Greenhouses are Made of Glass: Tensions in Experimental Spaces for Creative Collaboration in Front-end Pharmaceutical Research

Birke Otto, Elke Schüßler, Katharina Zangerle

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    Experimental spaces in organizations are often spatial- and temporary-bounded, relatively closed, social settings, in which ideas can be developed without actors being pressured to conform to organizational routines or institutional norms. Especially in the phase of idea elaboration, experimental spaces allow moving creative ideas forward by protecting them from the perils of early external judgment or disruption. Such bounded spaces, which require ongoing boundary and distancing work, can stabilize interpersonal relations, foster a sense of togetherness, belonging and cohesion, and set the common goal above that of the individual. By empirically studying two intentionally created experimental spaces for creativity in front-end pharmaceutical research, we find that boundary work does not prevent the involved actors from experiencing tensions. Instead, it comes with side-effects such as pressure to perform, isolation, secrecy, and competition. Mobilizing the metaphor of greenhouses, which are transparent yet shielded spaces, we argue that symbolic privilege and status that is linked to membership in experimental spaces creates a pressure to succeed that can potentially undermine the assumed protective space. Thus, boundary and distancing work is not only required regarding the regular organizational and institutional norms but also regarding the social dynamics unfolding within experimental spaces, at least temporarily.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCollaborative Spaces at Work : Innovation, Creativity and Relations
    EditorsFabrizio Montanari, Elisa Mattarelli, Anna Chiara Scapolan
    Number of pages14
    Place of PublicationAbingdon
    Publication date2021
    ISBN (Print)9780367350451
    ISBN (Electronic)9780429329425
    Publication statusPublished - 2021
    SeriesRoutledge Advances in Management and Business Studies

    Bibliographical note

    Published 29 December 2020.

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