Guest editorial: Integrating organizational and cognitive approaches towards computer-based systems

Chris W. Clegg, Michael Frese
1996 Behavior and Information Technology  
There are two strong psychological research traditions conce rned with improving our under standing of computerbased systems, one predom inantly focused on organizational issues, the other on cognitive m atters. The form er incorporates a num ber of interconnected research topics, including socio-technical system s theory, labour process theory, the study of job dem ands and job design, and the m ore general literature examining the links between technolog y and organizational structures and
more » ... l structures and processes. The latter has a more individualistic focus on research and developm ent into the nature and quality of the interface and the interaction between hum an and compute r. Unfortunately these two traditions have operated almost independen tly of one another. Indeed, Clegg (1994) has argued that the organizational and cognitive approache s in this area are differentiated in a num ber of ways, including: the issues they address; the levels of analysis; the research styles and m ethods in use; the under lying research paradigm s; the application dom ains; and the outputs. Nevertheless, there are som e signs that the different com m unities can work m ore closely together. This special issue explores opportunities for integrating organizational and cognitive approaches to our understanding of the developm ent and use of com puter-based system s in organizations. The goals are to improve our understanding of practical situations and to develop our conceptua l and m ethodological tools. This special issue comprises seven papers. All the authors are applied psychologists concerned with developing a better understanding of the ways in which new computerbased system s are developed, im plemented, used, evaluated and managed in organizations. They work in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and the USA . Their com m on focus is on the hum an and organizational aspects of new com puter-based systems, though som e also have a keen interest in more technical matters. Their conce rns include hum an computer interaction, work organization and job design, organizational structures and processes, the m anagem ent of change, the role of end users, and so on. All have a theoretical interest accompa nied by a very applied and practical focus. Gardner, Chm iel and W all report a laboratory study of fault diagnosis on a simulated robotics produc tion line. Their argum ent is that ® eld studies within organizational psycho logy and organizational behaviour m ore generally, have widely dem onstrated that job designs which give operators greater responsibility and control, for example over computer-based equipm ent, result in increased levels of perform ance. But such studies do not dem onstrate why this is the case. Their experiment offers a cognitive unde rstanding and appreciation of what may be happen ing in such situations, drawing on ideas concerned with implicit learning. In this instance, the impact of an organizational choice of working practices requires a cognitive analysis. Furtherm ore, a cogni tive appreciation of how peopl e learn in such com plex system s holds implications for how organizations m anage the practice of training. Sonnen tag also describes a labo ratory study, in this case, of 35 software designers working individually on a standar dized design task. Her emphasis is on trying to uncove r som e of the cognitive strategies and activities that designers undertake when approaching a design task. She argues that the strategies adopted by the designers prove d to be in¯uenced by their normal work situation, in particula r the amount of control they have over their work. Sonnen tag provides an argument that cogni tive behaviours are in¯uenced by organizational practices and arrangements. Heinbokel, Sonnentag, Frese, Stolte and Brodbeck describe
doi:10.1080/014492996120120 fatcat:5b4feeu3ufdotbdrqxou6kbufu