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The Conversational Firm


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Table of Contents

Preface Introduction 1. The Social Revolution 2. Open Communication 3. Open Control 4. Openness Controls 5. Open Culture 6. A Conversation About Bureaucracy 7. Conversational Spaces 8. The Conversational Firm: Implications for Theory 9. The Future of the Conversational Firm Methodological Appendix Acknowledgments Notes References Index

About the Author

Catherine J. Turco is the Theodore T. Miller Career Development Professor and associate professor of organization studies at the MIT Sloan School of Management. An ethnographer and economic sociologist, her work has appeared in the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology.


Will twenty-first-century social media technologies finally liberate organizations from stifling bureaucratic hierarchies? After spending ten months closely observing a software firm, Catherine J. Turco, one of sociology's brightest young stars, surprises with fascinating and nuanced answers. Brimming with vivid examples, The Conversational Firm will not only shape scholarly debate but also engage general readers interested in corporate life. -- Viviana A. Zelizer, author of Economic Lives The Conversational Firm opens a new chapter in the study of workplace democracy by analyzing how social media enable a new balance between workers' autonomy and productivity in high-tech corporate settings. With a particularly keen ethnographic eye, the author reveals a brave new world in which some of the bars of the bureaucratic iron cage are pried open while others remain in place for the pursuit of corporate goals. While millennials gain a more personalized and empowering work environment in the bargain, business leaders gain fuller access to their inner thoughts and creativity. This book will have a lasting impact on the study of corporate cultures and new organizational forms. -- Michele Lamont, author of The Dignity of Working Men With The Conversational Firm, Turco uses the role of social media to challenge our fundamental assumptions about how modern organizations function. In this masterful work, she uncovers a new way of organizing where openness and hierarchy complement, rather than contradict one another. I'm putting this book next to my copies of Weber, Barnard, and Chandler. -- Damon Phillips, Columbia Business School In The Conversational Firm, Turco argues that organizations can transcend bureaucracy, but still they are held in check by certain workplace demands for reproduction and stability. These checks seem to prevent the organization from becoming complete anarchy. Yet perhaps just as important, The Conversational Firm is a rich and delightful organizational ethnography of how work is being transformed in the era of social media. -- Brayden King, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University With a book that is as readable as it is wise, Turco makes a powerful case for the depth of insight that can only come from the best ethnographies-and is unavailable from the 'big data' analyses currently in vogue. Practitioners and scholars alike will come away with their understanding of firm hierarchy, culture, and communication transformed and enriched. -- Ezra Zuckerman Sivan, MIT Sloan School of Management [A] well-written, insightful ethnographic study. -- Theodore Kinni Strategy + Business

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