Investigatio Public Lecture: The Work of Innovation - Beth Bechky, UC Davis

Lecture / Panel
For NYU Community

Investigatio Public Lecture: The Work of Innovation: Community, Practice, and Materiality - Beth Bechky, UC Davis

Presented by the Department of Technology Management


Contrary to the popular "lone genius" image of innovation, we know that the actual work of  innovation is a collective activity. A focus on this work demonstrates three aspects of organization that are key to understanding innovation: community, practice, and materiality. Community membership structures people's learning in organizations, and boundaries between communities can therefore be both barriers to and opportunities for innovation. Everyday work practices create organizational cultures that enable collective creativity, rapid coordination, and recovery from surprises. Finally, the materiality of the workplace can facilitate problem-solving, communication, and symbolic support for innovation. 


Beth Bechky, our first Investigatio Scholar in Residency, is an associate professor of organizational behavior and technology management at the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on how technical, science, and creative workers get things done together. As an ethnographer of work and occupations, Beth's approach to studying organization and innovation highlights the practices and material affordances of the workplace. Some recent projects have explored how problems are solved among technicians, engineers and assemblers on an R&D manufacturing line, how work is coordinated on film production sets, and what enables the collective creativity of consultants and engineers. She is currently completing an ethnography of a crime laboratory.

About the Investigatio Scholar in Residency Program

Social Science and Innovation can seem to be two antithetical concepts. Yet, couldn’t they suggest the answer to developing technology with a human scale and connecting the needs of the users, whether individuals or communities? This is what the increasing engagement of anthropologists, social scientists, designers, and artists in collaborations with engineers and scientists in both research and commercial contexts, seems to suggest.  Indeed, many corporations and scientific institutions are acknowledging that innovation has as much to do with the intangibles of the human experience as it does with algorithms, chips and design, and therefore requires a deep understanding of the human, social and organizational context.

The Investigatio Scholar-in-Residency Series has been developed by the Department of Technology Management in the spirit of NYU-Poly i2e philosophy to enhance mutual understanding across disciplines and develop a conversation around human-centered innovation through visits from distinguished scholars from a range of disciplines such as management, information systems, anthropology, communication, sociology, design.


This event is free, but space is limited, so please RSVP

After the Lecture

The lecture will be followed by a Drink Reception sponsored by the NYU-Poly Graduate Center.