The changing nature of professional work inside an incumbent firm in the age of social media : examining the challenge of coproduction
Sloan School of Management.
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Advances in the Web, social media, and digital technologies are changing the nature of professional work inside incumbent organizations-often in ways that involve permeability of once-sealed boundaries, and usually in ways that require reconfiguration of long-held work practices. In this dissertation, I explore these issues drawing on data from a 24-month ethnographic study of an incumbent firm in the advertising industry ("AdCo"). During my study., AdCo continued to do traditional advertising such as television commercials, and it developed a strategic new offering called participatory ads, which involved using social media to coproduce an ad's content with the audience. As I show, doing participatory advertising involved technical and political challenges both inside and outside the firm.In addition, and as can be common in firms experiencing the digital transformation of their industries, doing participatory advertising was also an occasion for AdCo members to reconsider what it meant to be in their business in the first place. In Chapter 1, I focus on how coproducing ads with the audience created tensions between professional groups inside the firm. This tension was between Creative department members, who were accustomed to controlling the initial phase of ad-making where the "big idea" for an ad was developed, and Digital department members, who had long been regarded as a support department but who had critical expertise needed to develop high quality ideas for participatory ads. I show how it was only when Creatives used what I call reconfiguring the sacred practices that workgroups were able to develop high quality ideas and receive a client greenlight to launch.In Chapter 2, I focus on coordination between workgroups inside AdCo and the audience outside in the participatory advertising projects that launched. In participatory ads, audience members were unpaid, not professionally trained, participating for their own entertainment, and generally not even aware that they were part of a larger effort. Therefore, conventional mechanisms for coordinating work were unsuitable. I describe the importance of professionals using what I call inspiring and harmonizing engagement practices in order to motivate the audience to participate, and to do so in ways that were strategically beneficial for the firm. In Chapter 3, I review and synthesize various research streams that examine how firms are doing hybrid forms of work that involve using nonprofessional actors outside the boundary of the firm in their operations.I focus in particular on the challenges that professionals inside firms face when doing this kind of work, dividing these challenges into those related to willingness and those related to capabilities. This dissertation advances research on the changing nature of professional work in the age of the Web and social media, the production of collective creative work, and managing boundaries inside and outside of incumbent firms during digital transformation efforts.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2019Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references.
DepartmentSloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.