Fixing concrete: Inquiries, responsibility, power and innovation

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Construction Management and Economics, 2014, 32 (3), pp. 262 - 278
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When public matters go spectacularly wrong an official inquiry often ensues. Such an inquiry, conducted by legal and professional personnel, is an opportunity for learning that carries an obligation to attribute responsibility. The post hoc fixing of responsibility may aid or hinder learning. Learning relates to innovation in products and organizational processes but also new mental models and realty constructions. Accidents are opportunities for such learning and innovation. The philosophical concept of responsibility is first investigated, drawing on Aristotle, before analysis of a major accident that occurred on a prestigious Danish project when fixing concrete beams and its aftermath in an official inquiry. The investigation shows how the accident constituted a watershed, substituting a logic of performativity with a logic of compliance made possible by re-invoking an old model of reality implicitly experimented with on site. Thus, while accidents offer opportunities for innovation, this case shows that they also harbour an obligation to nullify informal and incremental innovations in understanding construction. © 2014 Taylor & Francis.
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