Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation
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Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation

Edited by Tyrone S. Pitsis, Ace Simpson and Erlend Dehlin

The Handbook of Organizational and Managerial Innovation places humans, their acts, practices, processes and fantasies at the core of innovation. Bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers, academics and professionals, both established and emerging, this multidisciplinary book provides a comprehensive picture of the vibrant and engaging field of organizational and managerial innovation.
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Chapter 10: Fleshing out everyday innovation: phronesis and improvisation in knowledge work

Erlend Dehlin


Knowledge work can be seen as a process of improvisation, where knowledge is conceived spontaneously in the emerging context of complex practices. Technical rationality represents a kind of closed thinking before- action, which conceptually opposes the fundamental openness of knowledge creation and innovation. Seeking to ‘flesh out’ innovation in everyday knowledge work, this chapter studies, and questions, such either–or distinction between technical rationality and improvisation. From a practice perspective on knowledge it is argued that even if they are conceptually antagonistic, improvisation and technical rationality can be mutually constitutive in the everyday flow of practical knowing and innovation. This may come about as improvised knowledge work makes innovative use of technical rationality through the contextual utilization of tools such as management models, structures and systems to ensure phronesis and workability. On the normative side I suggest that innovation can be achieved by pursuing, and improving, improvising as a means to act sensibly in the emerging context of which oneself is the co-author. The source of effectiveness and good practice lies in the spontaneously constructed here-and-now, which continuously conveys social and physical elements determining what is workable and not. As a consequence, management models should not be seen as technical-rational restraint jackets, but as tools of improvisation to be used with caution.

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