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23rd EGOS Colloquium 2007  
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 Panel Discussion

 

Practice-based Approaches in Organizational Studies

 

Friday, July 6, 2007, 17:45–18:45

Chair and Commentator:

Haridimos Tsoukas, ALBA Athens, Greece, and University of Warwick, UK, Editor-in-chief
of Organization Studies

 

Panelists:

Silvia Gherardi, Università di Trento, Italy, Coordinator of the EGOS Standing Working Group 'Practice-based Studies of Knowledge and Innovation in Workplaces'

David Seidl, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany, Coordinator of the EGOS Standing Working Group 'Strategizing: Activity and Practice'

Ann Langley, HEC Montréal, Canada

Wanda Orlikowski, MIT Sloan School of Management, USA

The practice turn is a fascinating, relatively recent development in social theory. Simply put, it directs our attention to what people do as constituting the social phenomena of interest. It assumes that the social phenomena we study are not self-contained entities to be studied from an external perspective but are products of the activities individuals are engaged in, in the context of broader social practices. Thus, cognition is not just a set of abstract logical operations but a patterned activity that involves the learning and employment of symbols, the use of tools and materials, and other individuals. Decision making is not just a set of formal procedures individuals go through but what they actually do when they see themselves as involved in decision making. Similarly, strategy is not a property of organizations but what people do in organizations in relation to strategy. The practice lens aspires to capture the messiness of real world phenomena and do justice to their complexity through rich description and grounded theorization. Focussing on activities organizational members are involved in broadens our perspective since it enables us to consider simultaneously questions of agency and structure, stability and change, routine and novelty. The emphasis is on finding ways to deal with process, action, context and time. Organizational phenomena are not seen as outcomes but as complex socio-material processes leading to outcomes.

This panel will explore how the practice turn in organization studies may be advanced both theoretically and empirically. It brings together distinguished European and North American scholars from various streams of practice studies, including representatives of the EGOS Standing Working Groups on 'Strategizing: Activity and Practice' and 'Practice-based Studies of Knowledge and Innovation in Workplaces'.


Haridimos Tsoukas