Idea Work

Lessons of the extraordinary in everyday creativity

Arne Carlsen, Stewart Clegg og Reidar Gjersvik, 2012, Heftet, Engelsk
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What does it take to find oil in an area where many have tried, but failed? What does it take to design buildings that become prize-winning cultural landmarks? And what can the best architects, oil explorers, business lawyers, journalists, and business developers within banking and trading analysis have in common?

Idea Work can provide the answers. This book builds on a four-year research project and describes what extraordinary idea work looks like in practice. The authors take you behind the scenes of some of Norway’s leading companies and show how surprisingly similarly they work when they are working creatively to develop and realize new ideas. The book gives us, for example, a glimpse of how Snøhetta designed the Opera and the 9/11 memorial, and how explorers at Statoil discovered the most oil of all oil companies in the world in 2011. Narratives are presented on how prepping, sketches, pin-ups, drama, wonder, and punk are important aspects of the extraordinary. Examples are supported by theory, placing this book at the forefront of international research.

Idea Work will appeal to practitioners as well as students. It recounts engaging stories from actual production processes and combines new theoretical perspectives with practical advice. It will also be of interest to anyone working with development, particularly with developing new ideas. From a professional standpoint, this book is an uncommon contribution to describing and understanding creativity as something collective and grounded in everyday activity.

Idea Work is available in both English and Norwegian.


«Prepare to be surprised. This book on idea work significantly enriches how we see, understand and do the everyday work of making ideas transformative. The book is simultaneously simple and profound, playful and serious, practical and theoretical. No doubt it will be useful and used by anyone who is curious about how ideas become real in everyday activities. The book both makes the process of idea work accessible and mysterious at the same time. No matter what your interest is in idea work, read a page, read a chapter, read the whole book – any engagement with the book will excite novel thought and practical advice – a rare and pleasing combination.»
Jane Dutton, Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology, University of Michigan

«A great addition to the literature on organizational creativity»
Distinguished Research Professor Gareth Morgan, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto

«Idea Work is a journey that makes you believe in the magic of ideas all over. It reminded me about what is best at work: creating something uniquely impactful with the help of daring wonder, some joint laughter and a little bit of anarchism for spice.»
Välikangas Liisa, Professor in Organization and Management, Aalto University/Co-founder at Innovation Democracy

«This book is an explosive package of insight, cutting edge methodology, ready-to-implement instruments and elevating inspiration. Exciting to glance and compelling to read systematically, the book walks its talk. It is perhaps the most uplifting and yet realistic book on organizational innovation and creativity I know. Deeply embracing the seemingly mundane actions of pratitioners in a number of different fields, the book is an empirically informed synthetic conceptualization of positively deviant organizational creativity. While scholarly impressive and highly useful as a guide to the frontiers of the research, the book entirely avoids the pitfalls of overtheorizing. The book sets your ideas in motion - and in ways that will take you by surprise. The book "activates the drama" of your internal angels of creativity, inspires your "craving wonder", will encourage you "to zoom out" and look with "daring imagination" for possibilities of "punk production". Idea work starts to emerge - in the reader of Idea Work
Esa Saarinen, Professor of Applied Philosophy at the School of Science, Aalto University

«Idea Work is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding and – not least – practising everyday organizational creativity. The book's focus on collective creative practices is highly innovative and will prove invaluable to organizations that care about being on the leading edge of what they do.»
Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, Chair of Major Programme Management, University of Oxford, author of «Making Social Science Matter»

«It is a rare book that celebrates the life, passion, and wonder of ideas at work. It is a rare book that is as at home with professionals who long for sound practical advice about how to work with ideas more effectively, as it is with business scholars who long for sound theoretical abstractions to explain such work more sensitively and completely. It is a rare book about creativity that is itself creative in its form and style; that marries the vibrant nuances of real world stories with the incisive and compelling concepts of social science theory at its best. And it is a rare book that leaves readers – practitioner and academic alike – with the happy and even grateful sense of understanding a little bit more of the inexhaustible mystery of the human mind at work. This is that rare book.»
Lloyd Sandelands, Professor of Management and Organizations & Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

«How refreshing to see a book that lives up to its word and succeeds in illuminating serious play in a seriously playful manner. A delight to read!»
Professor Richard J. Badham, Macquarie Graduate School of Management

«By exploring idea work in practice, Idea Work drafts a picture of innovation and creativity in the context of everyday work that very topically departs from perspectives centered on heroic narratives or project management techniques. It will offer a strong basis for further research as well as inspiration and reflexion for practice.»
Professor Emmanuel Josserand, CMOS, University of Technology, Sydney

«Great idea! The decision to examine the world of ideas and ideas at work was a great, well, idea. This is where it all starts. Management scholars have been recently obsessed with knowledge management, execution, competitive advantage and design. But before these processes enter the scene all that there is is an idea. With its sophisticated and distinctive Nordic touch, this book is not only mandatory read for those interested in the power of idea work, but also a beautiful object of design. A pleasure to the eye and to the mind.»
Professor Miguel P. Cunha, Universidade Nova de Lisboa

«Innovation makes life duller in many organizations across the globe these days. A wonderful idea has transformed into a dominant management discourse, which stifles creativity and new ideas whereever it goes. It is for this particular reason that I was glad to read Idea Work. Rather than an managerialist pamphlet promoting another way for the top management to control their firms, it is a book about how real people work in search of new ideas. I envy the authenticity the authors reach in the case illustrations and enjoy the insights within the text. This book should be read by those interested in where ideas come from in organizations.»
Professor Saku Mantere, Head of Department, Management and Organization, Hanken School of Economics and Business Administration

«The growing interest for practice based studies has found its way to creativity and innovation studies in this beautifully designed book Idea Work. Carlsen, Clegg and Gjersvik take an almost anthropological view on daily activities of those involved in idea creation in organizations. The empirical rich book provides the reader new, detailed and applicable understandings of how people in organizations engage, create, materialize, communicate, resist and realize ideas. Research on creativity and innovation has never been so 'down to earth' and inspire us to see creativity through a practice lens. The found qualities of idea work are valuable to both academics, students and practitioners in the field of creativity, innovation and design.»
Professor Alfons van Marrewijk. Professor in Business Anthropology, VU University Amsterdam

«In a world where ideas matter, where they come from, how they are generated and under what conditions they grow and ripen are important questions. This remarkable book does not have any single answer to these questions but many, because it is in the nature of 'idea work' that it can be structured and serendipitous, individualistic and collaborative, inspiring and banal. Yet the authors recognise that there is also a common thread in such work – it requires courage and the capacity for free and critical thinking to tackle the 'tyranny' of the blank page, not just the page that's already written. This is also the value of the book for business educators. We need to spend as much time on the rewards of taking risks as on the techniques and costs of managing them.»
Professor Roy Green, Dean, UTS Business School, University of Technology Sydney

«Reading this book enables us to appreciate that extraordinary idea work lies essentially in performing ordinary activities, in a whole range of work settings, extraordinarily - with love. Idea Work captures not just the dynamic processes that make the impossible possible. It arrests the magic of doing what we do for the love of it, and what it has the potential to create. A must read for anyone who cares to live a more fulfilling (working) life!»
Elena Antonacopoulou, Professor of Organizational Behaviour at University of Liverpool Management School/Senior Fellow of Aim (the Advanced Institute of Management Research)

«This book is a refreshing wonder! It integrates concern for producing practical advice with findings from careful research. It results from cooperation between academic researchers and people who are actually doing the work in companies. It focuses on creativity by groups of coworkers, not isolated individuals. And, it is written in beautifully understandable, straightforward language.»
Professor In Residence Bill Starbuck, Lundquist College of Business, University of Oregon