In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Using Trading Zones to Prevent Normalized Deviance in Organizations Michael E. Gorman and Patricia H. Werhane Peter Galison has developed the notion of a “trading zone” to describe how people from vastly different theoretical, practical, or cultural perspectives can interact meaningfully about subjects which they understand from seemingly incommensurable points of view (Galison 1997). A trading zone is a locus of communication, involving the development first of a jointly understood jargon, then a pidgin, and finally a creole among individuals or groups of individuals whose background or theoretical points of view are vastly different and sometimes conflicting, such that no individual could hold all represented points of view simultaneously without contradiction. Galison defines a jargon as a set of shared meanings for terms. A pidgin is a language sufficient for relatively simple trades constructed from elements of at least two languages; and a creole is a pidgin extended to the point where it can serve as a new language. These three levels of linguistic communication are on a continuum; a trading zone typically begins with a few common terms, or jargon, quickly develops phrases that can be learned quickly and understood across the zone, then eventually can lead to a new language, or creole, that is taught to future generations. Collins, Evans, and Gorman (2007, and chapter 2 in this volume) have pointed out that coordination across a trading zone can be accomplished by interactional experts playing a role similar to that of trade agents. The interactional expert is fluent in the language of another disciplinary or stakeholder community, to the point that she or he can pass as a member of that community—except when it comes to actually performing the expertise. The interactional expert can play a role similar to a trade agent in a trading zone, facilitating exchanges even when the multiple parties have not yet evolved a creole. The idea of a trading zone has normative dimensions. Trading zones are useful whenever communication occurs across apparently incommensurable perspectives , and, we shall argue, the engagement in a trading zone, coupled with moral imagination, can result in rich, value-laden outcomes. When trading zones involve 12 246 Michael E. Gorman and Patricia H. Werhane ethical conflicts, interactional expertise should involve a developed moral imagination . Here the interactional expert not only will have to master the language of another disciplinary community, but will have to understand its values. In particular, trading zones and interactional expertise can help organizations to avoid the problem of normalized deviance. Normalized deviance occurs when individuals within organizations, often skilled professionals, playing what they believe to be their well-defined professional roles, reclassify danger signals as within the bounds of normality—and continue a course toward disaster. In the course of this chapter, we will show how the formation of trading zones might have prevented the kind of normalized deviance that contributed to the Columbia shuttle disaster and the collapse of WorldCom. Experts, Paradigms, and Particularized Worldviews Expertise is clearly an essential part of a successful trading zone, but it can also make communication across a zone difficult, because different expert communities operate within unique paradigms. As Vaughan writes: Implied in the term “expert” is some technical skill, gained either by experience, by professional training, or by both, that differentiates the professional from the lay assessment of risk. Also implied is that professionalism will somehow result in a more “objective” assessment than that of the amateur. But professional training is not a control against the imposition of particularistic worldviews on the interpretation of information. To the contrary, the consequence of professional training and experience is itself a particularistic worldview comprising certain assumptions, expectations, and experiences that become integrated with the person’s sense of the world. The truth is that highly trained individuals, their scientific and bureaucratic procedures giving them false confidence in their own objectivity, can have their interpretations of information framed in subtle, powerful, and often unacknowledged ways. (Vaughan 1996, 63–64) Vaughan’s description of the “particularistic worldview comprising certain assumptions , expectations, and experiences that become integrated with the person’s sense of the world” corresponds to Thomas Kuhn’s notion of a paradigm. Kuhn (1970) referred to activities carried on within a paradigm as normal science, a kind of standard operating framework that is taken for granted by most experts within a domain. A paradigm includes shared assumptions, generalizations, and examples that illustrate the proper approach and methods. Large parts of a paradigm are tacit, which means that to those within...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.