The Anthropophagic Organization: How Innovations Transcend the Temporary in a Project-based Organization

Prado, Patricia and Sapsed, Jonathan (2016) The Anthropophagic Organization: How Innovations Transcend the Temporary in a Project-based Organization. Organization Studies, 37 (12). pp. 1793-1818. ISSN 0170-8406

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This article shows how innovations in projects may be diffused successfully within a large project-based organization (PBO) and how they ‘live on’ through their adaptation. We draw on the metaphorical notion of anthropophagy, literally ‘human cannibalism’, which is used to explain the appropriation of otherness resulting in ongoing organizational life. Prior organization literature has stressed the difficulties of the transition from the temporary to the permanent, especially the failure of database-oriented approaches, and argued that these barriers may be overcome with repeatable standardized templates. In contrast we show that multiple innovations may be adopted within the same PBO, which manifest as differentiated, combined forms. Cases in the large energy and engineering company, Petrobras, show a systematic innovation process involving subject experts, but centrally a database containing records of 1104 mandatory and discretionary innovations. The article analyses these data, process documentation and observations of 15 completed innovation projects. The article argues that in addition to technical factors the anthropophagic attitude motivates adopters to take on the innovations of others with the appetising prospect of appropriation and adaptation.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: anthropophagy, boundary objects, innovation, knowledge transfer, project-based organization, temporary organizations
Subjects: N100 Business studies
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Newcastle Business School
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2020 10:45
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 13:45

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