Material artifacts: Practices for doing strategy with ‘stuff’

Jarzabkowski, Paula, Spee, Paul and Smets, Michael (2013) Material artifacts: Practices for doing strategy with ‘stuff’. European Management Journal, 31 (1). pp. 41-54.


This paper addresses the dearth of research into material artifacts and how they are engaged in strategizing activities. Building on the strategy-as-practice perspective, and the notion of epistemic objects, we develop a typology of strategy practices that show how managers use material artifacts to strategize by a dual process of knowledge abstraction and substitution. Empirically, we study the practice of underwriting managers in reinsurance companies. Our findings first identify the artifacts – pictures, maps, data packs, spreadsheets and graphs – that these managers use to appraise reinsurance deals. Second, the analysis of each artifact’s situated use led to the identification of five practices for doing strategy with artifacts: physicalizing, locating, enumerating, analyzing, and selecting. Last, we developed a typology that shows how practices vary in terms of their level of abstraction from the physical properties of the risk being reinsured and unfold through a process of substituting. Our conceptual framework extends existing work in the strategy-as-practice field that calls for research into the role of material artifacts.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Strategizing; Epistemic objects; Strategy-as-practice
Subject(s): Professional services
Centre: Centre for Professional Firms
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2014 14:10
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 10:27
Funders: Not Applicable

Actions (login required)

Edit View Edit View