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Constructing learning: adversarial and collaborative working in the British construction industry

Bishop, Dan, Felstead, Alan, Fuller, Alison, Jewson, Nick and Unwin, Lorna (2008) Constructing learning: adversarial and collaborative working in the British construction industry , Cardiff, Wales Cardiff School of Social Sciences 35pp. (Learning as Work Research Paper, 13).

Record type: Monograph (Working Paper)


This paper examines two competing systems of organising the
construction process and their consequences for learning. Under the adversarial system, contractors compete solely on price, risks are shifted onto those next in line and disputes are institutionalised through complicated, but inevitably incomplete, contracts. However, under collaborative working the costs and risks of the project are shared and the parties involved communicate openly and freely, often in the absence of tightly specified contracts. The move from the former to the latter –
prompted and encouraged by government enquiries, large public sector clients and building regulations – represents a shift towards a climate in which problems are shared and solved regardless of where they occur in the productive system (a process conceptualised as ‘knotworking’ in the literature). The paper argues that such learning theories and policy pressures from above fail to take adequately into account the heavy hand
of history and the importance of understanding the nature of the
productive systems in which ‘knotworking’ is expected to occur. Both are important in understanding the fragility of collaborative working across the stages and structures of the construction production process which place limits on making ‘knotworking’ an habitual and commonplace activity.

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Published date: January 2008


Local EPrints ID: 63794
PURE UUID: 7da56394-9b79-4859-ae04-538fc4948f61

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Date deposited: 04 Nov 2008
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 14:15

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Author: Dan Bishop
Author: Alan Felstead
Author: Alison Fuller
Author: Nick Jewson
Author: Lorna Unwin

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