Cross-boundary knowledge work in innovation : Understanding the role of space and objects

Abstract: This dissertation studies the topic of cross-boundary knowledge work from the perspective of sociomateriality. Cross-boundary knowledge work refers to the collaboration of actors belonging to different social worlds to achieve shared knowledge outcomes. Sociomateriality is a theoretical perspective that acknowledges the role of objects and spaces in organizational life. The empirical field of collaborative innovation provides a context for this dissertation.Cross-boundary knowledge work is an important topic given the emergence of novel challenges that require collaboration across disciplines and organizations. Innovating across social and organizational boundaries is a demanding task that calls for new ways of working. Working in new ways refers to using new organizational models and engaging in new organizational practices. To address the increasing need for cross-boundary knowledge work, this dissertation turns to the design of objects and spaces as a defining aspect of organizational life.The overarching goal of the dissertation is to understand what role spaces and objects (physical and digital) play within cross-boundary knowledge work. The dissertation is structured into four papers. Paper 1 builds the foundation of the dissertation by providing an extensive literature review about boundary objects—a theoretical construct that denotes objects that enable knowledge-based collaboration across diverse social worlds. The subsequent empirical papers study cross-boundary knowledge dynamics in three different collaborative innovation contexts. Paper 2 addresses how boundary objects can be designed to enable knowledge integration during interdisciplinary corporate hackathons. Paper 3 shows how innovation spaces and the objects that are part of them support collaborative innovation through knowledge integration and the development of new practices. Paper 4 conceptualizes startup accelerators as boundary spaces that lead to the creation of different types of knowledge communities.This study makes important contributions to the fields of cross-boundary knowledge work, sociomateriality, and collaborative innovation. First, the four papers show that cross-boundary knowledge work needs to consider other dynamics happening at the boundaries within interdisciplinary and interorganizational contexts. For instance, the creation of a shared identity appears to be a fundamental aspect to consider in order to achieve knowledge goals. Second, this dissertation deepens our understanding of the actual practices afforded by objects and spaces within collaborative settings. Each paper strives to provide an in-depth account of how individual objects, systems of objects, and spaces support knowledge work. Third, this dissertation offers a relevant theoretical perspective to illustrate the challenges involved in collaborative innovation, at the same time suggesting how material infrastructure may help collaborating actors achieve shared knowledge outcomes. Finally, innovation managers can find relevant advice on how to leverage the built environment to enhance their practice.