Designing Organizations that Design Environments: Lessons from Entrepreneurial Expertise

Batten Institute Research Paper No. #2008 S 1

Organization Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2008

Posted: 13 Aug 2009

See all articles by Saras D. Sarasvathy

Saras D. Sarasvathy

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Nicholas Dew

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Stuart Read

IMD International - Marketing and e-Commerce

Robert Wiltbank

Willamette University - Atkinson Graduate School of Management

Date Written: 2008

Abstract

Human artifacts lie on the interface between their inner environments and their outer environments. Organizations, therefore, are apt subjects to be studied through a science of the artificial. Furthermore, organizational design happens at two interfaces: first, at the interface between organizational founder(s) and the firms they design, and second, between the firms and the environments in which they operate. We use recent developments in the study of entrepreneurial expertise to show why an effectual logic of design is necessary at the first interface, and what its consequences are for designing at the second. In particular, we use the exemplar case of Starbucks to codify three key characteristics of the design problem at the first interface - namely, Knightian uncertainty, goal ambiguity and environmental isotropy. We then use an 'alternate histories' method to trace four strategic options - namely, planning, adaptation, vision and transformation - for designing at the second interface. In the final analysis, organizational design is important because effectuators using transformational approaches not only design organizations, but concurrently end up designing the environments we live in.

Suggested Citation

Sarasvathy, Saras D. and Dew, Nicholas and Read, Stuart and Wiltbank, Robert, Designing Organizations that Design Environments: Lessons from Entrepreneurial Expertise (2008). Batten Institute Research Paper No. #2008 S 1, Organization Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1437170

Saras D. Sarasvathy (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.effectuation.org

Nicholas Dew

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Stuart Read

IMD International - Marketing and e-Commerce ( email )

Chemin de Bellerive 23
P.O. Box 915
CH-1001 Lausanne
Switzerland

Robert Wiltbank

Willamette University - Atkinson Graduate School of Management ( email )

900 State Street
Salem, OR 97301
United States
503 370 6955 (Phone)
503 370 3011 (Fax)

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