economics is one of the social sciences that study how society works.

From the circle of young economists’ debating in the 1930s, it is worth noting that firms and managers can be commonly acting within dissimilar or “imperfect” market conditions rather than principally “perfect” ones where firms are facing similar price mechanisms, often discussed in past economic literature. This critique and shift in understanding eventually opened up for management studies recognizing also fundamental differences in managerial knowledge, learning and strategizing. We think that more research on how earlier economic thinking has influenced management practice is a fruitful approach to the study of how management learning have developed through most of the 20th century up to our days. It is of general interest how new academic ideas come about.

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Introduction to Special Issue: Learning & Education

[We’re pleased to welcome Laura Galloway of Heriot-Watt University and David Higgins of the University of Liverpool. They recently guest edited a special issue in Industry and Higher Education entitled “Learning and education: Exploring entrepreneurial actions and practice.” From Galloway and Higgins:]

ihea_31_2.cover.pngFollowing the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference in Glasgow in Autumn 2015, we were delighted to develop a special issue of Industry and Higher Education on ‘Learning and education: Exploring entrepreneurial actions and practice’ – the 5th special issue we have done so far. Included are seven papers, collated to comprise a robust contribution to the field.
Several of the papers are on the broad topic of entrepreneurship education in universities, including:

  • Lost in Space’: The Role of Social Networking in University-based Entrepreneurial Learning by Lockett, Quesada-Pallarès, Williams-Middleton, Padilla-Meléndez and Jack who explore the impact of social networking on learning in the UK and Sweden;
  • Entrepreneurship in Vocational Education:  A Case Study of the Brazilian Context by Stadler and Smith, in which entrepreneurship education in vocational studies in Brazil is explored;
  • Breaking in the Waves: Routines and Rituals in Entrepreneurship Education by Neergaard and Christensen, who present an exploratory study of how classroom routines and rituals impact on entrepreneurship education;
  • The Phenomenon of Student-Led Enterprise Groups by Preedy and Jones who investigate how the simulated business ‘roles’ performed in student-led enterprise groups afford and enhance experiential and social learning;
  • A Mystagogical View of ‘Withness’ in Entrepreneurship Education by Refai and Higgins investigates entrepreneurship education from a mystagogy perspective, exploring notions of identity with and initiation into entrepreneurship.

Papers on learning amongst those in firms are also included in this special edition:

  • Help Wanted! Exploring the Value of Entrepreneurial Mentoring at Start-Up by Brodie, Van Saane, and Osowska presents a qualitative study of mentoring in five start-up ventures;
  • Up the ANTe: Understanding Entrepreneurial Leadership Learning through Actor-Network Theory by Smith, Kempster and Barnes focuses on leadership in the small business, how it is learnt and its importance.

These papers form a valuable contribution to the study of entrepreneurship education and learning amongst entrepreneurs. Through this special issue we seek to present a scholarly voice which seeks to foster innovative and accessible scholarly writing which is of crucial importance to any research field. The ability of any publication to develop material which engages with practical experience and action must be a key priority in the advancement of future practice and scholarship. The uniqueness of the ISBE community to develop and stimulate activities which can serve the ISBE community provides an extremely valuable network of resources for early career researchers, students and practitioners.

The special issue articles ‘Breaking in the Waves: Routines and Rituals in Entrepreneurship Education’ by Neergaard and Christensen, and ‘‘Lost in Space’: The Role of Social Networking in University-based Entrepreneurial Learning’ by Lockett, Quesada-Pallarès, Williams-Middleton, Padilla-Meléndez and Jack are currently free to read through Industry and Higher Education.

The 2017 Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Conference is taking place 8-9 November 2017 in Belfast, and has a theme of ‘‘Borders’, prosperity and entrepreneurial responses.

How to Shift a Student’s Focus from Grades to Self-Discovery

[We’re pleased to welcome author Matthew Eriksen of Providence College. Eriksen recently published an article in the Journal of Management Education entitled “Shared-Purpose Process Implications and Possibilities for Student Learning, Development, and Self-Transformation,” co-authored by Kevin Cooper. Below, Eriksen outlines the inspiration for this study:]

Over my 20 year teaching career, I continuously have found myself disappointed with my students¹ initial level of commitment to, engagement in and responsibility for their learning and development as they entJME_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpger my course.  Just as Lencioni (2002) identifies a lack of commitment as one the five dysfunctions of a team, a low level of student commitment to a course has a significant negative impact on students¹ learning and educational experience, as well as on instructors¹ professional gratification (Jenster & Duncan, 1987). For many, it is as if education has become something that is happening to students rather than something that they actively and intentionally engage in to achieve some purpose beyond getting a good grade and course credit, preferably with a minimal amount of effort.

In our article, Kevin Cooper and I present a response to student disengagement in the form of a shared-purpose process. Although initially conceived to increase students¹ commitment to and engagement in their learning and development, as the shared-purpose process was employed it became apparent that it was also a form of experiential/case-in-point learning (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz & Linsky,2002) that is relevant to leadership, team and organizational development courses, as establishment of and commitment to a shared purpose and organizing context is important to becoming an effective team or organization.  In addition, once a shared purpose is established and committed to by students and teacher, it can provide a guiding framework through which to facilitate additional partnership and in-class experiential learning opportunities.

In contrast to other student-directed learning methodologies, the shared-purpose process takes into account the social, as well the cognitive, aspects of learning. In addition, it helps students proactively identify and develop strategies to address hindrances to their learning. Over the course of the semester, students¹ self-transformation is facilitated through their weekly engagement in self-reflection (Kolb, 1984; Schön, 1983), self-reflexivity (Cunliffe, 2004; Cunliffe & Easterby-Smith, 2004), peer coaching, and a cogenerative dialogue (Martin, 2006; Stith & Roth, 2006). Cogenerative dialogue allows students to learn from their classmates¹ experiences, as well as their own direct experience.

In addition to being successfully employed in undergraduate and MBA leadership and team courses, this shared purpose process has also be employed in teams and organizations to improve members¹ engagement, commitment and performance, and once the shared purpose has been established, it can be used as a structure to facilitate collaboration and productively work through conflict.

References:

Cunliffe, A.  (2004). “On becoming a critically reflexive practitioner.”Journal of Management Education, 28(4), 407-426.
Cunliffe, A. and Easterby-Smith, M. (2004). “From reflection of practicalreflexivity: Experiential learning as lived experience.” In M. Reynolds and R. Vince (Eds.) Organizing Reflection, Ashgate: Aldershot, 30-46.
Heifetz, R. A. (1994). Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge, Mass:
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Heifetz, R. A., & Linsky, M. (2002). Leadership on the line: staying alive through the dangers of leading. Boston, Mass, Harvard Business School Press.
Jenster, P. V. & Duncan, D. D. (1987).  “Creating a context of commitment:
Course agreements as a foundation.” Journal of Management Education, 11(3): 60-71.
Martin, S.  (2006). “Where practice and theory intersect in the chemistry classroom: using cogenerative dialogue to identify the critical point in science education.” Cultural Studies of Science Education, 1 (4), 693-720.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable, Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.
Schön, D.  (1983). The reflective practitioner.  London: Temple Smith.
Stith,I. & Roth, W-M. (2006). “Who gets to ask the questions: The ethics in/of cogenerative dialogue praxis.” [46 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum:  Qualitative Social Research, 7(2).

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