Sub-theme 10: Other Sides of Knowledge Work

Saara L. Taalas
Turku University, Finland, and Linnaeus University, Sweden
Marcus Lindahl
Uppsala University, Sweden
Jonathan Schroeder
Rochester Institute of Technology, USA

Call for Papers

Management studies has been obsessed with knowledge work for the last 20 years, yet most of what is done in this burgeoning field focuses on people who excel, in the traditional manner in the corporate world. The knowledge work is connected to work done by the well-educated professionals who are qualified to perform intellectual work tasks particularly in knowledge-intensive organizations like professional services and high technology companies. According to the more critical studies regarding the nature of knowledge work, the ambiguity of the role of knowledge in the work has been given more prominent position. While maintaining that long and theoretical education is often seen as a perquisite for the entry into such professions, in practice, people are often down playing the role of highly skilled knowledge in their work or attending to tasks that they have very little formal education or relevant experience (Alvesson, 2001, 866). It seems that perhaps complex organizations live a double life where trained professionals become amateurs in what they actually do. And if so, are knowledge intensive organizations in parts dilettantes in organizing?

While formal knowledge work has become a necessary but problematical concept, we have seen a recent celebration of organization based on amateurism, consumer action and average joes performing complex tasks for innovation and problem solving. Ideas of co-production embedded in crowd sourcing, open innovation and vikinomics bring consumers, audiences and organizers outside the formal realm of organizing into the forefront of the future of knowledge work. They develop specialized competencies and network access that companies can have difficulty even understanding from the more managerial perspectives. The intention for companies would then, through co-production, to find ways to leverage the production activities of consumers that make use of these resources (Prahalad & Ramaswamy, 2004a, 2004b). Such activities have been seen as a way to the new forms of organization. A key question in the future of knowledge work becomes then how to understand and administer the role of amateurs in ways that allow for the creation of something new and valuable through balancing consumer control and freedom in organized systems (Zwick et al., 2008). It seems that amateurs and consumers are called for to make up for the shortcoming of organization and knowledge work proper.

This is what we call the other side of knowledge work and it is still very much understudied. Consequently, we invite papers that rather than focusing on professional work "proper" – up to the job, legitimate and groomed to manage and organize properly – focus on amateurs and amateurism by professionals, enthusiasts, dilettantes, consumers, volunteers, unintended/unexpected organizers and average joes. By setting our sights on groups of people outside the formal knowledge-worker status and professionals performing outside the scope of their capabilities and experience, we want to inquire into the ways in which organizations cope with the unintended and unexpected, and how people and teams handle being placed in situations where they lack the requisite or legitimized formal knowledge. Further, how does this change the ways we understand knowledge work, knowledge management, and studies into these concepts. In addition, we invite explorations into the organization practices of amateurs, consumers, fans, and enthusiasts in making up for the shortcoming of formal organizations, performing the other side of knowledge work.

This track is inspired by a desire to move away from overly optimistic analyses of corporate life (cf. Corbett, 1992; Rehn, 2008; Taalas, 2009), to encourage thinking of work and consumption as parallels (Gabriel & Lang, 2008), and instead emphasize the everyday life of organizations – something that includes people coping with situations outside their areas of expertise, people developing non-traditional expertise, and even people lacking areas of formal expertise altogether. This is not to be read as a moral statement or condemnation, but rather as a statement of empirical fact that remains insufficiently theorized. What actually happens when an individual or organization is faced with a task or situation that is outside of their scope? What are the organizational implications when people get placed in roles of accidental organizers? How far can amateurs go in organizations?

Whereas the category of amateurs has received some attention as of late – particularly in cases such as "pro-ams" (professional amateurs, crowdsourcing efforts, brand communities or other open source-like organizational forms – we believe that the boundaries and limits between professionals and amateurs demand greater theoretical attention and thus invite papers that address all aspects of "non-professionals" and "non-" or "a-professionalism".

A non-exclusive list of potential themes could include:

  • Amateurs, amateur organizations, amateurism
  • Dilettantes in organizations: success-stories or tales of woe?
  • Volunteer strategy; volunteer marketing, volunteering to organize
  • Teams facing challenges with insufficient experience and knowledge
  • Organizations as dilettantes
  • Amateur marketing, amateur strategy, amateur accounting
  • The organization of fans and enthusiasts
  • Hybrid organization
  • Haphazard work and unintentional organization


Alvesson, M. (2001): "Knowledge work: Ambiguity, image and identity." Human Relations, 54 (7), 863-886.
Corbett, M. (1994): Critical Cases in Organizational Behaviour. London: Macmillan.
Gabriel, Y. & T. Lang (2008): "New Faces and New Masks of Today’s Consumer." Journal of Consumer Culture, 8 (3), 321-340.
Prahalad, C.K. & V. Ramaswamy (2004a): "Co-creation experiences: the next practice in value creation." Journal of Interactive Marketing, 18 (3), 5-14.
Prahalad, C.K. & V. Ramaswamy (2004b): The Future of Competition: Co-Creating Unique Value with Customers. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Rehn, A. (2008): "On Meta-Ideology and Moralization – Prolegomena to a Critique of Management Studies." Organization, 15 (4), 598-609.
Taalas, S. (2009): "Notes on Fan Organization." In: M. Pyykkönen (ed.): Researching Cultural Policy. Jyvaskyla: Sophi.
Zwick, D., S.K. Bonsu & A. Darmody (2008): "Putting consumers to work: 'co-creation' and new marketing govern-mentality." Journal of Consumer Culture, 8 (2), 163-196.


Saara L. Taalas 
Marcus Lindahl 
Jonathan Schroeder