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HOW TO MAKE USE OF INTERDEPENDENCIES IN A FRAGMENTED BUSINESS LANDSCAPE: INFORMATION GATHERING IN CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Real Estate and Construction Management, Project Communication.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2309-9958
NTNU.
NTNU.
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Traditional theory on innovation claims that while incremental innovation can be handled through internal effort and co-ordination with suppliers and customers, radical innovation is achieved using what Weick (1976) calls “weak links”. 

Within the industrial networks paradigm, it is likewise observed that learning and innovation can be effects of long-term relationships (e.g. Håkansson, 1987; Håkansson and Waluszewski, 2007). Thus, innovation and product development can and do benefit from long-term relationships. In a larger research project, the authors will try to trace how industrial networks theory can be developed to discuss and explain radical innovation. The main goal is to create a model, and explore whether it can be used to corroborate Weick’s suppositions. This article is the first one resulting from this project, and an empirical investigation has been used to develop a model illustrating how the involved actors use their relationships to find and use knowledge about solutions that are, if not entirely radical, at least not used very often by the actors involved.

Methodologically, the authors have chosen a case approach. This is appropriate for this type of exploratory studies (Yin, 1994). Using theoretical sampling, the authors chose the construction industry for their case study. The construction industry presents itself as the extreme case of a fragmented business landscape in terms of the major part of all activities being confined to temporary projects and there is also a high degree of specialisation (Winch, 2010). Firms are highly dependent on each other in this industry, but business interaction is confined to short and intense periods of separate projects (e.g. Dubois and Gadde, 2000). As such, the construction industry has been referred to as a “loosely coupled system” (Dubois and Gadde, 2002), but in contrast to Weick’s hypothesis it has been indicated to lessen its productivity and innovativeness. Thus, the theoretical assumption made is that if use of relationships can be shown within such an “inhospitable” industry, they must be an important phenomenon.

Within the construction industry, the authors have studied two specific construction projects. Both are construction of wards for psychiatric institutions. These are buildings, which are built very seldom, and they contain a lot of specially adapted solutions and products that the construction-related organisations (firms and public actors) are not used to handling. Thus, the involved organisations are required to reach out to different sources of information and knowledge in order to be able to complete their contracts. Through a total of 26 semi-structured interviews with involved actors and divided evenly between the two projects, the authors have gathered data on how the actors have been involved in  accomplishing this search and adaptation work. It is data from these interviews that constitute the empirical base for the analysis.

Analytically, we have tried to divide the involved actors into broader groups of actors by their role in the construction project. We have then registered every expression related to the individual actors’ acquisition of knowledge about specialised solutions and products which may or may not be inside their own organization, and systematized these data. From these raw data, we have built a model of where the different actor groups reach out to obtain knowledge.

The results show that one actor, a government coordinating company (Sykehusbygg) has a central role in providing research-based knowledge and spreading it around in the network of participating actors. This was not surprising, since the governmental body was created to perform such a coordinating role. Moreover, the results also provide examples of actors reaching out to suppliers, colleagues in other companies and to other sources of knowledge. Finally, some actors solely rely on their internal knowledge and expertise in order to develop the required solutions and products for the project. We summarise the different types of actors and try to build a model illustrating where relevant information existed and which actors brought it into the projects.

 

References

Dubois, A. and Gadde, L.E. (2000), Supply strategy and network effects – purchasing behaviour in the construction industry, European Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management, 6, pp. 207-215.

Dubois, A. and Gadde, L-E. (2002), The construction industry as a loosely coupled system: implications for productivity and innovation. Construction Management and Economics, 20, pp. 621–631.

Håkansson, H. (1987) Industrial Technological Development: A Network Approach, London: Croom Helm.

Håkansson, H. & Waluszewski, A., eds. (2007) Knowledge and Innovation in Business and Industry –The importance of using others, London: Routledge

Weick (1976) Educational organisations as loosely coupled systems, Administrative Science Quarterly, 21(1), pp. 1-19. Vol. 21

 Winch, G. (2010) Managing Construction Projects. Wiley-Blackwell. 

Yin, R. (1994) Case Study Research: Design and Methods (2nd edition), Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-250385OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-250385DiVA, id: diva2:1307875
Conference
IMP Conference
Note

QCR 20190624

Available from: 2019-04-29 Created: 2019-04-29 Last updated: 2019-06-24Bibliographically approved

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Havenvid, Malena Ingemansson

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