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Stylistic Creativity in the Utilization of Management Tools

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    We analyze the role of management instruments in the development of collective activity and in the dynamics of organization, recurring to pragmatic and semiotic theories. In dualist representation-based theories (rationalism, cognitivism), instruments are seen as symbolic reflections of situations, which enable actors to translate their complex concrete activities into computable models. In interpretation-based theories (pragmatism, theory of activity, situated cognition), instruments are viewed as signs interpreted by actors to make sense of their collective activity, in an ongoing and situated manner. Instruments combine objective artefacts and interpretive schemes of utilization. They constrain interpretation and utilization, but do not completely determine them: they define genus (generic classes) of collective activity, but they leave space for individual or local interpretive schemes and stylistic creation in using them. A major part of organizational dynamics takes place in the permanent interplay between instrumental genus and styles. Whereas representation-based theories can be acceptable approximations in stable and reasonably simple organizational settings, interpretation-based theories make uncertain and complex situations more intelligible. They view emotions and creativity as a key part of the interpretive process, rather than as external biases of a rational modelling process. For future research, we wish to study how interpretation-based theories should impact managerial practices and improve, not only intelligibility, but also actionability of instruments and situations.

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    Paper provided by ESSEC Research Center, ESSEC Business School in its series ESSEC Working Papers with number DR 07007.

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    Length: 29 pages
    Date of creation: Apr 2007
    Handle: RePEc:ebg:essewp:dr-07007
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    ESSEC Research Center, BP 105, 95021 Cergy, France

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    1. Swieringa, Robert J. & Weick, Karl R., 1987. "Management accounting and action," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 293-308, April.
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