Sub-theme 41: Design for Global Organizations

Mark Mortensen
INSEAD, France
Anca Metiu
ESSEC Business School, France
João Vieira da Cunha
School of Social and Political Sciences, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal

Call for Papers


Globalization has changed the way that work is conducted and organized and the outcomes that are desired and possible through those work activities. Organizations doing knowledge intensive activities, for example, increasingly utilize globally distributed teams to get access to local talent, markets, and resources in order to create products and services more in tune with those markets. Offshoring of knowledge intensive work (i.e. the delocalization or externalization of complex processes, functions, and activities to emerging countries, Manning et al., 2008; Grimaldi et al., 2010), once applicable only to peripheral activities, is now applied to strategic activities – and it appears that the trend is here to stay (Lewin & Perm-Ajchariyawon, 2009).

The interaction between the design of global work arrangements, the artifacts, routines, and networks that enable those arrangements, and the consequences of a globally distributed work process, however, remain largely unexplored. The objective of this sub-theme is to explore the interplay between design and global work. Specifically we want foster creative discussions around both designing for global work and designing global products and, importantly, the interaction between the two.

Design for Global Work: In this sub-theme, we want to investigate how to best design artifacts, information technologies, routines, informal networks, and formal organizational structures to support globally distributed knowledge intensive work. We want to take advantage of the renewed interest in the organizational consequences of material artifacts (e.g. the upcoming MIS Quarterly special issue on sociomateriality) to advance research on the use of concrete objects to improve the design of global work arrangements. We hope to leverage new insights into the benefits and issues arising from the ongoing shift in the structure of collaborations towards greater fluidity and overlap (O'Leary et al., forthcoming, Mortensen, 2011) for thinking about design in more dynamic ways.

Design for Global Products: This sub-theme will also encourage research on how global work arrangements are used to design new products, services, and processes. Specifically, we want to enrich our understanding of the antecedents and outcomes of global work efforts (e.g., globally distributed teams and online communities) engaged with design work. We hope to explore the tension between the immaterial nature of online collaboration and the materiality of the products of that interaction. We also hope to understand how workers think about services for a global market and how the structure of the distributed work arrangement shapes their actions. We seek insightful distinctions between the dynamics of teams working on abstract problems and those of teams working on concrete artifacts. We also seek to balance the insights on the common processes that underpin global work with an appreciation of some of the differences among different types of global work arrangements (e.g. teams, project work, etc.).

Overall, this sub-theme seeks to explore the design factors that affect knowledge-intensive, global work and design for global markets, especially through the use of global work arrangements. Topics relevant to this sub-theme include (but are not restricted to):

  • The interplay between social processes and design in global work arrangements
  • The impact of individuals' multiple memberships on the innovation capabilities of global teams
  • Designing organizational and team structures for innovative global new product development
  • Designing collaborative technologies for global work
  • Designing dynamic strategies and structures for managing global product design and delivery
  • Designing dynamic strategies and structures for managing global service design and delivery
  • Understanding the interaction between technologies, work practices, structures for global work


To advance research on these issues and more generally on the interplay between design and global work, we seek original contributions, both empirical and theoretical, that rely on a variety of methods and theories.


Grimaldi, R., E. Mattarelli, A. Prencipe M. von Zedtwitz (2010): "Offshoring of Intangibles: Organizational and Strategic Issues." Industry and Innovation, 17, 331–336
Lewin, A.Y. & N, Perm-Ajchariyawong, N. (2009): "Getting serious about offshoring in a struggling economy." Shared Services News, 2, pp. 19–23
Manning, S., S. Massini & A.Y. Lewin (2008): "The Globalization of Innovation: A Dynamic Perspective on Offshoring." Academy of Management Perspectives, 22 (3), 35–54
Mortensen, M. (2011): From Teams to Recombinant Collaboration: Understanding the Evolution of Organizational Work. MIT Sloan Working Paper
Mortensen, M., O. Caya & A. Pinsonneault (2010): Virtual Teams Demystified: An Integrative Framework for Understanding Virtual Teams and a Synthesis of Research. MIT Sloan Working Paper
O'Leary, M.B., M. Mortensen & A.W. Woolley (forthcoming): "Multiple Team Membership: A Theoretical Model of its Effects on Productivity and Learning for Individuals and Teams." Academy of Management Review
Wilson, J., M.B. O'Leary, A. Metiu & Q. Jett (2008): "Perceptions of Proximity in Virtual Work: Explaining the Paradox of 'Far-but-Close'." Organization Studies, 29 (7), 979–1002
Witchalls, C., M. Woodley & J. Watson J. (2010): Managing virtual teams: taking a more strategic approach. Report of the Economist Intelligence Unit,

Note: The primary convenors (Mortensen, Metiu & Veira da Cunha, cf. short biographies below) and the guest convenors (i.e. Pamela Hinds, Management Science & Engineering, Stanford University, USA; Paul Leonardi, Northwestern University, USA; Elisa Mattarelli, Engineering Science and Methods, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy) of this sub-theme are all members of the OCIS (Organizational Communication and Information Systems) division of the Academy of Management). By organizing this sub-theme we hope to give members of the OCIS community and other researchers in the field of information systems and organization studies, additional opportunities to present and dialog about their research.


Mark Mortensen Mark Mortensen is an assistant professor in the Organization Studies Group at the MIT-Sloan school of Management. His research on global work and the changing nature of collaboration has been published in leading academic journals including Organization Science and the Academy of Management Review as well as practitioner-oriented journals including the Sloan Management Review and IESE Insights.
Anca Metiu Anca Metiu is a professor in the Management department of the ESSEC Business School in France. Her work on collaboration dynamics in distributed work has been published in Organization Science, Organization Studies, and Oxford Review of Economic Policy. Her current work focuses on the role of written communication in distant collaboration.
João Vieira da Cunha Joao Vieira da Cunha is an assistant professor at Faculdade de Economia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa in Portugal. His research on the relationship between prescribed and emergent uses of information technology has appeared in leading international journals such as the Academy of Management Review, Human Relations, and the Journal of Management Studies. He was co-organizer of EGOS 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal.