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MIT System Dynamics Seminar: Location-Independent Organizations: Designing Collaboration across Space and Time

November 12, 2021 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm EST

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Please visit the MIT System Dynamics Seminars page for more information.

You are invited to attend the System Dynamics Faculty Candidate Seminar being held on Friday, December 3rd from 1:00-2:30pm ET in the Jay W. Forrester conference room, E62-450, or virtually via Zoom: Our guest speaker will be Jen Rhymer (Stanford University) presenting Location-Independent Organizations: Designing Collaboration across Space and Time. 

As per updated Sloan policies, there will be no food permitted inside any of the E62 conference rooms, beverages will require a straw to be consumed underneath your mask, and in-person attendees will need to sign a check-in sheet upon arrival to assist in contact tracing should it become necessary.

Collaboration is critical to organizations yet remains difficult when work is distributed. Prior research on organizational design offers the three broad approaches of modular structures, standardization, and ongoing communication. While the practice-focused literature on distributed work highlights the numerous collaboration challenges including decreased familiarity, reduced knowledge sharing, workflow delays, increased misunderstandings, and a limited shared context. Yet, there is an increasing number of organizations, location-independent organizations, that are fully distributed and exist without a physical office and where work is distributed but still highly interdependent. To understand how distributed organizations collaborate on interdependent work I undertook an inductive multiple-case study. The resulting insights include the recognition of two emergent organizational design patterns, namely an asynchronous orientation and a real-time orientation. Additionally, I identify the individual enabling practices for each. This research contributes to the distributed work literature by showing how organizations can support the formation of a distributed shared context, the organizational design literature by identifying novel practices enabling the asynchronous oriented configuration, and finally by providing empirical grounding to further enhance the theoretical understanding, boundary conditions, and nuance related to the phenomenon of location-independent organizations and distributed work.

 Jen Rhymer currently is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Center for Work, Technology, and Organization at Stanford University in the Management Science and Engineering Department. This is following her completion of a Ph.D. from the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington in Technology Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management. Prior to this Jen worked as the director of research and development for a clean technology start-up, in the aerospace industry, and earned a Ph.D. in Structural Engineering from UC San Diego. Her research sits at the intersection of organizational design and emerging technologies with a focus on geography. In her dissertation, Jen explores the context of location-independent organizations (those with no office at all) to generate theoretical insights related to distributed work. The paper focusing on collaboration in location-independent organizations was recently recognized by the OCIS division of the Academy of Management where she won the 2021 Gerardine DeSanctis Dissertation Award for the best solo-authored paper from a dissertation. More generally, she is interested in questions related to collaboration, geography, knowledge systems, and emerging technologies in organizations.


November 12, 2021
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm EST
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MIT System Dynamics Group
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