Material artifacts: practices for doing strategy with 'stuff'

Paula Jarzabkowski, Paul Spee, Michael Smets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41–54
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Management Journal
Issue number1
Early online date18 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in European management journal. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Jarzabkowski, P, Spee, P & Smets, M, 'Material artifacts: practices for doing strategy with 'stuff'' European management journal, vol. 31, no. 1 (2013) DOI 10.1016/j.emj.2012.09.001


  • sociomateriality
  • professional service firms
  • reinsurance
  • risk


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