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Situated Redesign in Creative Occupations: An Ethnography of Architects, Academy of Management Discoveries


Interest in creativity and innovation has skyrocketed in the past few decades, yet relatively few researchers have paid attention to what happens after an idea is generated. Drawing on an ethnography of architects, we examine their day-to-day activities as they respond to unanticipated constraints, especially those that occur after they have settled on a unique design. In doing so, we find that architects spend a large portion of their time engaged in technical work and what we call “situated redesign”: emergent actions taken in the here and now to resolve, skirt, or otherwise ameliorate unforeseen constraints that threaten to sidetrack a project. Situated redesign is integral to preserving the original esthetic vision and identity of a project. Our findings highlight the importance of studying the intricacies of project work in architecture and other technical fields to acquire more accurate understandings of what work involves in an increasingly postindustrial economy.




Hatim Rahman, Stephen R Barley

Date Published



Rahman, Hatim, and Stephen R Barley. 2017. Situated Redesign in Creative Occupations: An Ethnography of Architects. Academy of Management Discoveries.(4)


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