Friday, January 6, 2012

MORTENSEN Mark
From Teams to Recombinant Collaboration: Understanding the Evolution of Organizational Work
INSEAD Working Paper 2012/02/OB

The increasing dynamism, competitiveness, and scope of organizational work has forced organizations to respond by forging new types of collaborations that are far more fluid, externally linked, and overlapping than traditional teams. To analyze this emerging trend and its role in the evolution of organizations, I develop a taxonomy of collaboration that highlights a critical difference between these emerging collaborations and traditional teams: a reduced reliance on boundedness. In response to these changes, I suggest a new perspective – “recombinant collaboration” – that builds on and integrates existing scholarship and theories of traditional and non-traditional (project-based, self-managed, distributed etc.) teams alike. I outline the recombinant collaboration perspective and how it differs from the traditional teams perspective in three distinctive respects, i.e. it: 1) focuses not on a static entity but on a dynamic process, 2) explicitly considers not only the collaboration itself but the community in which it is embedded, and 3) defines the collaborative unit not by a set of people but by the work they do. I conclude by discussing the implications of shifting to a recombinant collaboration perspective for theorizing about organizational collaborations.