Engineering objects for collaboration: Strategies of ambiguity and clarity at knowledge boundaries

William C. Barley, Paul M. Leonardi, Diane E. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

Research suggests that boundary objects are useful for collaborations between members of distinct knowledge communities because their meanings are ambiguous. An objects' ambiguity allows people to construct meanings that are relevant to them personally, and, consequently, helps groups to avoid conflict. Drawing from the literature on strategic ambiguity, we suggest that individuals may create objects to strategically foster either ambiguous or clear meanings. Using ethnographic observations of automotive engineers from various design specialties, we document why individuals are motivated to create objects whose meanings are either ambiguous or clear, we illustrate the various design activities they engage in to achieve these two strategies, and we show when individuals are likely to enact one type of strategy over the other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011
Externally publishedYes
Event71st Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - West Meets East: Enlightening, Balancing, Transcending, AOM 2011 - San Antonio, TX, United States
Duration: Aug 12 2011Aug 16 2011

Other

Other71st Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - West Meets East: Enlightening, Balancing, Transcending, AOM 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Antonio, TX
Period8/12/118/16/11

Keywords

  • Ambiguity
  • Boundary object
  • Collaboration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Industrial relations

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