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Hirschhorn, L. (2018). Beyond BART (Boundaries, Authority, Role and Task): Creative Work and the Developmental Project. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 18(1):41-61.

(2018). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 18(1):41-61

Beyond BART (Boundaries, Authority, Role and Task): Creative Work and the Developmental Project

Larry Hirschhorn

This paper argues that our inherited categories for examining group relations, “boundary” “authority”, “role” and “task” are inadequate to the task of understanding what I call “developmental projects”. The latter are work settings in which participants are creating something novel, as they would in developing a drug, designing a product or producing a new play. The paper suggests that such projects entail existential rather than routine risks, use boundary objects rather than the work process to focus attention, create a social system in which management and authority are loosely connected, and rely on edges rather than boundaries to mobilise resources. The paper explores these issues by referencing some published cases of developmental work, for example, the failed project Taurus, an undertaking to computerise trading on the London Stock exchange. It also presents a case in which the author participated as a researcher and consultant, of a multidisciplinary team in a university setting building a computer simulation of “forced migration”. The paper proposes how the new dimensions of developmental projects might distort working, for example, the boundary object can become a fetish object and edges can distort commitments confuse authorisation.

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