Paula Jarzabkowski

Professor in Strategic Management

Faculty of Management
photograph of Paula Jarzabkowski

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Paula Jarzabkowski is a Professor of Strategic Management. Her research focuses on strategy-as-practice in complex contexts, such as regulated firms, third sector organizations and financial services, particularly insurance and reinsurance. Her research in this regard has been foundational in the establishment of the field of strategy-as-practice. She is experienced in qualitative methods, having used a range of research designs, including cross-sectional and longitudinal case studies, and drawing on multiple qualitative data sources including interviews, observation, audio and video ethnographic techniques and archival sources to study private and public sector organizations. In particular, this includes the first global ethnography – a programme of research that included the use of video methods - of the reinsurance industry.

Professor Jarzabkowski’s career has been marked by a series of prestigious fellowships that have enabled her to conduct detailed ethnographic studies of business problems. For example, in 2006-2007, funded by an AIM Ghoshal Fellowship, she conducted an audio-ethnographic longitudinal study of the paradoxical tensions involved in implementing a major strategic shift in a regulated telecommunications firm. From 2009-2012, she held the inaugural Insurance Intellectual Capital Initiative (IICI) fellowship, under which she conducted a 3-year audio and video ethnography of the global reinsurance market, which extended her skills from organisational to industry-level ethnography. From 2012-2014 she held an EC Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship at Cornell University.

Her work has appeared in a number of leading journals including Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management Studies and Organization Studies and in 2005, she published the first book on strategy-as-practice, Strategy as Practice: An Activity-Based Approach (Sage).

In addition, her engagement with industry has made Professor Jarzabkowski skilled in turning academic research into applied outputs, including collaborating with industry in developing research questions, and presenting here research at industry venues and conferences. The relevance of her work was recognised recently with the prestigious 2013 ESRC Outstanding Impact on Business Award.

Professor Jarzabkowski has just released a new book with Oxford University Press, entitled 'Making a Market for Acts of God: The Practice of Risk-Trading in the Global Reinsurance Industry' based on her 3-year ethnographic study of the industry.

Call for Papers: Feature Topic: Video-Based Research Methods

Guest Editors:
Paula Jarzabkowski, Curtis LeBaron, Katherine Phillips, and Michael Pratt

For practical reasons, video technology has become irresistible as an instrument of data collection for many researchers. Recording equipment is now readily available, relatively inexpensive, and easy to use. For example, most mobile phones have the ability to create and share digital video. Many organizations are now using video as a workplace tool for public broadcast, video conferencing, quality control, internal knowledge management, training, and more. Some organizations create archives or banks of video data, which may be valuable resources for research. Similarly, public events, such as congressional hearings, may now be video recorded, providing valuable extra-organizational data. Indeed, even in experimental research laboratories, which have long included video equipment, the prevalence of video as a medium of choice within our culture has expanded the possibilities for organizational research.

For organizational research methods, the empirical advantages of video data are noteworthy. Video recordings can capture behavior in real time and can then be slowed, zoomed and replayed, enabling analysts to be careful, precise, and consistent in generating accounts of organizational activity—who did what, when, where and how. Video recordings constitute a permanent record that others can watch and verify.

Perhaps most important, video provides ontological opportunities for researchers. While social scientists have traditionally focused on discourse (talk and text), often due to technological constraints, real-time video may provide insight into issues such as:

• Materiality. Organizations are teaming with “things” – objects, artifacts and tools – that are central to work and deserve careful attention and consideration. How do people interact with these “things” in relating, coordinating and organizing?
• Embodiment. Although the human body is absent or only implied in most organization research, video recordings often capture the body at the center of social interaction and organizational work. How does the engagement of the body affect social interaction in organizations?
• Spatio-temporality. Human activity unfolds through time and space, which are scarce organizational resources that must be carefully negotiated and strategically allocated. How does the way people use time and space affect organizational outcomes?
• Multimodality. Within organizations, people regularly engage through a variety of modes or semiotic systems that must be carefully orchestrated: talk, text, pictures, drawings, gestures, facial expressions, embodied maneuvers, and more can all be captured on video. How are these various modes and systems orchestrated in basic social functioning such as negotiating, team interactions, and communicating?

However, with the opportunities of video come potential pitfalls. Too often, researchers regard video as a lens on reality, without fully appreciating that the most basic cinematic decisions constitute theories about the world and how it should be studied. By locating, pointing and starting a camera, researchers make decisions about what is important. By using a camera to frame, focus or crop a particular scene, researchers already begin to analyze human activity in progress. With secondary video data, the intentions of the recorder may thus be imposed upon the researcher.

Organization scholars also need to be aware of underlying disciplinary assumptions associated with the various methods available. For example, theories with roots in the field of psychology may be incompatible with methods informed by sociology when analyzing video data, and vice versa. In particular, the practices that constitute various methods (recording, archiving, transcribing, analyzing, interpreting, triangulating, coding, counting, reporting, etc.) come imbued with the ontological, epistemological and practical assumptions of their parent disciplines. Hence, a “one-size-fits-all” approach, mindless analytic “borrowing,” or citing precedents from other disciplines may not be sufficient for an inherently interdisciplinary field such as management and organization studies without clear guidance about which theories and methods apply to which types of research questions and disciplinary approaches. This is not to say that different disciplinary approaches may be incompatible with studying management and organizations; rather, a careful consideration of ontological, epistemological, and practical assumptions guiding video research is critical.

A special issue on video-based research methods might include but not be limited to the following topics:

i. What unique methodological challenges do video data raise? For example, how can three-dimensional data be rendered visible in articles, which are essentially two-dimensional texts? What are the implications for online multi-media journal publication of data?

ii. Video data foreground details and forms (including space, place, bodies and physical arrangements) that may escape notice in standard observations. What new ontological and epistemological assumptions do researchers need to make in analyzing video data and deciding what elements to examine?

iii. What are the unique methodological issues around archival (secondary, or pre-existing) versus ethnographic (researcher-collected) video data? In secondary data, how should researchers address the intentions of the data collector? In particular, what challenges and opportunities arise when using extra-organizational video data to enlighten organizational phenomena?

iv. While time is currently a fluid concept in much process research, video renders time visible in relation to other spatial configurations and specific sequences of actions. How can scholars deal with spatial-temporal notions captured in video data?

v. What constitutes good video data, given the wide variety of data sources, in which, for example, edited documentaries or video-recorded interviews are not the same as naturally occurring video of people in action? For example, does editing complicate or corrupt the spatial-temporal properties of video data?

vi. What are some best practices and protocols for analyzing video-based data and how might these vary qualitatively and quantitatively? How do we, or indeed should we, assess the quality, validity or trustworthiness of video-based research in terms of the measures and protocols that are appropriate?

vii. How might emerging technologies, such as facial recognition and movement mapping, enable and motivate video-based methods in the future? And what content analysis methods for video data might arise from such technologies?

All papers will undergo the standard double-blind ORM review process and must meet the standards of the ORM Editorial Policy Statement (see All articles published in this feature topic must improve our understanding of video-based research methods in the social sciences generally and organization studies specifically. Manuscripts may be submitted via the ORM website ( between September 15 and October 15, 2014.


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