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Flexible Firm: The Design of Culture at Bang & Olufsen

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Flexible Firm

The Design of Culture at Bang & Olufsen

Jakob Krause-Jensen

318 pages, 16 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-84545-668-9 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2010)

ISBN  978-1-78238-031-3 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (May 2013)

eISBN 978-1-84545-824-9 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Shortlisted for the 2012 Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Prize

“[This book] certainly deserves to be added to the pile of worthy organizational ethnographies that should be around for longer than the latest issue of a journal. Ethnography doesn’t have ‘findings’ really, apart from endlessly gnawing away at the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them,’ between the familiar and the strange.  ·  Administrative Science Quarterly

This fascinating book…provides a rich and reflexive account of culture in the making, how the company articulates its collective identity through the use of concepts such as’culture, fundamental values, and ‘corporate religion…While this is a fine ethnography of a particular organization, the book deserves, however, to be read as more than that. The analytical ambitions of the book take us somewhat beyond the organizational boundaries and into an engagement with cultural processes and theoretical issues of wider scope.  ·  Ethnos

We have here a very interesting ethnographical field study of a Danish high-tech firm…Peppered with anthropology, ethnography and organisational studies theory, as well as sociology, cultural studies and elements of other fields, this book offers a rich theoretical background for any organisational analysis…Although it includes a large amount of theory, this book can almost be read as a ‘novel’ telling the story of Bang & Olufsen.”  ·  Management

"As elegant as its subject, Denmark’s Bang &Olufsen, this affably written and sharp-eyed ethnography achieves a new standard in the emerging field of the anthropology of corporate organization."  ·  George E. Marcus, author of Writing Culture. The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography


Bang & Olufsen, the famous Danish producer of high-end home electronics, is well known as an early exponent of value-based management: the idea that there should be consistency in what the organisation does, a certain continuity between what the company develops and sells, and the beliefs and practices of the employees. This study investigates how company values are communicated and the collective identity is articulated through the use of such concepts as ‘culture’, ‘fundamental values’, and ‘corporate religion’, as well as how employees negotiate these ideas in their daily working lives. As this book reveals, the identification of values, meant to create cohesion and solidarity among employees, came to symbolise and engender a split between the staff and the other parts of the company. By examining the rise and fall of the value-based management approach, this volume offers the indispensible insight of anthropological enquiry to expose how social realities challenge conventional management strategies and therefore must be considered in the development of new management techniques.

Jakob Krause-Jensen is an anthropologist and Associate Professor at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. His research focuses on the way ethnographic methods and anthropological theory can be used to understand organizations and the life within them in critical and creative ways.

Subject: Applied Anthropology
Area: Northern Europe


by John Van Maanen


Chapter 1. Starting Fieldwork on ‘the Farm’
Chapter 2. ‘Reflexibility’—the Methodology of Fieldwork Among Lay Ethnographers
Chapter 3. The Power of Culture
Chapter 4. Farm, Factory, Firm - the Culture of Design and the Design of Culture
Chapter 5. Breakpoint: Metaphors of Change
Chapter 6. From ’Corporate Identity Components’ to ’Fundamental Values’
Chapter 7. ’Brand Religion’- and Voices of Heresy
Chapter 8. Working With Human Resources
Chapter 9. How To Do Things With Words
Chapter 10. The Social Significance of Flexibility
Chapter 11. Conclusion

Postscript: 5 years later - Bang & Olufsen revisited


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