- Iris Wallenburg (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
- Roland Bal (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
- Brit Winthereik (IT University of Copenhagen) email
- Annemiek Stoopendaal (Erasmus University Rotterdam) email
Experimental organizations do not resist ambiguity and uncertainty, but rather embrace these by deliberately and recursively searching for reflexive responses or 'experiments'. We explore empirically and theoretically the doing of organizational experiments, and how organizations account for these.
Organizations face high hopes and big pressures to do good but have to deal with a variety of goodness (von Wright 1972) that cause frictions and leave organizations uncertain about the 'right' or appropriate behavior. We embrace the idea of the organization as a socio-ecological space of uncertainty, and want to explore from there what it means for organizations to learn and account for their actions. That is, what it means for organizations to be 'experimental'.
Experimental organizations do not resist or attempt to control ambiguity and uncertainty, but embrace these by deliberately and recursively searching for reflexive and situated responses or 'experiments' to occurring challenges. A specific strategy to cope with uncertainty and surprises is what Wildavsky coined as resilience (Wildavsky 1988). The strategy of resilience considers failure and success as two sides of the same coin (Mesman 2008). Can organizations become resilient by using experiments that are inherently unpredictable?
In this panel we want to explore and theorize the 'Experimental Organization'. We are interested in 1) how experiments are done, 2) how experimenting compromises conflicting values into 'goods', 3) how experimenting and resilience are related, and 4) how organizations account for these: experimenting does not mean 'acting in the wild' but rather evokes justification work (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006). Lastly, what does the experimental organization mean for the role of the researcher: if experimenting is central to organizational life, can researchers still stand on the outside and watch, or are they implicated in the experiment (Zuiderent-Jerak 2015)?
This track is closed to new paper proposals.
Critique - in Organizational Experiment
In this paper we compare critical practices on the Danish fishery inspection ship The West Coast to such practices at the Nordic Folk Center for Renewable Energy. These cases are the ingredients for examining the role of critique in organizational experimentation.
In this paper we compare critical practices on the Danish fishery inspection ship The West Coast to such practices at the Nordic Folk Center for Renewable Energy. These cases are the ingredients for examining the role of critique in organizational experimentation. We highlight critique as an immanent feature of organizational practice. In both cases critical practitioners resisted certain governmental influence, and used the critique to shape the direction of the organization. Yet, they did so in quite different ways. Our interest in critique in these two rather different organizations differs from sociological and anthropological critical theory, which relies on a difference between practitioner and academic, and on a difference between an insider and an outsider perspective. Our analysis shows that critique is immanent to the practices we study and conceptualized by the practitioners. To further problematize the already ongoing critical engagements in the organizations we study we draw on the notions critical proximity (Latour) and infra-critique (Verran). If critique is a matter of frictional relations rather than of distance, how might this insight problematize established practices and value systems in Science and Technology Studies' approaches to organizational life?
The Experimental Zone, an experimental inquiry setting on interdisciplinary scientific work practices. Methodological issues
In one of the Clusters of the Humboldt University of Berlin an organizational experiment has been set up: the Experimental Zone, a space where the influence of spatial configurations on interdisciplinary work practices is observed. Which methodological issues are raised by such an research setting?
In this paper we aim to discuss on a methodological level the organizational experiment that has been set up in the Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung of the Humboldt University of Berlin. Called the Experimental Zone, it is a space where scientists from about 25 disciplines collaborate and are at the same time object of observations. Within the framework of monthly Experimental Settings spatial configurations and user instructions are changed purposefully to measure their impact on the researchers' work. The aim of the research project is to investigate the influence of architecture on interdisciplinary research and to specify how space can encourage collaboration and innovation beyond disciplinary boundaries.
The research team of the Experimental Zone has drafted a specific research design and methodology for this organizational experiment. In line with ethnographic research on laboratories (Latour, 1979 ; Knorr-Cetina, 1981), we conduct an ethnography of the working space, with the implementation of specific visual methods like mental mapping. The combination of active spatial interventions through monthly settings and the ethnographic observation of their impacts on research processes has methodological implications: What does it mean to design our own research field? In order to answer these methodological issues raised by our position at the crossroads between fieldwork and experimentation, we have developed a procedure model that defines the successive stages of the inquiry: designing, observing, interpreting. Furthermore, our team itself is accompanied by a participant observation with the aim of adding an "external" perspective to our reflections about our own research.
Experimenting for resilience - An inquiry into Civic Desire
Focusing on how an experimental approach to organizing may pave the way for organizational resilience, we explore opportunities and barriers of experimental organizing by following a concrete social experiment in civil society and discuss its adaptability in traditional organizations. The social experiment is called Civic Desire. The founders explicitly call for new ways of organizing that can develop social sustainability. We discuss how these experiments may create platforms of new unforeseen goals that organizations may choose to follow. In conclusion we argue for organizational resilience through balancing a strategic and anticipatory strategy with experimental setups inspired by civil society organizing initiatives.
In recent years numerous organizing initiatives departing from civil society have paved the way for alternative forms of organizing where experimentations often have been the core premise (Parker et al. 2014). One of the reasons for an experimental approach in these cases could be that organizing principles reflect the purpose and value of the organization, and civil society organizing initiatives often depart from a wish to create different goals, different ways of being together in society and redistribute resources. In their organizational setup these experimental civil society organizing initiatives explicitly wish to create a different platform. The purpose of this paper is not to critically scrutinize traditional organizations for having the wrong goals, but rather to explore how an experimental approach to organizing may pave the way for organizational resilience. We explore opportunities and barriers of experimental organizing by following a concrete social experiment in civil society and discuss its adaptability and meaningfulness in more traditional organizations. The social experiment is called Civic Desire. The founders explicitly call for new ways of organizing that can develop and sustain social sustainability. Through analytical concepts like anticipation, rigid response, tight control in contrast to resilience, flexible control and open output taken from organizational theory and an STS-inspired reading in organization studies we discuss how these experiments may create platforms of new unforeseen aspirations and goals that organizations may choose to follow. In conclusion we argue for organizational resilience through balancing a strategic and anticipatory strategy with experimental setups inspired by civil society organizing initiatives.
Experimental regulation: learning from mystery guests, systems and good governance
This paper explores how regulation is reformed through experimental projects. Organizations can become resilient by experiments that are inherently unpredictable, is this the case for regulatory organizations too? How does a regulatory organization, that has to be predictable, justify experiments?
In the past three years the Dutch Healthcare Inspectorate (DHI) has experimented with new forms of supervision: 1) the use of Mystery Guests, 2) System Based Regulation, and 3) inspection of Good Governance. The experiments were followed through a formative ethnographic research aimed to better understand the established value systems and technologies of regulation in order to reform and re-conceptualize them. The use of mystery guests enacted a softening of the reports of the DHI and led to a more nuanced conceptualisation of healthcare quality. System based regulation had to cope with a 'bad image' whilst the project on Good Governance focused on public-private co-regulation and introduced narratives of culture. The experiments, due to the combination with the reflections from ethnographic research, worked as spaces of theoretical productivity. They helped the DHI to reconsider its tasks, to make room for situated interventions (Zuiderent-Jerak 2015), and to open up space for more regulatory resilience. The experiments pointed at regulatory interventions to go beyond the trap of being only punitive. Walshe (2015) noted this as 'Developmental regulation' in which the interventions of the regulator are focused on improvement and development of regulates. However, being flexible and changeable as a regulator can be interpreted as a diminishing of predictability, hence be considered as an undesirable consequence. How does the DHI justify this consequence of regulatory resilience?
Experimenting with accountability in Danish health care
Based on a study of quality indicator development and accountability in Danish health care, the paper discusses how institutionalized accountability relations lend themselves to experimentation, and how data works as both generative and inhibiting resources for organizational experimentation.
Intuitively, the nature of public organizations is probably considered to be a bureaucratic rather than an experimental one. However, this paper presents a highly experimental approach taken by a Danish Region in the attempt to transform health care governance from a strong focus on productivity towards a more multifaceted and value-based governance paradigm. For a 2-year period nine hospital departments have been exempted from the national system of activity-based financing and accountability (the DRG-system), and asked to render themselves accountable in other ways via self-chosen indicators. What makes this experiment particularly interesting is the absence of any framework for what qualifies as indicators, as well as any clear idea about how exactly the experiment would be conducive to the new governance paradigm envisioned by the Region. We find this to be an interesting case for discussing organizational experimentation.
Based on interviews with the departments, we analyze how the overall governance-experiment was translated into local projects of improvement, and how the process of transforming local clinical data into externally assessable performance indicators generated ambiguity, surprise and reflection. The paper discusses how institutionalized accountability relations lends themselves to experimentation and, more generally, the role of data in experimental processes, including how data are anything but 'raw' and factual but both inhibiting and generative resources for experimentation. Finally, as researchers funded by the Region, we reflect on our own position in relation to the Regions' eagerness for advice and opinions about their experimental approach.
Experimenting with the Organization of Healthcare
The paper focuses on a Dutch healthcare organization and one of its experimental projects. More specific, on justification repertoires deployed during the process of setting it up. How does its experimental character play out in the justification work required to bring unlikely partners together?
The paper focuses on Blue Care, a healthcare organization that has been selected as pioneer site by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports and one of its projects, Primary Care Plus (PC+). These can be understood as experimental organizations: 1) Blue Care experiments with new forms of organizing health care, 2) in the context of the Dutch market-driven health care system, Blue Care is a collaboration of unlikely partners: the local hospital, the local organisation of primary care professionals, the local patient organization and a national insurance company, 3) the organizers of Blue Care often call the PC+-project "an experiment" or "a quest" implying that PC+ is a new phenomenon and that therefore, the conditions of success and the precise format are not spelled out in advance, but will arise along the way.
The paper draws on interviews with managers and directors of Blue Care that were involved in the early stages of the project. Interviewees elaborated on how the collaboration between the partners came into being. These stories give insight into the required justification work. Inspired by Boltanski and Thevenot I focus on justification repertoires deployed to describe decisions in the process and to criticize those of others. Thus, I gain insight into the conflicting values of the partners and how they manage to compromise these for the sake of collaboration. How does the experimental character of the organization play out in the justification work? Do ambiguities and uncertainties evoke additional justification, or is it rather deployed as possessing justificatory strength itself?
Experimentalist governance in action: uncertain valuations and valuing uncertainties in a Dutch collective for elderly care
We analyze the Dutch national elderly program as a form of ‘experimentalist governance’. We develop the notions ‘valuing uncertainties’ (uncertainty about how experimentation should be valued) and ‘uncertain valuations’ (how actors define success and outcome according to different valuation schemes).
The notion of 'the experimental organization' is increasingly used to explore how organizations - as socio-ecological spaces - learn from and experiment with uncertainties. However, not only organizations but also inter-organizational programs and networks can be viewed as such spaces. We zoom in on the Dutch national elderly program (NPO) that was explicitly positioned as an experimental learning program. The NPO can be viewed as a form of 'experimentalist governance' in which multiple organizations interact and collaborate to improve elderly care under uncertain conditions about what constitutes good care. We build on document analysis and interviews with stakeholders (elderly patients, doctors and representatives of the program committee). Our study contributes to a better understanding of the relation between experimentation, valuation and uncertainty in two particular ways. First, the notion of 'valuing uncertainties' shows that there is uncertainty about the process of experimenting and how experimentation should be valued. Despite the original framing of the NPO as a learning program with room for uncertainty, in practice many actors sought to reduce uncertainty. We analyze the different tactics actors used to reduce or open up uncertainty about the process of experimenting with 'good' forms of elderly care. Second, the notion of 'uncertain valuations' shows how actors define measures of success and outcome of the NPO differently according to different valuation schemes: i.e. statistical evaluation, processual evaluation, cost-effectiveness evaluation and participatory evaluation. The multiplicity of valuation schemes can generate 'productive tensions' that reconfigure our understanding of success, good science, good ways of steering and good care.
Accounting and Producing Care: The Development of Experimental Infrastructures to Account for Good Care
This paper aims to explore and conceptualize how hospital organizations have turned into measuring and accounting entities, and how this has set into motion an experiment of developing and enacting internal surveillance infrastructures, producing new notions of good care
In various countries hospitals have moved from service organizations serving the public good to competing enterprises that must account for their actions to various third parties (i.e. health insurers, the media, financial authorities, the Inspectorate). In this paper we aim to explore and conceptualize how hospital organizations have turned into measuring and accounting entities, and how this has set into motion an experiment of developing and enacting internal surveillance infrastructures. These experimental infrastructures (Jensen and Winthereik 2013; Jensen and Morita 2015), we show, are complex heterogeneous assemblages of technologies, regulations, professional authority, calculating instruments and control practices.
Empirically, we draw on a study of financial accounting in the Netherlands. Hospitals, and more in particular medical practitioners, must register medical treatment in order to get care reimbursed. In the recent past, hospitals have been accused of committing fraud through practices of 'upcoding' (i.e. registering more expensive treatments than actually provided), evoking a myriad of regulations and control practices by external regulating authorities. In this paper we show how hospital organizations attempt to embody regulation and control by fashioning technological surveillance systems (e.g. an electronic patient file that warns physicians for 'incorrect' registering) as well as calculable spaces to predict and measure performance in order to optimize financial results. We demonstrate how this enactment of calculating selves and calculative spaces (Asdal 2011; Miller 1994) has induced an infrastructure of liquid surveillance (Bauman and Lyon 2012), producing new notions of 'good care'.
This track is closed to new paper proposals.