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Visual Models of Business Ecologies : The Role of Business Ecology Visualisations as Boundary Objects


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Linköping University SE-581 83 Linköping, Sverige 013-28 10 00, www.liu.se Linköping University | Department of Management and Engineering (IEI) Master Thesis, 30 hp | Industrial Engineering and Management – Digitisation and Management Spring term 2020 |


Visual Models of Business


– The Role of Business Ecology Visualisations as Boundary



– Affärsekologiers Roll som

Gränsöverbryggande Objekt

Oscar Hubertsson Henrik Johansson

Supervisor - Linköping University: Alf Westelius Examiner - Linköping University: Markus Radits




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Executive Summary

The thesis expands upon the management control theories of business ecologies by trying to suggest ways to identify business ecologies and visualise them. The thesis also delves into the usage of business ecology visualisations as boundary objects. It explores business ecologies capabilities as boundary objects, their usefulness, and how business ecology visualisations can be used as boundary objects both in discussions between groups within and across organisations. This is approached by gathering established literature surrounding business ecologies, boundary objects and visualisations, to then through it, create business ecology visualisations to be utilised in discussions. The literature is gathered and applied to create the business ecology identification model, with the purpose to aid the user in identifying a business ecology and visualise it. The information was gathered through a mix of desktop research, interviews, and a workshop. The visualisations were reviewed through interviewing experts, within Eurostep, the case organisation, in an unstructured and semi-structured manner. The aim of the interviews, to gather data on the usage of business ecology visualisations as boundary objects, as well as the usefulness of the business ecology identification model for creating business ecologies and visualisations. During the interviews, the experts were shown different visualisations, created through the method proposed, either without their involvement or with their involvement in workshops. The interviews were also conducted on experts having used the visualisations in discussions with customers. The interviews focused on the usage of business ecology visualisations as boundary objects, questions centring around how the visualisations were received and how usage of the visualisations could take form either within the organisations or in discussions with customers. The data collected from the interviews saw a majority of experts finding the visualisations to satisfy the aspects which characterise a business ecology, agreed that the visualisations were very useful, primarily internally but also externally, and found it very useful as a boundary object to facilitate knowledge sharing across boundaries. Through the review of the results, it was concluded that the business ecology identification model proposed can be used to create business ecologies and visualisations. Primarily in terms of creating the visualisations, though further research must be conducted if it is to be benchmarked against other methods to determine how well it works. Usage of the created visualisations was, according to the interviewees, to further discussions by serving as a point around which discussions could be had. The ability to use the visualisations as a tool for enforcing discussion with visual support. Different types of visualisations offer different types of use. The visualisations can aim to covet as much information as possible or simply a single, more specified case, depending on its use. With the wider lens, more information is gathered in a single visualisation at the cost of it being more difficult to interpret. Data gathered also show that the internal use of the visualisations differ from the external use and that there is a wider application for internal use as there is more time and room to make improvements.




Detta examensarbete ämnar utveckla existerande teorier inom ämnet affärsekologier genom att föreslå en metod för att identifiera affärsekologier samt skapa visualiseringar av dessa. Examensarbetet undersöker användandet av affärsekologivisualiseringar som gränsöverbryggande objekt. Användandet och användbarheten av affärsekologivisualiseringar som gränsöverbryggande objekt, mellan grupper inom organisationen, och mellan grupper över organisationens gränser, undersöks. Ämnet närmas genom insamlandet av teori från ämnena affärsekologier, gränsöverbryggande objekt och visualiseringar. Baserat på dessa teorier skapades identifikationsmodellen för affärsekologier med syftet att hjälpa skaparen av affärsekologier och visualiseringar. Datainsamlingen för visualiseringarna skedde via sekundärforskning, intervjuer och en workshop. Visualiseringarna granskades sedan via intervjuer av experter från Eurostep, vilket är case-organisationen. Intervjuerna handleddes ostrukturerat och semi-strukturerat. Syftet med intervjuerna var att samla data över visualiseringarnas användbarhet som gränsöverbryggande objekt och hur identifikationsmodellen för affärsekologier kan användas för att skapa affärsekologier och visualiseringar. Experterna visades olika visualiseringar av affärsekologier under intervjuerna, dessa hade skapats med identifikationsmodellen. Visualiseringarna skapades antingen utan de intervjuades input eller med deras input i en workshop. En expert som intervjuades hade även använt en visualisering i möte med kund. Intervjuerna fokuserade på visualiseringarnas användbarhet som gränsöverbryggande objekt, genom frågor med syfte att fastställa experternas uppfattning av de skapade visualiseringarna och hur användande kan ta form både inom organisationen och i kundmöten. Insamlade data visade att majoriteten av experterna fann att visualiseringarna uppfyllde de aspekter som karaktäriserar en affärsekologi. Experterna var överens om att visualiseringarna var väldigt användbara, mestadels som ett internt verktyg men även externt och fann att visualiseringarna kunde nyttjas väl som gränsöverbryggande objekt för att främja förståelse över kunskapsgränser. Efter resultaten analyserats var slutsatsen att identifikationsmodellen för affärsekologier kan nyttjas för att skapa affärsekologier och visualiseringar av dem, primärt för skapandet av visualiseringarna. Vidare forskning krävs för att se hur väl modellen står sig gentemot alternativa tillvägagångssätt. Visualiseringarna var, enligt de intervjuade, som mest användbara för att främja diskussioner. Diskussionerna blev bättre, enligt de intervjuade, med visuell support av det som diskuterades för att öka förståelse. Olika typer av visualiseringar erbjuder olika typer av användbarhet. Visualiseringarna kan ha som syfte att innehålla så mycket information som möjligt eller vara en mer simpel, mer specifik vy, beroende på syftet. Med ett vidare synfält får man med mer information i en visualisering men visualiseringen blir då även svårare att tyda. Resultat visar även på att intern användning och extern användning av visualiseringarna skiljer sig och att det finns ett större användningsområde för intern användning då det finns mer plats för förbättringar.




Within the area of Digitisation and Management at Linköping University, a focus is the interconnectivity of management and IT. This can be manifest in a multitude of different ways, such as exploring the consequences of digitisation, transferal of information between individuals and the strategic application of management control theory in organisations where the use of IT plays a significant role. This thesis, Visual Models of Business Ecologies – The role of business ecology visualisations as boundary objects, is written by Oscar Hubertsson and Henrik Johansson. It is presented as our master’s thesis in Digitisation and Management at the Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University. It delves into the application of a business ecology perspective, a technique within strategy and management control to define the relevant organisation, and how visualisations of the understanding gained through this technique can be used to facilitate discussions, understanding and joint problem solving. To gain a firmer understanding of this phenomena this thesis is used to explore how individuals discuss, solve problems, and gain firmer understanding through the lens of boundary objects, representations of knowledge used as instrumentalities to cross boundaries of knowledge that appear between different groups. This thesis aims to make contributions to management control theory by exploring the replicable applicability of a business ecology perspective, the resulting visualisations of any gained understanding and how these visualisations can be used as boundary objects.




This work would not have been possible, or of this quality, had it not been for the great support and guidance of many people. It is for this reason that we would like to express our sincere gratitude. First and foremost, we would like to thank our friends and mentors at Linköping University, Carl, Isak, Alf and Markus, who have provided us with invaluable knowledge and feedback. Whose guidance, reflections and ideas have served to enhance our work beyond what we ever thought possible.

Carl and Isak, our opponent research team, has been a great source of feedback and inspiration. The completion of thesis would not have been possible without their support. Their doors were always open whenever we encountered issues or had questions regarding our writing or the content of this thesis. We wish to thank them for the enlightening and constructive discussions we have had together along with criticising our work from different angles. They have helped us challenge our own assumptions and broaden our perspectives.

We also benefited greatly by our research supervisor and advisor, Prof. Alf Westelius, who has provided incredible guidance and served as a source of inspiration throughout the process of writing this thesis. We are grateful for his patience, motivation and immense knowledge that has helped us every step of the way. He consistently allowed this thesis to be our own work but steered us in the right direction whenever we needed his advice. He gave us intellectual freedom to pursue our research and encouraged our ability to reflect critically. We want to thank him not only for being our advisor and supervisor, but also our teacher.

Furthermore, we similarly wish to thank Markus, our examiner and co-supervisor. He incited stimulating and thought-provoking discussions during our thesis-seminars, and we have benefited greatly from his experience, genuine interest, and advice. In particular, we want to thank him for the time and effort he spent on not only reading, critiquing and commenting on our work but also taking the extra step to then provide a multitude of relevant academic articles which could support our arguments even further which helped to provide a stronger foundation for the entire thesis.

We wish to thank everyone at Eurostep for their genuine interest, advise and thought-provoking discussions. Their interest has been a constant driving force throughout this thesis and has made the entire process enjoyable, social and an opportunity for us to learn. In alphabetical order, these are: Hampus, Håkan, Louise, Mattias, Renaud, Rob, Simon and Torbjörn. We are similarly grateful to the experts involved in the discussions and validation of our work for this thesis. Without their passionate participation and input during interviews and discussions, the validation could not have been successfully conducted.

Finally, we would also like to particularly thank, Olov, our mentor at Eurostep, who have spent more time with us than we deserve, and probably more than he had available. He has committed great effort into welcoming us to the organisation and exposing us to everything they have to offer. Without his guidance we would not have encountered the great multitude of people of different people at Eurostep or learned as much as we have during our time together.

Thank you all.



Table of Contents

1 Introduction ... 1

1.1 Purpose and Research Questions ... 2

1.2 Disposition ... 2

1.3 Limitations and Delimitations... 3

2 Theoretical Framework ... 3

2.1 Business Ecologies ... 3

2.1.1 Business Ecology vs. Business Ecosystem ... 5

2.2 Boundary Objects ... 5

2.2.1 Boundaries and Boundary Objects ... 6

2.2.2 What Constitutes a Boundary Object ... 6

2.2.3 Approaches to Knowledge Barriers and What Constitutes Useful Boundary Objects ... 7

2.2.4 Crossing Boundaries ... 8

2.3 Applying a Business Ecology Perspective ... 10

2.3.1 An Overview of the Application of the Business Ecology Perspective ... 10

2.3.2 Value Proposition Estimate ... 12

2.3.3 Business Ecology Identification ... 12

2.3.4 Business Ecology Analysis ... 14

2.3.5 Business Ecology Visualisation... 14

2.4 Business Ecology Identification Model ... 17

2.5 Analytical Framework ... 20

3 Empirical Context... 21

3.1 Background and Context ... 21

3.2 The Case ... 22

4 Methodological Approach ... 23

4.1 A Case Study Approach ... 23

4.2 The Case of Eurostep... 24

4.3 Units of Analysis and the Role of Theory ... 25

4.4 Data Collection ... 26

4.4.1 Online Data Gathering ... 27

4.4.2 Participant Observation and Workshops ... 28

4.4.3 Workshop – Business Ecology Mapping ... 29

4.4.4 Interview Strategy ... 30

4.4.5 Interview Set 1 – Eurostep and Drafts ... 31

4.4.6 Interview Set 2 – Business Ecologies as Boundary Objects ... 31

4.4.7 Interview Set 3 – Final Visualisations ... 31

4.5 Analytical Process... 32

4.6 Validity and Reliability... 33

5 Empirics ... 34

5.1 Business Ecology Visualisation Drafts ... 34

5.1.1 Value-Proposition Estimate ... 34

5.1.2 Sector-Level ... 35

5.1.3 Company P Business Ecology ... 36



5.2 Final Business Ecology Visualisations ... 38

5.2.1 Company S ... 39

5.2.2 Export Control - Swedish Market Business Ecology ... 41

5.3 The Reception of the Business Ecology Perspective ... 43

5.3.1 Interview Set 1 – Eurostep and Business Ecology Visualisation Drafts ... 43

5.3.2 Workshop Held Regarding Business Ecology Mapping ... 47

5.3.3 Interview Set 2 – Business Ecologies as Boundary Objects in Discussions with Customers .... 48

5.3.4 Interview Set 3 – The Reception to Advanced Visualisations ... 49

6 Analysis ... 56

6.1 The Business Ecology Visualisations in Practice ... 56

6.1.1 The First Aspect ... 56

6.1.2 The Second Aspect... 57

6.1.3 The Third Aspect ... 57

6.1.4 The Fourth Aspect ... 58

6.1.5 Internal and External Use ... 58

6.1.6 The Business Ecology Identification Model ... 59

6.2 Boundary Objects in Practice ... 60

6.2.1 Scope and Scale ... 60

6.2.2 Usefulness of Boundary Objects ... 61

6.2.3 How Business Ecology Visualisations Can be Used as Boundary Objects ... 63

7 Discussion ... 72

7.1 Business Ecology Visualisations ... 72

7.1.1 The Scope of Visualisations... 72

7.1.2 Business Ecology Visualisation Tools ... 73

7.1.3 The Structure of Visualisations ... 73

7.2 Boundary Objects ... 74

7.2.1 Scope and Scale of Boundary Objects ... 74

7.2.2 How a Boundary Object is Used ... 74

8 Conclusion ... 75 9 Bibliography ...77 10 Appendices ... 80 10.1 Appendix A1 ... 80 10.2 Appendix A2... 81 10.3 Appendix A3 ... 82 10.4 Appendix A4... 83 10.5 Appendix A5 ... 84



List of Figures

Figure 1 - How the Suggested Tasks of Applying a Business Ecology Perspective Feed Into Each Other. ... 11

Figure 2 - Applying a Business Ecology Perspective with the Addition of the Value-Proposition Estimate. .... 11

Figure 3 - Used Business Ecosystem Visualisation Types (Faber, Riemhofer, Huth, & Matthes, 2019). ... 15

Figure 4 - An Overview of the Business Ecology Identification Model. ... 17

Figure 5 - Explanatory Key to the Visualised Business Ecology. ... 19

Figure 6 – Business Ecology Visualisation Meta Model. ... 19

Figure 7 - Key empirical data and literature that contributed to the analysis conducted in this thesis. ... 26

Figure 8 - Business Ecology Draft Export Control (Sector Level) ... 35

Figure 9 - Business Ecology Draft of Company P. ... 37

Figure 10 - Business Ecology Draft of Company AB. ... 38

Figure 11 - Key (Legend) to the Business Ecology with System Entity Added. ... 39

Figure 12 - Business Ecology Final Visualisation Company S. ... 40

Figure 13 - Business Ecology Final Visualisation Export Control. ... 42

List of Tables

Table 1 - Summary of Aspects Associated with the Application of a Business Ecology Perspective. ... 4

Table 2 - Knowledge Boundary Types, Boundary Object Categories and Boundary Object Characteristics (Carlile, 2002). ... 8

Table 3 - An Overview of Unique Dialogical Learning Mechanisms and the Corresponding Characteristic Processes Associated With Boundary Crossing (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). ... 9

Table 4 - An Overview of Common Actors Present in a Business Ecology as Suggested by Olve et.al (2013) and Moore (1997). ... 13

Table 5 - The Seven Elements of Basole et.al (2009). ... 16

Table 6 - Descriptions of the Various Tasks Involved with the Application of the Business Ecology Identification Model. ... 17

Table 7 - The Subtasks and Questions to be Conducted to Perform Value Proposition Estimates, Business Ecology Identification and Business Ecology Analysis as Suggested by Hyeyoung et.al (2010), and El Sawy and Pereira (2013). ... 18

Table 8 – Carlile’s (2002) Description of the Three Characteristics Associated with Useful Boundary Objects ... 21

Table 9 - Star’s (2010) Criteria of what Invalidates a Boundary Object ... 21

Table 10 - Business Ecology Final Visualisation Export Control Legend ... 41

Table 11 - Summary of Achieved Aspects Associated with the Application of a Business Ecology Perspective. ... 56

Table 12 - Star’s (2010) Criteria of what Invalidates a Boundary Object and if Achieved. ... 61

Table 13 - Carlile’s (2002) Three Characteristics of What Constitute Useful Boundary Objects and if Achieved ... 61

Table 14 - Summary of the Achieved Characteristic Processes of the Dialogical Learning Mechanism Identification by Akkerman and Bakker’s (2011). ... 64

Table 15 - Summary of the Achieved Characteristic Processes of the Dialogical Learning Mechanism Coordination by Akkerman and Bakker’s (2011). ... 65

Table 16 - Summary of the Achieved Characteristic Processes of the Dialogical Learning Mechanism Reflection by Akkerman and Bakker’s (2011). ... 67

Table 17 - Summary of the Achieved Characteristic Processes of the Dialogical Learning Mechanism Transformation by Akkerman and Bakker’s (2011). ... 68



1 Introduction

An inability to understand the customer, the environment within which an organisation operates, or the value creating logics at work within that environment is often the result of negligence, of narrow views and of inadequate constructive dialogues within and across organisations (Swords & Turner, 1997). These issues can be solved through strategic planning, information gathering, analysis and discussion. Despite the negative consequences that result from the negligence of these processes, managers in small and medium-sized organisations continuously neglect their usefulness in favour of single-mindedly focusing on their own organisation, innovation and products (Debruyne & Tackx, 2019; Swords & Turner, 1997). However, while looking outward or inward, adopting a customer-centric approach, or having the organisation focus on themselves, may appear as each other’s opposites, these are but false dichotomies. There is a necessity in both aspects (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Debruyne & Tackx, 2019; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Without a focus on internal processes, innovation, and unique products to differentiate oneself from competitors, it is difficult to catch the attention of prospective customers. Similarly, it does not matter if an organisation is efficient, innovative or in possession of the ‘best’ product, at the ‘best’ price if no customers wants it, wants to pay for it or understands its value (Debruyne & Tackx, 2019).

There is a need for organisations to understand how value is created, along with the environment in which a value proposition operates with customers and other entities (Debruyne & Tackx, 2019; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). To be effective as an organisation aiming to realise value for their customers through their products, services or solutions, this type of knowledge is vital to obtain prior to the solutions becoming available to the market to best avoid the potential negative reception of that solution (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Debruyne & Tackx, 2019). This understanding must then be possible to communicate between different parties so that members of your own organisation and external entities of interest alike, understands the value of the solution (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Debruyne & Tackx, 2019; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).

An integral part of navigating through the different markets an organisation act in, is the understanding and gathering of information. In an optimal setting, organisations would have perfect access to information about everyone in their environment when performing market research. Described in the words of a traditional marketplace setting, all traders would bid on the same market whilst seeing the supply of everyone else and comparing it to their own (Hague, Harrison,

Cupman, & Truman, 2016). As technology continues to evolve, the way organisations gauge their surrounding market gets increasingly more complex as the markets grow, both in size and distance. Simultaneously, the deals that take place between different entities grow in both size and distance as well, resulting in an ever more increasing importance of accurate market research which encompass all entities that may attribute to the value creation of the organisations within the market (Hague, Harrison, Cupman, & Truman, 2016). Much of market research today is a series of activities, all trying to gather data on different customer attributes. These attributes can be such as loyalty towards a brand or satisfaction with a product or service. Its purpose is often to try and measure promotion effectiveness, market size, share size, how many of the market’s potential suppliers are possible to use and to whom they are selling (Hague, Harrison, Cupman, & Truman, 2016). Competition coexist with steadfast business relations that can last for decades (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). Organisations that procure components from their suppliers do not solely discuss standard components, but even the developing efforts for the next generation of products (La Rocca, Moscatelli, Perna, & Snehota, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Even competitors cooperate to create system standards along with new products and services for the mass market (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).

If organisations are to navigate their markets in this complex and global world, they cannot focus single-mindedly on their own organisation and the few actors that they directly interact with (Hague, Harrison, Cupman, & Truman, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Any ability they imagine themselves to have, to plan or to control their environment becomes increasingly difficult to enact in such a mindset (Hague, Harrison, Cupman, & Truman, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). It therefore becomes important to shift focus to discerning what is happening within and outside of the obvious established circles of collaborations (Hague, Harrison, Cupman, & Truman, 2016; Meyer, 2001; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Which is why it is of interest for organisations to realise that by increasing their perspective of their surrounding environment it can aid in realising potential customer value and even help other entities realise it through constructive discussions (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Swords & Turner, 1997). The larger an employee’s perspective is of their organisation’s surrounding environment, the more it aids them in realising their products, services or solutions potential customer value and help customers realise it (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016).

Several theories exist with which to identify, analyse and visualise an organisations


2 environment, value creating logics and value proposition for the purpose of understanding, discussion, and realisation (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). Some popular theories are the imaginary organisation, network theory and business ecology perspectives, of which a business ecology perspective could be considered as the most encompassing view dependent on how it is applied (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). However, what these theoretical concepts fail to mention is a structured way of applying them in practice and how individuals can congeal the results of their application so that the gained knowledge becomes available for discussion and learning. At most, the theories contain vague directives intended to place the responsibility of application to its adopter (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Fortunately, there are theories which support the use of visualised business ecologies as means to facilitate discussions and learning (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013; Star, 2010). Visualised business ecologies being the congealed knowledge gained from applying a business ecology perspective when analysing organisations environments (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). A prominent subject for this concept is the use of boundary objects. Boundary objects are the representation of an individual’s knowledge made available for analysis, reflection, communication and can be subjected to interpretive flexibility (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002; Leidner & Pan, 2003; Star, 2010). Clarifying how a business ecology perspective can be applied so that a visualisation of the gained knowledge is created would thusly create an opportunity to understand organisations environment, value creating logics and interrelations while making this knowledge available for translation, discussion and learning between different parties (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002; Gudergan, Götzen, Wenning, & Wieninger, 2019). By observing proceedings of business ecology visualisations usage, it is possible to relate processes of learning and discussion to established frameworks of boundary theory to determine how the visualisations as boundary objects are used to discuss and learn (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013; Star, 2010).

1.1 Purpose and Research


With regard to aforementioned predicaments, the purpose of this thesis is to develop a structured model through which an organisation can identify, analyse, and visualise a business ecology around an

organisation or proposed value-proposition. A visualisation which in turn can be used as a boundary object to help facilitate discussions surrounding the business ecology it depicts, value creating logics and relationships, primarily within, but also between different groups. Thus, enabling opportunities for participants of discussions involving business ecology visualisations to learn. To accomplish this, this thesis aims to answer the research questions that have been formulated as follows:

How can a business ecology perspective be applied in practice so that it results in the construction of a visualised business ecology which fulfils the benefits of the perspective as stated by literature?

How can a business ecology visualisation be used as a boundary object meant to help facilitate discussion and understanding?

To achieve this, a structured model was produced based on existing literature of business ecologies. This was intended to clarify the tasks involved in applying a business ecology perspective and creating a visualisation of the understanding gained from the process. This model was then tested in practice on the organisation Eurostep by applying the model on the organisation, one of its proposed value propositions and environment to see if the benefits of a business ecology perspective, found in the theoretical background of this thesis, is achieved by the application of suggested model in practice. Similarly, literature regarding the subject of boundary objects were reviewed to create an analytical framework through which it is possible to, in conjunction with empirical data, determine the ability and validity of visualised business ecologies as boundary objects along with how individuals learn from discussion in which the boundary object(s) are included.

1.2 Disposition

This thesis is a qualitative single case study and is structured accordingly. The content of this first section serves as the introduction, presenting the overarching concepts the thesis will research as the background, purpose, and research questions to be answered in the thesis. This is followed by the theoretical background. The section addresses the content which serves as the basis of this thesis and the theories that constitutes the application of a business ecology perspective. In the subsequent section, this thesis describes the empirical context within which it is to be conducted and provides insight into the case organisation. This in turn leads into the following section which is the methodological approach. Here it is described how the study was conducted along with considerations and decisions made during the process of conducting the study. After this, the thesis delves


3 into the collected data in the empiric’s section which is followed by the analysis. This is then finalised by discussions on the result, analysis and conclusions drawn from these along with thoughts on future research and avenues. This is then summarised in the conclusion section of this thesis. This is then continued by the bibliography which presents the different references utilised within the thesis along with the appendices which describe workshops and interviews held during the conducted study.

1.3 Limitations and


When it comes to limitations, one of the biggest limiting factors for this thesis is the time constraint. If time were not an issue, a lot more visualisations, interviews and workshops could have taken place. Due to the limitation of time, the delimitation of focusing on one major case had to be made. The case being that of Eurostep and their export control business ecology and visualisation. The limit of only one major case is something which in turn limits the data and thus limits the conclusions that can be drawn, both depth and in generalisability.

2 Theoretical Framework

In the following section, the theories used to conduct the research of this thesis is presented, to further express the setting of the thesis and to put it in the perspective of the research which came before. This section will start off with the business ecology perspective, as it serves to set the stage. Following it, the concept of boundary objects is presented, as well as how a business ecology perspective can be applied in practice. This is then summarised into a model that explain how a business ecology perspective can be applied so that it enables adopters to identify and understand their environment. This eventually culminates in the creation of a visual representation of the adopters understanding. The representation can be used to help facilitate discussion and understanding between different entities. At the end of the section is the analytical framework, which summarises which aspects of the presented literature that will be considered, and why they will be used, when analysing gathered empirics for this thesis.

2.1 Business Ecologies

The size of the perspective an organisation could adopt when researching its environment is debatable and often dependant on the resources available to the organisation and what they are willing to invest into market research (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Moore J. F., 1997; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Nilsson et.al (2016) emphasise that increasing one’s perspective of their

surrounding environment aids one in realising their potential customer value and help customers realise it. However, a move towards broader perspectives requires management control and external intelligence at all levels of an organisation to navigate an organisations environment and react strategically (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). This can create conflicts between hierarchal levels and departments, if mishandled, as it can challenge established roles by delegating responsibility (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016).

There exist several theoretical perspectives that are intended to help broaden the view organisations employ when researching, discussing, and acting within their environment (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Two commonly used theories are the perspectives of the imaginary organisation and network theory that both argue for looking outside of your own organisation. In the imaginary organisation perspective, different entities in the value constellation of organisations are coordinated and mobilised to function as a whole, following the image of the controlling imagination of an imaginator (the spawned idea from an individual, organisation or a group serving as a strategic plan). Like the imaginary organisation, network theory argues that organisations never act independently but consider their actions as the result of interplay or counter-play between themselves and other entities. It then extends what should be considered as the relevant organisation to manage, from the organisation itself to parts of the entities with which the organisation interacts (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). However, the complexity of the global market impedes strategic control of the imaginary organisation or network (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Increases in the continuous development of new solutions and industry diversification warrant even broader market analysis to lay the foundation for the cultivation of relationships and one’s own ability (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). It is therefore becoming increasingly relevant to instead attempt discerning what is occurring or about to occur, outside of the frame of reference of already established corporations (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). The world is complex, comprehension is often limited, and conceptions tend to be subjective. However, it is for this reason, that engaging in dialogue with parties that are not initially considered as obvious or central is of relevance. With a narrow view, important parties in an organisation’s environment may end up in the periphery and neglected (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016).

One of the wider perspectives an organisation can consider when analysing their environment is a business ecology perspective (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Olve, Cöster,


4 Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). It is a holistic view on the study of value creation where the ecology is the dynamic interactions between a multitude of unique actors in an environment (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). The business ecology concept emphasises how the environment in which different actors operate to compete and cooperate is both dynamic and complex. It consists of diverse goals and interests, as well as several restrictions and conditions unique to the ecology. Whether large or small, the cooperation, competition and target images that motivate these actors to act, give rise to economic activity (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). The perspective argues for the increasing importance of interaction that is not controlled by any all-encompassing actor. No entity, whether central or peripheral, can fully control all interactions that produce customer value (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Indubitably, the influence different parties are able exert on each other do vary in strength and asymmetry (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012). For instance, long lived cooperation’s and partnerships do exist within a business ecology, however these are but parts of the greater ecology (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Organisations may view themselves as central, however, peripheral actors may exist that contribute to the customer value realisation without being directed or intending to deliver value (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). While possible to focus on a certain actor in a business ecology with a narrow viewpoint, it risks overemphasising the chosen central actor, and its control. Thereby missing out on the wider outlook that a business ecology perspective contributes with (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). If an ecology is viewed from the perspective of a central actor, value proposition or platform, several actors found in the ecology will likely belong to other ecologies as well. There are then high probabilities that there then exists higher system levels to be viewed to provide additional insights. Simultaneously, these higher levels of view do not contain as much information regarding the different features of the ecology. It is therefore still important to delve deeper and take a closer look at certain products, business areas or organisations that exist within the ecology (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). By studying a business ecology at a specific moment in time, it can provide an impression of the current unique value creating logics at work in the ecology (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). However, as new actors emerge, disappear, and relations form or fade, these value creating logics change as well. It is with the assistance of a continuously informed view that organisations can act purposefully in these changing environments while adhering to their long-term goals. It is therefore of interest to glance

beyond the internal organisation and traditional value chain to provide insight into opportunities and threats not previously suspected (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).

Unfortunately, scholars, such as Abe et.al (2012), Nilsson et.al (2016) and Olve et.al (2013), that explore and define what a business ecology perspective entails, fails to mention a structured, detailed way of how the perspective can be applied in practice. Instead adopters are incentivised to apply it in accordance with their own inclinations (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). A business ecology perspective does incentivise that business ecology entities should be identified, analysed, and visualised. However, the process of doing so remains largely ambiguous, almost non-existent. From what can be gathered from previously published literature on the subject of business ecology, it is possible to derive what should be the result of its application in practice (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). The adopter’s application of a business ecology perspective should result in the aspects presented in Table 1.

Table 1 - Summary of Aspects Associated with the Application of a Business Ecology Perspective.

Aspect Description


Finding and recognition of peripheral actors previously not known or considered as relevant (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).


Provide an impression of the current unique value creating logics at work in the ecology (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).


Provide insight into opportunities, threats and intercorrelated relations not previously suspected (Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). 4

A visualised representation of the adopter’s understanding of the business ecology around which discussion can be had (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). This thesis will attempt to create a model dedicated to the application of a business ecology perspective meant to achieve the four aspects above. As these are major strengths of a business ecology perspective it is of importance that these are fulfilled with a model which other adopters can use to apply a business ecology perspective as well. Otherwise the application of the perspective would become incomplete and the benefits which it provides hampered.



2.1.1 Business Ecology vs. Business


When discussing the concept of business ecologies one inevitably arrive at the theory which helped to serve as part of its basis, the business ecosystem perspective presented by Moore (Moore J. F., 1993; Moore J. F., 1997; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Business ecologies and business ecosystems are two closely related terms. While not a focus of this thesis, it is necessary to explain what the business ecosystem perspective entails. This is due to Moore’s theory of business ecosystems serving as a foundation on which the business ecology perspective is built. It has been put more into practice comparatively (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Gudergan, Götzen, Wenning, & Wieninger, 2019). While the views differ in what they portray, their similarities lends itself to the possibility to draw inspiration from what exists in each other’s methodologies when applying a perspective in practice (Gudergan, Götzen, Wenning, & Wieninger, 2019; Hyeyoung, Jae-Nam, & Jaemin, 2010; Moore J. F., 1997; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). This in turn would substantiate the arguments that constitute the model that this thesis aims to create and to apply a business ecology perspective in practice (Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013; Reuber, 2010). In this thesis literature on business ecosystem perspectives will therefore be used to substantiate business ecology literature, and for comparisons with a business ecology perspective. However, to accomplish this it is important to understand the distinction of theories due their interchangeability when applied in practice (Moore J. F., 1997; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).

Similarly, to a business ecology perspective, the business ecosystem perspective is one of the wider perspectives an organisation can consider when analysing their environment. It recognises the existence and importance of peripheral actors that your organisation does not directly interact with and has a similar scope to the business ecology in what the different entities are that constitute the business ecosystem (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Moore J. F., 1997; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). An application of a business ecosystem perspective also incentivises identifying, analysing and visualising business ecosystems, similarly to a business ecology perspective (Moore J. F., 1997; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). However, differences between the perspectives arise when using them to view what an ecosystem/ecology contain (Moore J. F., 1997; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Comparatively to a business ecology perspective which focus on interrelations and lack of actors with all-encompassing control, Moore (1993; 1997) argue

for the existence of actors in control of the business ecosystem. He describes actors in the ecosystem as a form of predator, where the evolution of the business occurs through a birth, expansion, leadership, and self-renewal whereas an ecology perspective emphasises the cooperation of organisations and their surroundings rather than praying on the surrounding in the ecosystem. This analogy of businesses as predators by Moore (1993; 1997) is intended to emphasise that no one grows in a vacuum. It is important, not only to focus inwards on one’s specific advantages and strengths, but also to observe the actors around you (Moore J. F., 1993; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013). Throughout these evolutionary stages of the business ecosystem, organisations will not only face challenges in terms of their internal strengths and weaknesses but also the external ones. Following the logic of a business ecosystem perspective, to conquer the ecosystem, organisations must know how to handle competitors, and to maintain bargaining power (Moore J. F., 1993; Moore J. F., 1997).

This was the dominating view of business ecosystems until additional theorists revised Moore’s theory into what is now known as a business ecology perspective, emphasising coexistence, collaboration, mutual benefits and that the interactions between every actor is the bigger part of the ecology (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Moore J. F., 1993; Nilsson, Petri, & Westelius, 2016). Thusly moving away from the predatorial, conqueror and domination mentality that Moore (1993; 1997) argued for. Even though some actors might be larger or more powerful in a business ecology, no interaction is singlehandedly performed by a central actor or some sort of invisible hand of the market. Instead, it is the effect of all actors (be it suppliers, customers, or the general public) interacting with each other that creates the larger ecology (Abe, Basset, & Dempsey, 2012; Olve, Cöster, Iveroth, Petri, & Westelius, 2013).

2.2 Boundary Objects

This section is dedicated to the explanation and exploration of the concept, boundary objects. Firstly, what a boundary is and why it is necessary to cross is described. The section then continues to explore what a boundary object is, how boundaries can be approached, what makes boundary objects useful and what may occur at a boundary crossing. This section does not explicitly state the taken approach or what parts that will be used to analyse the empirics of this thesis. This can instead be found in the analytical framework, found in 2.5, which highlights different parts of this section and why they were chosen.



2.2.1 Boundaries and Boundary


Carlile (2002) has argued that the management of knowledge is a determining factor as to the creation of competitive success over time. However, the management of knowledge remains as a difficult endeavour (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002). This difficulty may lie with the transferral, tacit nature and stickiness of knowledge (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010). While knowledge can be a source of innovation it is also a boundary. The very characteristics of knowledge that is used to drive problem solving, innovation and exploratory endeavours within a function at an organisation can hinder knowledge creation and problem solving across different functions (Carlile, 2002). It is at these knowledge boundaries that it is possible to identify the problems that increased specialised knowledge among individuals, poses to organisations (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Carlile, 2002). All types of learning, discussion and problem solving involve boundaries (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). This can manifest through novices transitioning to experts, discussing research findings or developing from a peripheral actor towards becoming a full-fledged member of a community (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Leidner & Pan, 2003). The challenge is to create opportunities for participation and collaboration across diverse sites (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). The greater the difference in level of knowledge, social expression and background is, the greater the difficulty of crossing the boundary that these characteristics create between different entities (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002; Leidner & Pan, 2003). A boundary can be described as a socio-cultural difference that leads to discontinuity in interaction or action between individuals. Within the discontinuity, two or more entities are relevant to one another (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). For instance, the development of new products requires the integration of a broad array of knowledge from different disciplines. In a technically oriented organisations this could be mechanics, developers, and sales (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002). If knowledge creation is expected to occur through the collaboration of these different entities, the boundaries that exist between the communities must be crossed (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995).

Boland and Tenkasi (1995) argue that if knowledge and understanding is to be established between unique parties, especially around the subject of creation, reshaping and adaptation of innovative products and value-propositions, there must be a possibility to both create strong perspectives to be translated and the ability to take the perspective of another into account. The opportunity to make and take perspectives. Perspective making and perspective taking. Boland

and Tenkasi (1995) refers to the act of perspective making as the communication that strengthen unique knowledge that can be found in a community while perspective taking refers to the type of communication that improve one’s ability to take knowledge of other communities, foreign to one’s own community, into account. Perspective making and taking can be achieved through representing and analysing views of knowledge. Once an individual’s knowledge has a representation available for analysis, reflection and communication it becomes a boundary object which can be subjected to interpretive flexibility (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Star, 2010). This representation can be visual, be presented via audio or other channels. The boundary object can provide an essential basis for perspective taking. Members in one community can, with representations of their ways of knowing, exchange them with members from another community, to communicate about each other’s perspectives, crossing potential boundaries in knowledge and understanding (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Leidner & Pan, 2003). Without boundary objects it is difficult for two unique entities from different communities to understand each other (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995).

Of course, this type of perspective taking and making is not a one-to-one mapping of meanings as even members within the same community seldom reach a consensus (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995). Adopting meanings from other communities is even more difficult (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995). Boundary objects can also be the centre of contention and even intense conflict just as easily as the centre of a cooperative effort (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995). The very act of creating and reshaping boundary objects can be seen as an exercise of power to visualise one’s view, an act that can be unilateral or collaborative (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995; Carlile, 2002). It has, nonetheless, become more common among scientists, both within their own communities of knowing and between each other’s, to bring their distinctive perspectives into dialogue through constructing and discussing boundary objects. The absence of boundary objects would limit the possibility of perspective taking and making. Thus, reducing the opportunity of different parties understanding each other (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995).

2.2.2 What Constitutes a Boundary


Carlile (2002) observed that scientists of various disciplines, despite tremendous differences, often successfully cooperate in their endeavours using visible boundary objects. This could manifest through the congealing of knowledge, whether through drawings, reports or creating prototypes. These boundary objects worked to establish a shared context through which discussion,


7 understanding and joint problem solving was achievable. Based on the traits that the different boundary objects possessed. Carlile (2002) categorise these boundary objects into three major types. These are not meant to be exclusive but are meant to serve as a general type of catalogue for boundary objects (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010). Firstly, repositories, which serve to supply measures, labels or data for functions meant to provide shared values and definitions that can be used to solve problems. Secondly, methods and standardised forms, which serve to provide shared formats meant to facilitate solving problems across a given knowledge boundary. Thirdly, maps, objects and models, representations that, whether simple or complex, serve to depict or even demonstrate possible and current identified dependencies and differences that can be found between the involved entities or a given boundary (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010).

Indexed collections of visualised representations, such as maps or images, can be used to serve as rich boundary objects around which discussion, analysis and sense making can be attempted. Rather than conveying unambiguous meaning, these types of boundary objects possess a symbolic adequacy instead. This enables conversation to be had without attempts at enforcing any commonly shared meanings. Instead, the conversation may be formed around an already existing and easily understood visual frame of reference. By creating maps that represent one’s understanding of an issue or a domain around which individuals may reflect it is possible facilitate a more complex understanding of the situation and improve the chance of successful understanding and translation of ideas. To then ensure a communicative success, an essential part of boundary object creation is the linking of unique entities and relations present in a map along with the map itself related to any assumptions made of the perspective. In other words, knowledge representation in maps used as boundary objects grows richer as context is added, in several layers, to elements in the map (Boland & Tenkasi, 1995).

What also should be acknowledged, is the fact that boundary objects are not magic bullets. This due to their characteristics of being difficult to sustain as the people and problems involved change over time. For example, a map can pose as a quite effective boundary object at one knowledge boundary, only to suddenly falter when shifting setting to another group which are unable to alter the current knowledge represented in the object or represent their own knowledge (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010). By recognising that boundary objects are not magic bullets, Carlile (2002) express that certain characteristics can help determine what is a useful boundary object and the fact there is no definitive rule that hinders what may constitute a boundary object, the question arise as to what is not a boundary object. Star (2010) agrees that depending on circumstance, anything could be a

boundary object whether a word, a music band or something else. All of these are subjected to interpretive flexibility. However, Star (2010) also poses that any concept subject to partial usage and analysis is limited by two aspects, scale, and scope. The same rules apply to boundary objects. To an extent, all concepts could be considered useful at certain levels of scale. Boundary objects tending to be the most useful at an organisational level due to their ability to cross different organisational groups. However, if a proposed boundary object achieves its intended use at the designated scale for which it was created and used, then it would be considered a boundary object. Similarly, matters of scope indicate that while anything may be a boundary object, it is only a few that are worth using to facilitate discussion. If it does not facilitate a deeper discussion but simply leads to a conclusion it might not be the most suitable boundary object for the purpose at hand.

2.2.3 Approaches to Knowledge

Barriers and What

Constitutes Useful Boundary


There are several ways that communities can tackle knowledge boundaries that exist between them, whereof three commonly utilised ways are the

syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic

approaches. The syntactic approach to boundaries argues for that once a syntax is established, shared and stable across any given boundary, it is enough to cross it. At that point, the primary concerns become the processing of information instead. However, while the semantic approach agrees the importance of a common language or syntax, it also recognises that interpretations are often different. Communication and collaboration remain difficult to navigate. It also finds that differences are seldom adequately represented as differentiation (i.e. degree of differentiation) but rather type (i.e. differences in kind). The problem thusly shifts from how information is processed to learning about what serves as the source for these semantic differences that exist by a boundary. However, similarly to how the syntactic approach acknowledges the importance of shared syntax while neglecting potential sources of difference, the semantic approach embraces sources of difference and the dependency that it causes but does not recognise the consequences generated because of those dependencies. Comparatively, the pragmatic approach emphasises the importance of understanding that these differences exist between entities that are dependent on- and are different from each other. The cross-boundary challenge is not limited to difficulties in communication and sources of differences but that to resolve any negative consequences, individuals must be willing to alter their own knowledge while being able to transform or influence the knowledge of another


8 community. Thus, creating new knowledge that is validated within each community collectively (Carlile, 2002). Regardless of approach taken when attempting to cross boundaries between different communities, the question as to what constitutes a ‘bad’ or ‘good’ boundary object becomes difficult to answer as an object or method that functioned as a boundary object in one setting, may instead become a boundary road block if used in another setting (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010). Carlile (2002) however, manages to pose three characteristics of what makes boundary objects useful in attempts at understanding, joint problem solving and discussion at a given boundary which corresponds with the descriptions posed by Star (2010) that originally defined the concept of boundary objects. First, a boundary object manages to establish a shared language or syntax with which individuals are able to represent their knowledge (Carlile, 2002). This initial boundary object characteristic shares many commonalities with the insights found in the syntactical approach to boundaries, where the importance of possessing a shared syntax or language to deal with boundaries are fundamental. Put into the perspective of boundary objects, the shared language or syntax to represent knowledge is a required characteristic if one is to deal with a knowledge barrier, regardless of type (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010). Second, a boundary object aims to provide a concrete mean through which individuals can specify (represent) and learn about the dependencies and differences that exist across a given boundary. Thus, becoming more effective as a boundary object when dealing with a boundary through a semantic approach. As can be seen in Table 2, this characteristics can be found in boundary objects such as methods or standardised forms as well as maps, objects and models (Carlile, 2002). Third, a boundary object is able to facilitate a process through which individuals are able to discuss, attempt to understand and jointly transform the knowledge that they possess (Carlile, 2002). In cases where negative consequences are found, the involved individuals would be able to change, negotiate and or alter the boundary object in question or how it is represented. To apply what individuals, know and transform the current knowledge that exist by a boundary it is necessary for individuals to be able to manipulate, alter or draw on the content of a boundary object which corresponds with the pragmatic approach (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010).

According to Carlile (2002) and Star (2010) maps, objects and models are the sole boundary object category that is directly supporting the ability to transform knowledge, and thusly becomes the sole category that supports the fulfilment of all three characteristics that constitutes a useful boundary object in attempts at understanding, jointly solve problems and facilitate discussion at a given boundary, as can be seen in Table 2. However, not only are the most helpful boundary objects of these types, they are

also the most expensive and complicated boundary objects to establish due to the continued transformation of the objects (Carlile, 2002; Star, 2010).

Table 2 - Knowledge Boundary Types, Boundary Object Categories and Boundary Object Characteristics (Carlile, 2002). Knowledge Boundary Types Boundary Object Category Boundary Object Characteristics Syntactic Repositories 1) Representing Semantic Methods and standardised


2) Representing and learning Pragmatic Maps, objects, and models 3) Representing, learning, and

transforming It is however important to recognise that all three of these categories, which can be found in Table 2, possesses a portfolio effect. Just like how added diversity in investment portfolios provides support by lowering risks, using several of the boundary objects categories have them support each other. Repositories, methods, and standardised forms support the usage of maps, objects, and models along with supporting the processes necessary to manage knowledge present at pragmatic knowledge boundaries. Similarly, the knowledge created and transformed through the usage of such boundary objects (i.e. maps, objects and models) then enhance the content present within the repository, methods and standardised forms (Carlile, 2002).

2.2.4 Crossing Boundaries

The successful crossing of boundaries involving boundary objects provides opportunities for the involved parties to learn. Akkerman and Bakker (2011) describe four dialogical learning mechanisms of boundaries, identification,

coordination, reflection and

transformation, along with corresponding characteristic processes. These describe how the process of learning with the use of boundary objects and boundary crossing may occur (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011; Boland & Tenkasi, 1995). For instance, in the case of these learning mechanisms, the process of identification refers to learning about different entities, practices and relations to one another and involves the questioning of the identities of the intersecting entities. This leads to renewed insight into these aforementioned aspects and can be done through the characteristic processes othering or the legitimisation of coexistence (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). Detailed descriptions of these characteristic processes along with all other characteristic process associated with the four learning mechanisms (identification,

coordination, reflection and


9 Dialogical Learning Mechanisms Characteristic Processes Descriptions Identification Legitimating Coexistence

The dialogical process of having people that work simultaneously in different organisations and groups consider the interference of their multiple participation on each other and others.

Othering The dialogical process of defining entities, processes and relations in light considering other existences, thus delineating how they may differ.


Efforts of Translation

The dialogical process of finding balance in ambiguity associated with boundaries through the usage of boundary objects. Often associated with concrete or commercial application of concepts Increasing

Boundary Permeability

The dialogical process of having the interaction over boundaries occur smoothly to the extent that the boundaries does not appear, through the usage of boundary objects. Thus, avoiding problematic discontinuities

Routinisation The dialogical process of having enactment of procedures become operational practice through coordinative effort. Communicative


The dialogical process of creating a communicative connection, through the usage of an established instrumentality, such as a boundary object, that is shared between multiple parties thus enabling coordination between the involved parties.



Making The dialogical process of communication that strengthen unique knowledge that can be found in a community. Perspective


The dialogical process of communication that improve one’s ability to take knowledge of other communities, foreign to one’s own community of knowledge, into account.


Continuous Joint Work at the


The dialogical process of having individuals learn by continuously preserving productivity of boundary crossing. In contrast to coordinative learning mechanisms which argue for achieving cross practice without effort, transformation argue for the active attempts at learning from each other cross boundaries.


The dialogical process of individuals having aspects from different contexts combine into something new. This could be the acquisition of new knowledge, shape a representation of understanding or an analytical consideration. The hybrid result may even shape into something which stands between already established circumstances, this may in turn eventually lead into a new place with boundaries.


The dialogical process of the congealing of experience into a substantial representation, boundary objects being examples of such reification. This is often the result of hybridisation. The crystallisation may also occur as an enactment of what is learned, creating procedures, measures, products, or agreements that embody the gained understanding


The dialogical process of confrontation surrounding an issue, forcing intersecting worlds to learn by considering current interrelations and situation. Without such a confrontation, transformation should not be expected.

Maintaining Uniqueness of

Intersecting Practices

The dialogical process of even with the creation of new hybrid fields, as described by hybridisation, maintaining the integrity of the existing situation should occur. A focus lies with achieving a balance between the ambivalence of new and established practices that evolve from the held discussions surrounding the business ecology visualisations.

Recognising Shared Problem


The dialogical process of recognising a shared problem, often direct response to confrontation, so that it can be discussed how it should be managed where individuals at boundaries learn to interact with each other moving forward.

Table 3 - An Overview of Unique Dialogical Learning Mechanisms and the Corresponding Characteristic Processes Associated With Boundary Crossing (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011).


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