Sub-theme 04: Strategies of spaces and the spaces of strategies


Markus Reihlen, Leuphana University, Germany
Natalia Nikolova, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Liisa Naar, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Call for Papers

Researchers are increasingly interested in the spatial dimension of organizations, management, and strategy (Handley et al., 2012; Granovetter, 2001). The argument is that strategy-making takes place in particular spaces of learning and socio-technical interaction. Spaces generate conditions for the exploration of new strategic possibilities and enable or inhibit reflective practices.

We operationalize the notion of space in strategy by focusing on symbolic spaces (spaces as organisational symbols that build reputation/image and meaning), social spaces (spaces contributing to organizational strategies; as performative arenas that enable or inhibit strategies—a strategy as practice view), and digital spaces (digital dimensions of spaces and their interrelation with strategies). We focus on spaces as constructed and re-constructed, enacted and contested, imagined and re-imagined, rather than as “fixed, dead and immobile containers” (Taylor & Spicer 2007: 325).

Symbolic spaces. As organizational symbols, spaces signal organisational identity, management philosophy and vision. As Leslie (2011: 863) contends, “a corporate headquarters says—in steel, concrete, aluminium, and (fiber) glass—this is who we are; this is what we do; and this is how we do it”. Spaces can ‘lock in’ organizations, influencing not only how these organisations are perceived but also the ideas upon which they were conceived. New strategies often need new symbolic spaces; new symbolic spaces often require new strategies.

Social spaces. Space has become a key analytical concept for the study of organizations (Munro & Jordan 2013) but not of strategy (Orlikowski 2007: 1436). The strategy-as-practice view regards strategies as outcomes of material, social and spatially embedded interactions between actors (e.g., Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2008; Spee & Jarzabkowski, 2011; MacIntosh, MacLean, & Seidl, 2010). By influencing actors’ actions, interpretations and beliefs, spaces influence strategies. Simultaneously, spaces are the result of strategies: spaces are conceived and designed to organize, enable and control, to stimulate and direct flows of communication, people and artefacts and to foster, influence or restrict collaboration. Strategies and spaces are mutually constituted and mutually influential.

Digital spaces. Virtual/digital spaces have material and social dimensions without which they cannot be understood. In this ‘hybrid space’, “people rely on sociomaterial practices enacted in physical spaces to help them interpret virtual space and to guide their actions within it, thus highlighting how materiality, agency, and space are intrinsically connected” (Fayard 2012: 192). Increasingly, organizational actors use digital spaces such as blogs to share emergent ideas and strategies with organizational outsiders and to receive feedback and input. Strategizing can become a truly collaborative practice facilitated by digital spaces. Virtual worlds support virtual work, learning and training and project management as well as strategic planning (Schultze & Orlikowski 2010).

We welcome papers that integrate perspectives from architecture and design, organization studies, anthropology, sociology, human and economic geography, cultural economics, management studies and psychology that address the material, symbolic and spatial contours of organizational life.

We invite papers that focus on the themes above as well as the following, non-exclusive list:

  • How do organizations conceive of architectural space as a strategic vehicle for innovating organizational cultures?
  • How is the disaggregation of communities of practice changing how we think of organizational space?
  • How has the mobility of markets, makers and consumers changed organizational strategies?
  • What resistance is there to the spatial strategies of particular organizations (such as large retailers or educational institutions)?
  • What happens when organizational spaces, organizational cultures, and organizational strategies proffer contradictory signs?
  • How do spaces enable, resist, or shape organizational strategies and power relations?
  • How do digital spaces enable or constrain strategic practices and what consequences do these have for organizations?


Fayard, A. L. (2012). Space matters, but how? In: Leonardi, P. M., & Kallinikos, J. (Eds.), Materiality and Organizing: Social Interaction in a Technological World, Oxford University Press, Oxford: 177-195.

Munro, I., & Jordan, S. (2013). ‘Living Space’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Spatial tactics and the politics of smooth space. Human Relations 66 (11): 1497-1525.

Orlikowski, W. J. (2007). Sociomaterial practices: Exploring technology at work. Organization studies 28(9): 1435-1448.

Taylor, S., & Spicer, A. (2007). Time for space: a narrative review of research on organizational spaces. International Journal of Management Reviews 9(4): 325-346.


Markus Reihlen is Vice-President and Professor of Strategic Management at Leuphana University of Lüneburg and an International Research Fellow at the Novac Druce Centre for Professional Service Firms at the University of Oxford. His research interests are at the crossroad of professional services and research in strategic management, organization theory, and international business.

Natalia Nikolova is Senior Lecturer in Management at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her research interests focus on project-based organisations and group dynamics in the context of management consulting, professional services, and the creative industries. She is also interested in process perspectives on organizations and strategy.

Liisa Naar is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney in the faculties of Business and Design, Architecture & Building. Her research centres on the study of practice in design and architecture focusing on: strategic and innovative practices, the role of artefacts, organizational frameworks and inter-organizational collaboration.

Posted On: June 8, 2014
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