Creativitiy and Control in IT Professionals' Communities

Creativitiy and Control in IT Professionals' Communities

Agnieszka Postula (University of Warsaw, Poland)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-176-6.ch018
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This chapter presents and discusses two factors – creativity and control – which correspond to every organizational reality. IT specialists’ professional communities are used as an example because of characteristic relationships between their members and their attitude to work. The chapter describes how combination of these two phenomena may build or destroy organizations. There is also an explanation of specific relations between IT professionals and beginning of further discussion based on these relationships, as well as analysis of consequences of inappropriate management practices. Creativity and control are presented as features of every common company with their special roles in organization. Also, main characteristics of well-organized practical communities are shown.
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Data presented in this paper are the result of an ethnographic project conducted in Poland in 2002-2004. There were two levels of gathering field material. The first one was concentrated on exploration of a medium company producing business software “to the client’s needs” and took about half a year. The second stage was based on interviews with IT specialists working in several organizations. The research on this level embraced workers from bigger and smaller software companies, international corporations and IT departments in organizations from various branches.

The first step lasted about half a year and considered deep ethnographic inquiry of organizational reality, the second one was a continuation of plots revealed in the first part. The research method was based on open-ended, non-structured interviews, mainly ethnographic (unstructured and unstandardized) which allowed interlocutors to express thoughts freely. Other methods were 10 hours of non-participant observations on the first level and shadowing (2 working weekdays) on the second. Triangulation of data and methods was used to increase the richness of data, as well as to add other perspectives to the study (Konecki, 2000). Data triangulation was based on using data from different organizations (on the second level). Methodological triangulation was based on using several methods (interviews, observations, shadowing) for investigating one single issue.

All conversations were conducted in a form as open as possible, and often informally (during observations or shadowing). Interlocutors took up topics themselves, without or with only few general directions from the researcher . Thus, the gathered material reflects the topics and notions particularly important for workers, and is not meant to fit into any prior theoretical framework. All field material was analyzed and interpreted through categorizations, close to grounded theory manner . As a result, the categories, among which control and creativeness at work, emerged.

In order to keep being open to the field, stay within the “anthropological frame of mind” and to follow the social structures as perceived by the informants, researcher used both of the two typical methods of interviewees selection: “contact person” method helped in finding new interlocutors and in general reconnaissance of the organization, while “snowball” method was used to extend circles of interlocutors and deepen the topics.

The studied interviewees come from 13 companies, from various departments and represent many IT specializations (mostly programmers, but also designers, administrators, IT consultants and others). All, however, identified themselves with software engineering profession. In total, 34 interviews were conducted (18 at the first stage and 14 at the second). The research material includes over 400 pages of transcriptions and over 50 pages of field notes.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Creativity: The human impulse to organize, but to improvise rather than to locate, divide and control. Seeing things from a different perspective.

Occupational Community: Occupational communities represent bounded work cultures populated by people who share similar identities and values that transcendent specific organizational settings.

Control: One of the fundamental functions of management. It can be defined as an mechanism of strategy implementation (modernists’ theory) or legitimizing tool which hides influences of power and political behavior of managers (postmodernists’ theory).

Ethnographic Research: Is a methodological tradition of qualitative study. It can be used for discovering every social reality and organizations as well. Ethnographic researcher uses all methods characteristic of social inquiry.

Organizations/Organizing: Here, organizations are seen as cultures. Therefore, organizing, in short, means constructing specific reality with its artifacts, norms and values. It is a complex process which can be discovered deeply with ethnographic methods.

Professional Community: Refers to specialized working teams whose members have all had some kind of a higher education and who are identified more by their educational status than by their specific occupational skills.

Entrepreneur/Entrepreneurship: Following Schumpeter, an entrepreneur is a person who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation. Entrepreneurship forces “creative destruction” across markets and industries, simultaneously creating new products and business models. For Peter Drucker entrepreneurship is also about taking risk.

Organizational Life Cycle: Larry Greiner defined 5 stages of organizational life. In order to grow, the organization is supposed to pass through a series of identifiable phases or stages of development (creativity, direction, delegation, collaboration, coordination) and crisis (leadership, autonomy, control, staff, unknown).

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