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Collaborative Capability Design: Redundancy of Potentialities

An Erratum to this article was published on 15 August 2013

Abstract

In this study we extend the socio-ecological concept of two contrasting design principles applicable to all work systems. Reframing those design principles as strategic as well as operational choices leads us to propose a third design principle, Design Principle 3 (DP3), which has remained undeveloped in social ecology. We call this design principle Redundancy of Potentialities and demonstrate its application in transorganizational work systems. We argue that DP3 is at the core of socio-ecological practice and is therefore appropriate for coping with the highly turbulent environments now experienced in many industries and fields. We offer several illustrations of DP3 in practice and draw implications for enhancing capabilities for creative collaboration in inter-organizational fields through deliberate attention to design.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We thank one of the anonymous reviewers for suggesting this addition.

  2. 2.

    That is, they are purposeful (Ackoff and Emery 1972; Ackoff 1999).

  3. 3.

    “Open” and “free” fields have expanded much in recent years. Following on the heels of such celebration of open sourcing come critiques from adjacent fields, e.g., “traditional” newspapers whose contenthard-won and expensiveis being pilfered by bloggers, news consolidators like Google, etc. See Anderson (2009). Perhaps this is the dark side of DP3.

  4. 4.

    Trist (1983a) found referent organizations to be the de facto “rule makers” of fields, not by “hard” law (Medjad) but through “soft” law influences that come to be adopted. Ramírez and Wallin (2000) relabelled them “prime movers”, and analyzed how companies such as Tetra Pak, Visa, Nokia, and Xerox have acted as referent organizations and have been the de facto designers of their respective fields. We use the working term “catalytic organization” rather than a referent organization because it concerns a latent function that comes to be seen by third parties only when it unfolds (Bohm 1996). Nevertheless, the proper relationship between referent organizations and our term remains to be worked out.

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Correspondence to John W. Selsky.

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A much earlier version of this study was delivered at a symposium on New directions in socio-ecological thinking: Legacies of Emery and Trist, Academy of Management national meetings, Philadelphia, August 2007. The authors thank Don de Guerre, Merrelyn Emery, Del Nagy, Bill Starbuck and participants in a USF Tampa Management Department faculty seminar for comments on earlier versions.

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Selsky, J.W., Ramírez, R. & Babüroğlu, O.N. Collaborative Capability Design: Redundancy of Potentialities. Syst Pract Action Res 26, 377–395 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11213-012-9257-5

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Keywords

  • Design principle
  • Social ecology
  • Trans-organization
  • İnter-organizational field
  • Capabilities