Information Systems for Environmental Sustainability

IT, Resource Productivity, Environmental Preservation, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Carbon Management as Organizational Innovation

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John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, in “Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation,” (Organization Science (2:1), 1991, describe how:

Many organizations are willing to assume that complex tasks can be successfully mapped onto a set of simple, Tayloristic, canonical steps that can be followed without need of significant understanding or insight (and thus without need of significant investment in training or skilled technicians). But as Bourdieu, Suchman (1987a), and Orr show, actual practice inevitably involves tricky interpolations between abstract accounts and situated demands.

Carbon management as an organizational innovation involves complex issues at the nexus of the designed physical world, the natural world, and the informational world. It’s likely then that “tricky interpolations” will be required. As Brown and Duguid stated in 1991, there is still truth in the statement that:

Work practice is generally viewed as conservative and resistant to change; learning is generally viewed as distinct from working and problematic in the face of change; and innovation is generally viewed as the disruptive but necessary imposition of change on the other two. To see that working, learning, and innovating are interrelated and compatible and thus potentially complementary, not conflicting forces requires a distinct conceptual shift. 

This “conceptual shift” will be needed for organizations to develop and implement successful carbon management innovation programs.


Author: nigelpm

Associate Professor of Information Systems, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan - Helping organizations to navigate digital transformation.

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