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Who talks to whom about what? How interdisciplinary communication and knowledge of expertise distribution improve in integrated R&D labs

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Although several studies have examined the impact of open workspaces, there is still an on-going debate about its advantages and disadvantages. Our paper contributes to this debate by shedding light on three issues: the effect of open workspaces on (1) the flow of communication along and across hierarchical lines; (2) the content of communication; and (3) the specificities of open integrated laboratories. Our findings derive from a longitudinal case in a large pharmaceutical company that has relocated some R&D teams from enclosed to multi-space offices and labs. The relocation has resulted in (a) increased interdisciplinary communication, particularly at lower hierarchical levels, (b) a shift of the location of discussions and the content of conversations and (c) an improved knowledge about expertise distribution.

Practitioner Summary: Communication is essential in knowledge-driven organisations. This article examines the impact of a relocation of R&D employees from enclosed to multi-space offices and labs on communication patterns. We explain how the new environment fosters interdisciplinary communication, shifts the location of discussions and increases the knowledge of expertise distribution.
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Keywords: Knowledge work; distribution of expertise; face-to-face communication; integrated laboratory; workspace

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Business and Social Management, University of Applied Sciences Koblenz, Remagen, Germany 2: Faculty of Management, Cass Business School, City, University of London, London, UK 3: Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Publication date: August 3, 2018

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