Projects, Agency and the Multi-Level Perspective : insights from numerical weather prediction
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, France
There is growing interest in the field of innovation studies for the question of transitions from one technological system to another. This is very probably triggered by the growing awareness that climate change will force our society to profoundly change their functioning in many domains (agriculture, transportation, energy, etc).
The work of Frank Geels leads to an important research stream on the Multi-Level Perspective (MLP) framework (Geels, 2002 & next). The MLP represent the transition from one technology to another by the interaction between three different levels : the landscape, the current technological regime and niche in which radical innovations first appears. This frameworks leads to a renewal of the analysis of technological transition since it integrates scientific, technical, social and regulatory dimensions. Therefore the MLP sheds a new light on major technological transitions (e.g. from horse transportation to automobiles in Geels, 2005) and allows to identify different type of technological transitions (Geels & Schot, 2007).
Of course the MLP is not without criticism (Smith & al, 2005 ; Genus & Cole, 2008 ; Sorrell, 2018). In particular a recurring question relates to the problem of agency and the relative lack of the actor’s perspective in the MLP.
This paper we wish to study this question of agency. We suggest that focusing on the project-level provide a fruitful avenue to discuss the question of agency in MLP. It could also constitutes a first step, as suggested by Geels (2011, p. 30) to bridge the MLP and business studies.
To do this we rely on a longitudinal case study of a technological transition in the field of numerical weather prediction. Our process starts we the narrative strategy described by Langley : It takes the form of a research report for the CNES (Lenfle, 2015) that contains a detailed, 70 pages, case study of the uses of radiance in NWP. In a second step, we rely the visual mapping strategy to synthetize the data and get a better understanding of the transition process. This research strategy allows us to probe deeply into the processes at stakes in regime transition.
Data collection was performed over 12 month from may 2014 to may 2015. Our goal was to understand the process that explains the difficulty of using radiances in NWP and how this problem was finally overcome, leading to a revolution in NWP. To build our case study we rely on three source of evidence:
1. The existing literature on meteorology and its uses of space technology that exist in history and Science and Technology Studies ( Courrain, 1991 ; Krige, 20002 ; Conway ; 2008 ; Edwards, 2010)
2. Our second source of evidence comes from the scientific literature in meteorology. This allows us to cross-check the interview, track the debates in the meteorological community, verify the dates, etc. ;
3. Finally we conduct interview with the main actors involved in this process. 10 interview with 8 of the key actors involved in this transition were interviewed between may 2014 and September 2015. All the interview were recorded and then transcribed. They were completed by follow up email our phone conversation when necessary.
We show that efficiently using satellite data in NWP supposes a radical change in data assimilation methods (from the Optimal interpolation regime to the new 4D-VAR regime). Overcoming this reverse salient (Hughes, 1983) requires both conceptual breakthrough in the mathematics of data assimilation and the setting of a project (named IFS-ARPEGE), jointly lead by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) and Météo France, to implement this breakthrough.
We thus suggest that focusing on the project-level could be a promising avenue for future research on technological transition (also, Raven, 2005). Indeed in our case IFS/ARPEGE serve as a catalyst for the transition from one regime to the other. It brings together the elements needed for the transition: experts, money, computing power, institutional support, coordination mechanisms. It creates the momentum and commitment necessary for the tipping of the community to the variational approach. Moreover the micro-analysis of the process at stakes helps to understand how the transition finally occurs. At the project level, we can observe precisely the unfolding of the process and describe how the socio-organizational, technical, cognitive dimensions interacts (Raven & Geels, 2010).
Contribution to Scholarship
We make three contibutions to scholarship :
1. We Study a technological transition in a globalized techno-scientific system
2. We uncover a new type of transition. We call it regeneration since the regime transform itself in order to overcome the tensions but 1) without clear landscape pressure and 2) by combining continuity and change since it encompass existing elements and radically new ones.
3. We suggest that bridging Project Management and transition literature could constitute a fruitful avenue for future research in both fields. In particular we demonstrate that contemporary research on the management of highly innovative projects (Sommer & al., 2009 ; Lenfle, 2016) could provide a theory of collective agency in situation of exploration that echoes part of MLP research (in particular Raven, 2005).
Contribution to Practice
We show the complexity of technological transitions, in particular the "sweat and tears" behind a transition process in the field of big data.
Conway E. 2008. Atmospheric Science at NASA. A History. The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.
Edwards P. 2010. A Vast Machine. Computer Models, Climate Date and the Politics of Global Warming. The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
Geels F. 2002. Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: a multi-level perspective and a case-study. Research Policy 31: 1257–1274.
Geels F. 2005. The Dynamics of Transitions in Socio-technical Systems: A Multi-level Analysis of the Transition Pathway from Horse-drawn Carriages to Automobiles (1860–1930). Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 17(4): 445–476.
Geels F. 2011. The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: Responses to seven criticisms. Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions : 24–40.
Genus A, Coles A. 2008. Rethinking the multi-level perspective of technological transitions. Research Policy 37: 1436–1445.
Hughes T. 1983. Networks of Power. Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. The John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore.
Krige J. 2000. Crossing the Interface from R&D to Operational Use: The Case of the European Meteorological Satellite. Technology and Culture 41(1): 27–50.
Langley A. 1999. Strategies for Theorizing from Process Data. Academy of Management Review 24(4): 691–710.
Lenfle S. 2016. Floating in space ? On the strangeness of exploratory projects. Project Management Journal 47(2): 47–61.
Raven R. 2005. Strategic Niche Management for Biomass: A Comparative Study on the Experimental Introduction of Bioenergy Technologies in the Netherlands and Denmark. Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Eindhoven. Available at: http://alexandria.tue.nl/extra2/200511821.pdf.
Raven R, Geels F. 2010. Socio-cognitive evolution in niche development: Comparative analysis of biogas development in Denmark and the Netherlands (1973–2004). Technovation 30: 87–99.
Schot J, Geels F. 2007. Niches in evolutionary theories of technical change. Journal of Evolutionary Economics 17: 605–622.
Smith A, Stirling A, Berkhout F. 2005. The governance of sustainable socio-technical transitions. Research Policy 34: 1491–1510.
Sommer S, Loch C, Dong J. 2009. Managing Complexity and Unforseeables Uncertainty in Startup Companies: an Empirical Study. Organization Science 20(1): 118–133.
Sorrell, S. 2018. Explaining sociotechnical transitions: A critical realist perspective. Research Policy 47(7): PP. 1267-1282.
About models, uncertainty, climate change and negotiating
That climate at the surface of the earth has varied all along the life time of the planet is undisputable. That industrial human activity or anthropogenic force is bringing about an unprecedented change in climate by means of greenhouse gases effect is today quite agreed certainty.
It is certainty in that respect that science is not uncertain. However to what extent models which explore the certainty of the uncertain may encapsulate a clear perspective on climate change.
The contribution seeks to address the issue from different perspectives through selected references.
In the first place, the aim is to give account of the emergence of the anthropogenic climate change force not only in science but through political awareness. Strikingly, the rise of Dioxide Carbon, which counts only roughly 4% of the atmosphere composition, has attracted attention to the possible effect of her variation on earth temperature from the end of the 19th century at preindustrial time (1). The same identical concern repeated in the 1930s from work by Guy Stewart Callendar, who already put forward the hypothesis that a doubling of CO2 concentration would raise around 2° the average earth temperature (2).
One may also refers to work in the 1950s of physicist Gilbert Plass (3). It is only at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s that climatology science structured herself through academic journals such as Climate Change, International Journal of Climatology.
What does tell science of climatology may be found in textbooks about the complexity of interactions between atmosphere, ocean and land (4). So where does uncertainty lies in the models about Carbon Dioxide, anthropogenic forcing and earth temperature?
The communication seeks to discuss causality in the models through counterfactual analysis (5) together with a falsification Popperian perspective about their robustness (6) In short, it means that whatever is causation there is at present no valid plausible hypothesis or counterfactual argument that would dismiss the anthropogenic contribution to global warming whatever simulations, calibration and parametrization of models.A step further is what economic models may contribute to our understanding of the future of the effects of climate change taking into account Integrated Assessment Models and Cost Benefit Analysis (7).
From a general perspective, uncertainty may be considered as related to a determinist approach, a probabilistic perspective or else the search for tipping points (8) as it may be played under a metaphor on catastrophe or chaos theory (9). When it comes to deal with economics, future models fall short of reliability (10), in particular on discount rate, social cost of carbon, notwithstanding the introduction of fat tailed uncertainty in probabilistic scenarios (11).
Finally uncertainty has to deal with awareness where models are not forecasts but projections or prospective and where assignment of responsibility from a planet viewpoint is quite unreachable to individuals and behaviors. On these grounds, political awareness of climate change has a long past (12).
Contribution to Scholarship
Uncertainty then shifts from science to uncertainty in possible overall agreements (13) in a context where assumed technology solutions are few convincing (14).
Contribution to Practice
It raises the issue of uncertainty about equity in the sharing of climate change (15).
This contribution fits with the track "Sustainable Development and transitions. Strategies, technological development and policies".
1 Arrthenius Svante (1896) ‘On the influence of carbonic acid in the air upon the temperature of the ground’, Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, vol. 5, n°41, April 1896, pp. 237-276
2 Callendar Guy Stewart. (1938) ‘The artificial production of carbon dioxide and its influence on temperature’, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, pp. 223-240
3 Plass Gilbert (1956) ‘The carbon dioxide theory of climatic change’, Tellus, VIII, 2, pp. 140-154
4 Hartmann Denis L. (2016) Global Physical Climatology, Oxford, Elsevier
5 Lewis David (1973) Counterfactuals, Oxford, Blackwell
6 Popper Karl (1934/1992) The Logic of Scientific Discovery, London, Routledge
Lloyd Elizabeth (2010) ‘Confirmation and robustness of climate models’, Philosophy of Science, n°77, pp. 971-984
7 For a general outlook see Hsiang Solomon and Kopp Robert (2018) ‘An economist’ guide to climate change science, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Fall 2018, pp. 3-32; Auffhammer Maximilian, pp. 33-52
8 Henry Claude (2013) ‘Incertitude Scientifique et incertitude fabriquée’, Revue Économique, vol. 64, n°4, pp. 589-598
9 Thom René.(1989) Structural Stability and Morphogenesis: An Outline of a General Theory of Models, Westview Press, Reading; Werndl Charlotte ‘What Are the New Implications of Chaos for Unpredictability?’ The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Volume 60, Issue 1, 1 March 2009, pp. 195–220
10 Pindyck Robert S. (2013) ‘Climate Change Policy:What Do the Models Tell Us?, Journal of Economic Literature 51(3),pp. 860–872
11 Weitzman Martin L. ‘(2011) ‘Fat-Tailed Uncertainty in the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change’ Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, vol. 5, n°2, pp. 275-292
12 The White House (1965) Report of the environmental pollutio pane, President’s Science Advisory Committee ’ Appendix Y4 Carbon Dioxide, pp. 23
13 Friman Mathias (2016) ‘Consensus rationales in negotiating historical responsibility for climate change’, International Environmental Agreements, n°16, pp. 285-305
14 Zhihua Zhang a, John C. Moore b, c, d, *, Donald Huisingh e, Yongxin Zhao (2015) ‘Review of geoengineering approaches to mitigating climate change’ Journal of Cleaner Production n° 103 pp. 898-907
15 Lahn Bard (2018) ‘In the light of equity and science: scientific expertise and climate justice after Paris’, International Environmental Agreements, n°18, pp.29-43
How to conduct a sustainability transition at the company level? The role of impact valuation tools and managements instruments
1MINES ParisTech, France; 2Renault SA, France
Sustainability transitions are long-term processes of fundamental socio-technical change associated with sustainability goals. The aim of this communication is to explore this issue of sustainability transition at the company level. We propose to analyze the role of impact valuation and management instruments in sustainability transition.
In this communication, we discuss three bodies of literature. The first one is the sustainability transition literature (Garud & Gehman, 2012; Geels, 2010; Markard et al., 2012). We analyze how this literature has mainly focused on multi-level and historical perspectives but have neglected until so far how companies address such transitions.
The second one is the management instruments literature which analyze how management instruments act as mediators of complex external realities and investigate how they are are appropriated by companies.
The third one is the impact valuation literature which, more specifically, develop methods to better integrate other kinds of capitals such as the natural one but also the social or the human ones, in addition to the financial one into decision-making (Ness & al., 2007, Wass & al., 2014). We analyze how instruments operate in practice and make sense for corporate actors.
The literature gap we address is to provide a comprehensive analysis of how sustainability transitions are conducted at the company level. For that purpose, we have conducted an empirical analysis of pioneering large companies engaged in sustainability transitions.
The communication proposes to address the following questions:
- What does it mean for a large company to conduct a sustainability transition?
- On which management instruments do they rely on?
- How do these instruments make sense for corporate actors and how do they stimulate stimulate sustainability innovations?
In order to provide answers to these questions, we used a comprehensive research methodology (Dumez, 2016), based on interviews with fourteen organizations in various business sectors, including eight multinational corporations, four consulting firms and an international coalition on natural capital. The selected companies have in common the use of publicly communicated natural (and/or social and or/human) capital assessment tools, and the four consulting firms surveyed have contributed to the development of the latter. Besides, we provided additional elements to our interviews based on documents published by companies that were not interviewed.
The discussions with interviewees were divided into three parts:
1. Motivations: the managers were asked about the context and motivations in which the initiative of exploring such management tools emerged within their company, and the motivations and the expectancies.
2. The projects conducted: who were involved in tool development projects but also the main challenges and success factors.
3. The design and use of tools: in order to build a typology of tools that value natural capital, and a vision on the possible ways to mobilize them.
4. The value added: what are according to the interviewees the observed effects on their companies and the valued added of these projects.
The discussions with the consultancy groups have enriched our vision on corporate practices by sharing their opinions on these different issues, based on their consultancy experiences.
The results are twofold. First, we provide a mapping of how impact valuation instruments are used in companies according to two dimensions (retrospective vs prospective ; internal vs external).
Second, we document the variety of usages and stakeholder dialogue these tools are used for. They serve to anticipate the expectancy of tomorrow’s consumers by using them in innovation projects selection, or more generally to make investment choices and risk assessments. Besides, these tools are used as dialogue support with stakeholders like public policies or local collectivities. They are also extensively used for consumer communication: to improve brand reputation and communicate the positive impacts of innovations to consumers. All companies interview report that the implementation of these tools have created connections within the firm between departments and impulse new experiments with stakeholders.
However, usages change depending on the sectors concerned. Indeed, in the industrial sector companies are more willing to use these tools for risk assessment, whether in the customer facing industries, companies tend to communicate on their positive impacts with the customers.
Contribution to Scholarship
This communication contributes to the analysis of sustainability transition processes at the company level, putting emphasis on the mediating valuation instruments used to conduct such transitions.
Contribution to Practice
This work is useful for sustainability managers who seek to sensitize managers and reorientate routines and decision-making processes. It provides knowledge on how valuation tools can become management tools and the conditions under which they can be implemented and appropriated in large companies.
The communication is in line with conference theme. Sustainability transition is a key innovation challenges. In the track, we investigate the issue of sustainability instruments and their impacts
Dumez, H. (2016). Comprehensive Research: A Methodological and Epistemological Introduction to Qualitative Research. Copenhagen Business School Press.
Garud, R., & Gehman, J. (2012): “Metatheoretical perspectives on sustainability journeys: evolutionary, relational and durational.” Research Policy, 41, 980–995.
Geels, F.W. (2010): “Ontologies, socio-technical transitions (to sustainability), and the multi-level perspective.” Research Policy, 39, 495–510.
Hess, D.J. (2014): “Sustainability transitions: A political coalition perspective.” Research Policy, 43, 278–283.
Labatut, J., Aggeri, F., & Girard, N. (2012). Discipline and change: How technologies and organizational routines interact in new practice creation. Organization studies, 33(1), 39-69.
Markard, J., Raven, R., & Truffer, B. (2012): “Sustainability Transitions: An emerging field of research and its prospects.” Research Policy, 41, 955–967.
Miller, P., & O’leary, T. (2007). Mediating instruments and making markets: Capital budgeting, science and the economy. Accounting, organizations and society, 32(7-8), 701-734.
Miller, P., & Power, M. (2013). Accounting, organizing, and economizing: Connecting accounting research and organization theory. The Academy of Management Annals, 7(1), 557-605.
Ness, B., Urbel-Piirsalu, E., Anderberg, S., & Olsson, L. (2007). Categorising tools for sustainability assessment. Ecological economics, 60(3), 498-508.
Waas, T., Hugé, J., Block, T., Wright, T., Benitez-Capistros, F., & Verbruggen, A. (2014). Sustainability Assessment and Indicators: Tools in a Decision-Making Strategy for Sustainable Development. Sustainability, 6(9), 5512‑5534.
Smart Technology for Sustainability: Understanding Consumer Response to Smart Green Interactive Devices
University of Montpellier, France
Smart green interactive devices are increasingly seen as relevant tools for consumers to get more insight on their environmental impact. Yet, these technologies are underused, revealing an adoption gap. Therefore, in this paper, we seek to understand consumers responses toward smart green interactive devices and more particularly, smart green applications for smartphones.
To understand the motives and barrier to adoption of smart green products we can refer to literature of acceptance of new technology. Several theoretical models have been proposed in the literature in order to better explain what factors contribute to the acceptance and use of information technology. The technology acceptance model TAM (Davis et al., 1989; Venkatesh & Davis, 2000; Venkatesh & Bala, 2008) mainly focuses on perceived usefulness and ease of use as central drivers of technology usage. Recently, the unified theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT) of (Venkatesh et al., 2003) has identified four key constructs: performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence, and facilitating conditions. Other researches have looked into the barriers to adoption and use of smart technology: insecurity, lack of functional reliability, perceived complexity, fear of losing control and intrusion into the privacy life (Chouk and Mani, 2016).
If adoption of information technology has received ample research attention, little research is available within smart green applications. Besides, the available literature focuses mostly on energy devices (Paetz et al., 2012), however, with regard to other practices (waste sorting, water consumption, air pollution...) very little research had addressed the issue.
The main purpose of this research is to understand consumers' first reaction to smart green applications. Our main research question is how do consumers perceive smart green interactive devices and what are the main motives and barriers to their adoption?
Given the novelty of the subject about smart interactive technologies for the environment, and the scarcity of previous empirical research about consumer responses towards these devices, we adopted a qualitative approach to gather rich and in-depth data (Patton, 2002). Therefore, this study takes an exploratory approach to identify a more complete set of acceptance and usage barriers and drivers.
Our research was based on a series of in-depth interviews with 23 consumers. Questions about attitude toward technological innovation, environmental concerns and behaviors, as well as socio-demographic information are displayed in the research. The different points of view obtained allowed us to arrive at more general conclusions.
In this study, the photo-elicitation method was used. This method consists of showing pictures to participants to elicit comments. We presented the interviewees with visual images of smart green applications in different domain (energy, water, waste, air pollution) and captured their responses. According to Ndione and Rémy (2018) this technic evokes latent memory and stimulates more emotional statements, it therefore offers much more precise and consistent content (Harper, 2002). The study was carried out in France between February and December 2018. The interviews were fully recorded and transcribed. The data collected were then analyzed using the software Nvivo 12.
Our study showed that the initial responses towards these technologies were very positive. However, they argue that the absence of a personal utility of using the device was the main barrier to its adoption. Another relevant barrier is related to the information overload, the unreliability of smart green interactive devices and the absence of results demonstrability.
The second set of findings is more specific to the environmental context. All respondents liked the fact that they can be more aware of their environmental impact and considered that using smart green devices would help them to be more aware on their environmental impact. However, our results reveal that receiving real-time and negative environmental feedback is a factor of fear, stress and culpability for consumers. Also, all respondents argued that environmental measures are incomprehensible. Consumers aren't able to interpret environmental data and don't necessarily have the right reflex once they receive environmental feedback. Being more explicit about what a consumer can concretely do or change at his level was considered as mandatory for all participants. Finally, contrary to what we might think, personal data and privacy life concerns are not a source of resistance to smart green technologies.
Contribution to Scholarship
This exploratory study expands our knowledge of adoption and use of new technology. The main originality of our results lies in the presence of new findings more specific to the environmental context. Regarding the academic implications, this paper provides additional elements to the theory of acceptance model. That is, the readability of the environmental data, the fear, stress and sense of culpability provided by the negative information related to the environment. Also, the absence of consumer privacy concerns seems to be contrary to the usual result in studies of consumer acceptance of new technology If the literature has emphasized the important risk of personal data in the adoption of the smart devices (ex: Chouk and Mani, 2016), our findings show that this is absolutely not the case when data is used for environmental purposes.
Contribution to Practice
The outcomes of our qualitative research can be useful for marketers. First, they can increase the perception of usefulness by showing to consumers what they may gain in return of their green device usage (external incentives: monetary saving, gamification or other hedonic motivation). Also, in order to enhance the results demonstrability and the reliability of the smart green devices, they should show to consumers tangible and positive evidences of using the smart green device. Furthermore, the devices should transmit a clear message that explains the environmental data and the appropriate green behavior to adopt.
We believe that this study is relevant to this year's conference theme as it focuses on exploring new opportunities and challenge related to the adoption of smart green interactive devices going to be very soon on the market.
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