All Edge: Inside the New Workplace Networks

All Edge: Inside the New Workplace Networks

Available for preorder via Amazon

Work is changing. Speed and flexibility are more in demand than ever before thanks to an accelerating knowledge economy and sophisticated communication networks. These changes have forced a mass rethinking of the way we coordinate, collaborate, and communicate. Instead of projects coming to established teams, teams are increasingly converging around projects. These “all-edge adhocracies” are highly collaborative and mostly temporary, their edge coming from the ability to form links both inside and outside an organization. These nimble groups come together around a specific task, recruiting personnel, assigning roles, and establishing objectives. When the work is done they disband their members and take their skills to the next project.

In Blog

CFP: iConference 2016

Posted by: on Jul 23, 2015 | No Comments

If you’re in a school of information, or if you’re interested in information studies, consider attending this conference:

iConference
Dates: Sunday, March 20 through Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Location: Loew’s Philadelphia Hotel, Philadelphia, PA
Host: College of Computing & Informatics, Drexel University

They’re now accepting submissions, with a deadline of September 9:

iConference 2016 takes place Sunday, March 20 through Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in historic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. This year’s theme of “Partnership with Society” examines the dynamic, evolving role of information science and today’s iSchool movement, and the benefits to society. The conference includes peer-reviewed PapersPostersWorkshopsSessions for Interaction and Engagement, and iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award, all interspersed with multiple opportunities for networking. Early career and next generation researchers can engage in the Doctoral Student ColloquiumEarly Career Colloquium, and Undergraduate Student Showcase. 

Click here to view our Call for Participation and submission timeline.

Much more at the link.

In Blog

Writing :: Co-creation by commenting

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2015 | No Comments

Jakobs, E.-M., Spinuzzi, C., Digmayer, C., & Pogue, G. (2015). Co-creation by commenting: Participatory ways to write Quicklook® reports. In Proceedings of IEEE professional communication society international professional communication conference (pp. 291–297). Limerick: IEEE.

Last year, my dear friend and colleague Eva Jakobs spent a few weeks in Austin. Among other things, we decided to collaborate on a small study of 24 Quicklook reports: technology assessment and commercialization reports used to determine whether a given innovation might have a chance of being valuable to specific stakeholders in a specific market. My colleagues at IC2 have an archive of such reports, and since Eva and her group are interested in revisions, versioning, and text mining, we agreed to provide an archive of drafts to her group.

The results were interesting. These reports are written by contracted business analysts who interview stakeholders and write a heavily templated report over approximately 40 hours. Then each report is sent to the program director, who typically comments on the draft and sends it back for revision. Usually the revision cycle involves just a few rounds, but some involve far more. (See the paper for details.) Eva’s team was able to characterize these revisions.

But we also were able to (a) use the textual analysis to identify the sections where the comments most frequently occurred and (b) code the comments with an emergent coding scheme to identify their purposes (co-creation, argumentation, the writing process, and text quality). Based on this work, we were able to characterize the kinds of comments and identify how the parties synchronized expectations.

Eva was lead author; my contributions typically were supplemental.

For me, one of the most useful parts of this exercise was in scaling. My research has typically been in the qualitative case study mode: examining observations, interviews, and artifacts. And that mode does not scale well because the sheer amount of work is difficult to sustain. Text mining, on the other hand, scales quite well as long as one can ensure that the pattern matching means what you think it does. (Structure is not necessarily an indicator of meaning.) For this project, we were able to pair the two approaches, yielding an analysis that scaled up to a larger dataset while maintaining an interpretive analysis.

In Blog

Writing :: How do entrepreneurs hone their pitches?

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2015 | No Comments

Spinuzzi, C., Pogue, G., Nelson, R. S., Thomson, K. S., Lorenzini, F., French, R. A., Burback, S., & Momberger, J. (2015). How do entrepreneurs hone their pitches? Analyzing how pitch presentations develop in a technology commercialization competition. In SIGDOC ’15: Proceedings of the 33rd ACM international conference on Design of communication (pp. 1–11). Limerick: ACM.
Here’s another paper from our series on entrepreneurship — and perhaps another useful lesson in writing.

My collaborators and I have been working on a monster paper that pulls together nine months’ worth of qualitative data, covering a full cycle in a pitch competition. With the sheer amount of data available, the task has been daunting, and we have been distracted by quick wins. (I thought we would finish this paper a year earlier, frankly.) So how does one focus oneself on finishing such a large, unwieldy analysis?

One tactic is to break the analysis into small parts and set a deadline for each. And a great way to do that is to submit an abstract to a conference with conference proceedings. It focuses the mind quite effectively.

That’s what we did here. I was dreading the task of watching, coding, and analyzing the videos in the pitch competition. So I did the following:

(a) I narrowed the scope of the task, selecting only four of the 25 pitches. The sampling was driven by (i) the available data (some participants declined and others had only partial data); (ii) the ultimate success (two of the selections went on to business development, two didn’t); and (iii) type of innovation (I wanted to cover product, process, and principle).

(b) I submitted an abstract to SIGDOC in which I promised that our team would examine those presentations closely.

(c) I made good on that promise by closely analyzing the data. As I knew would happen, the data paraphrasing, coding, and analysis turned out to be fun.

(d) Based on the finished SIGDOC paper, I slotted the analysis of this segment into our monster manuscript.

Let’s briefly talk about the word “I” above, because it points to the character of our collaboration. My collaborators collected most of the data and we all discussed how to characterize it. Ultimately, I put together the analysis and draft. Then I presented it to collaborators for an open review period, collecting valuable feedback that I folded back into the document. That’s important: we chose to collaborate on a team in which each of us had different kinds of expertise, and although one of us might take the lead at different points, we had to make sure we could synchronize our expertise periodically. The paper was stronger for it.

And, again, the paper has become a building block for a much larger and more intimidating paper. For those readers who are tackling large-scale studies, this is key: break these into smaller tasks, preferably represented by smaller publications. Handling big projects this way has several advantages:

(1) You scope down the larger project and make it manageable.

(2) You get more publications (obviously). This might feel like cheating, but I argue that it’s not — it can be a crucial step, especially because …

(3) You get periodic outside feedback on each step. For instance, the blind reviewers on this paper could have raised methodological concerns, which we could then address before rolling this segment into the larger paper. (They didn’t in this case.)

Once you have assembled a building block like this one, you can cite it in the final paper, pointing people to further methodological details. And that brings me to one other thing.

I know there’s a stigma against self-citation. But I have basically ignored it. In fact, I cite myself enough that people tease me about it at conferences. That’s fine because I have a specific rationale for it.

Think about it in terms of putting together a coherent argument:

(1) When you write an article, you work on making it coherent through metadiscourse such as forecasting and through repeating certain information at key points in the manuscript. You have to make sure people know how the different parts fit into the larger argument.

(2) When you write a book or dissertation, you follow a similar strategy at a larger scale. For instance, you overview the argument in the introduction and recapitulate it in the conclusion. You establish transitions at the beginning and end of each chapter. And you drop in cross-references: “As we saw in chapter 3…”

(3) When you scale beyond a book to a body of publications that address parts of an overarching argument — for instance, a set of articles on how innovators learn to be entrepreneurs — you have to keep that multi-publication argument coherent too. One economical way is to cite your other publications on the same project.

Is that benefit of self-citation worth potential stigma? Weigh carefully, I guess.

In Blog

Writing :: Understanding the value proposition as a cocreated claim

Posted by: on Jul 22, 2015 | No Comments

London, N., Pogue, G., & Spinuzzi, C. (2015). Understanding the value proposition as a cocreated claim. In Proceedings of IEEE professional communication society international professional communication conference (pp. 298–305). Limerick: IEEE.
This paper was part of a series of papers on entrepreneurship I’ve been writing along with partners at IC2 over the last two years. For this paper, we were interested in the notion of the value proposition, which is the claim of value to stakeholders. I was particularly interested in the value proposition because (a) it’s a claim, and thus something rhetoricians should be able to address with our toolkit; (b) it sits at the intersection of two or more different activities, and is thus inherently a boundary-crossing claim.

It turns out that the value proposition has been generally underdefined and undertheorized in the relevant literature. One promising thread of literature has been Lusch and Vargo’s discussion of Goods-Dominant Logic (which assumes that value resides in the good) vs. Service-Dominant Logic (which assumes that value comes from the service of providing the good). For this paper, we decided to explore the difference between the two, using five case studies in which the value proposition of a specific innovation was changed over time by the innovator.

The research itself was done by the lead author, Noelle London, who worked with Gregory Pogue (second author) and me over the course of a year. Noelle interviewed the business developers who mentored the innovators as well as examining innovator documents. (Noelle just finished her MA in Public Policy at the LBJ School here at UT, focusing on the Ecuadorean innovation ecosystem.) Greg and I provided feedback and extended the analysis. We’re pretty happy with the resulting paper, although we already see points at which we can extend the analysis further.

In terms of writing, we each had things to contribute, and only by working together were we able to develop a strong finished piece. First, I developed a literature review of the GDL vs. SDL literature. Then Noelle abstracted the two perspectives so they could be contrasted, adding Lean Startup methodology for a third perspective to contrast. She worked closely with Greg to develop this line of thought, since Greg has vast experience in innovation and entrepreneurship. Based on this work, Noelle conducted the interviews, providing both the raw interviews and the assessment to us. I pulled the work together into a draft, essentially shaping it into the finished piece with frequent feedback from my two coauthors.

As I said, we already see points at which we would like to extend the analysis further. This paper is a step toward an expanded analysis, and we will perhaps take the next step soon, developing an article based on it. And that’s perhaps the best takeaway for you, dear readers: each writing opportunity does not stand alone, it provides a step to the next one.

In Blog

Reading :: Change and the Entrepreneur

Posted by: on Jul 21, 2015 | No Comments

Change and the entrepreneur: postulates and the patterns for entrepreneurial history
Prepared by the Research Center in Entrepreneurial History, Harvard University

I ran across a citation to Schumpeter’s paper in this 1949 collection, so I looked it up and UT’s library had a copy. I’m glad it did. In addition to Schumpeter’s paper, the collection also has a brief position paper by Dmitri B. Shimkin on entrepreneurship and the Soviet economic system—putting together two of my current interests. Below, I focus on these two papers.

Shimkin, Dmitri B. “Entrepreneurship and the Soviet economic system.” pp.48-53.

In this brief paper, Shimkin reviews entrepreneurship’s short and troubled history in the Soviet Union. Before the Revolution, he notes, entrepreneurship had a brief history due to the late start of capitalist development. (Depending on who you listen to, Russia was either feudalist up to the Revolution or until a few decades before it.) Russia’s serfs were not liberated until 1861, and “in 1865, there was only one bank in the whole of the country with a capitalization of 2,000,000 roubles” (p.48).

With the liberation of the serfs, labor suddenly became more mobile and incentivized; by 1915, there were fifty banks with a capitalization of over two million roubles each; iron production increased ninefold; coal production increased 3.5 times (p.49). “This rather rapid rate of development was accomplished through an alliance between the state and the capitalists. The primary source of capital within the country was the state. … There was no encouragement of small business, no attempted control of monopoly” (p.49). Thus the economy was asymmetric, with large, well capitalized industries and “tiny, unprotected handicraft workers” (p.49). Foreign investments flowed into the large industries, leading to high debt service and thus high exports (p.49). Thus, entrepreneurship before the Revolution

was characterized by energetic development and a dynamic outlook. It was based on a patterned cooperation between the state and the entrepreneur. Its weakness lay in its shallow roots, in the unbalanced rate of economic development, and in its domination by foreign capital — which incidentally opened the way to xenophobia. (p.50)

With the Revolution, the state nationalized “banking, trade, industry, transportation, commerce, and the like”—before putting into place institutions that could adequately handle them—and gave land back to the peasants. The result was “confusion and weakness,” leading Lenin to finally institute the New Economic Policy. “Despite burdensome controls, private enterprise boomed. In most cases, however, it was only a proliferation of one-man efforts” (p.50). By 1926, capital and labor was consistently in flight from state to private sector (p.50). The Soviets also began to encourage foreign capital investment (pp.50-51). But “as the government became stronger, it attacked private capital”: during the first five-year plan, small manufacturing was eliminated, foreign capital was eliminated, and farmers were collectivized (p.51). The author adds:

The NEP showed that even under adverse conditions, the small entrepreneur is an extremely efficient mechanism for economic recovery. His vitality far exceeded Soviet expectations. Contrary to theoretical expectations, private capital did not wither away but soon rose to endanger state enterprises, and had to be forcefully eliminated by political measures. (p.51)

Yet “By 1930-1932, entrepreneurship had been eliminated wholly, except for the privte plots of the members of the Kolkhoz and their rights to sell the produce thereof. For the rest, private initiative was restricted to professional activity, and to the black market” (p.51). Small-scale entrepreneurial effort is the most tenacious, the author concludes (p.52).

Schumpeter, Joseph A. “Economic theory and entrepreneurial history.” pp.63-84.

Here, Schumpeter addresses three topics: (1) he surveys the history of economists’ notions about entrepreneurship; (2) he examines enterprise’s evolution; and (3) he comments on economic history as viewed via the standpoint of enterprise. Here, we’ll focus on (1).

Schumpeter notes that Adam Smith had little to say about entrepreneurship. “Natural law preconceptions led Adam Smith to emphasize the role of labor to the exclusion of the productive function of designing the plan according to which this labor is being applied” (p.65). And “With Ricardo and Marx the processes of production and commerce are still more automatic. The designing, directing, leading, co-ordinating function had practically no place at all in their analytic schemata” (p.65). Similarly, John Stuart Mill did not believe that the management of the production process required any great skill (p.66).

What would that skill be? What separates entrepreneurship from ordinary business management? Schumpeter forwards the same argument here that he does elsewhere: the entrepreneur (a) transforms or combines factors into products and (b) creates something new, not inherited (p.68). Typically, he says, this entrepreneurial function is accompanied by other functions, specifically leadership (pp.69-70).

Was this book useful? It was to me, and it may be to you as well, if you want to get a mid-20th century view of entrepreneurship. Pick it up—if you can find it.