Tinkering with technology: Human factors, work redesign, and professionals in workplace innovation

Richard Badham, Pelle Ehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


I have been an organization tinker for about twenty years. I tinker for, and with, many types of organizations... The Concise Oxford Dictionary (21951) defines a tinker (among other things) as: `a mender (especially itinerant), a rough and ready worker, a botcher, one who patches in an amateurish and clumsy fashion by way of repair or alteration....' Organization tinkers patch, alter, and repair organizations in a rough and ready fashion. The practice has a long and honourable history ... but whatever tools he may be carrying in his knapsack, whatever his sales pitch, the tinker is fundamentally a botcher, a patcher, and, in the pejorative sense of the word, an amateur. His approach is that of trial-and-error, suck-it-and-see. His tools are simple, his techniques crude and clumsy, his familiarity and understanding of his raw material relatively slight. To tinker with something is not to know what it is you are doing... Few organization development consultants are craftsmen. Most of us are tinkers exhibiting some degree of skill but little artistry. Our practice runs well ahead of our understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-82
Number of pages22
JournalHuman Factors and Ergonomics In Manufacturing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


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