Collaborative elasticity and breakdowns in high reliability organizations: contributions from distributed cognition and collective mind theory
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- van Fenema, P.C. Cogn Tech Work (2005) 7: 134. doi:10.1007/s10111-005-0181-7
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Collaborative elasticity is the capability of a collective to sustain coherence and sufficient order, even when encountering unexpected and adverse operating conditions. This capability is increasingly important in today’s dynamic and time-pressed world. Drawing on distributed cognition and collective mind theory, this conceptual paper presents a taxonomy of six dimensions that determine collaborative elasticity and may explain organizational breakdowns: individual cognition, relating and relationships, repertoire of routines, knowledge for collaboration, organizational roles and communications. The paper focuses on High Reliability Organizations (HRO) where people work with advanced technologies and routinely face potential danger. The objective of this conceptual paper is to explore why these organizations have to operate elastically, and what may cause them to breakdown. The findings support practitioners involved in HROs. For researchers, the study defines and frames the concept of collaborative elasticity using distributed cognition and collective mind theory. The paper concludes with pointers for further research.