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Staying on top of things when at the top. A study of the attentional practices of healthcare CEOs – University of Copenhagen

Staying on top of things when at the top. A study of the attentional practices of healthcare CEOs

CCC invites students, faculty as well as everyone else interested to the lecture series New developments in the intersection between work practices and digital technologies.

Lecturer: Davide Nicolini, Professor of Organization Studies at Warwick Business School. 


Davide Nicollini will in his talk focus on work and information practices. Based on a two-year ethnographic study of CEOs running complex healthcare organizations in England he will present a novel understanding of the CEO’s attentional engagement practices, and of how they try to stay on top of things that happen within and around their organizations.

We find that to activate and encode their attention, studied CEOs relied on a personal arrangement of activities, relationships, and material resources. The signals collected in this way were then continuously connected, weaved, and given meaning through a set of relational and discursive practices. Attention remained active until an actionable understanding emerged. We argue that attentional engagement practices are highly consequential and recursively implicated in how these managers give sense to their work, and perceive themselves. At the same time, they are critical to explaining the specific nature of their job, their social identity, and how this chimes with their customary representations in public. 


Davide Nicollini co-directs the IKON Research Centre and facilitates the Practice, Process and Institution Research Programme. In the past he has held positions and visiting appointments at the University of Oslo, The Tavistock Institute in London, ESADE in Barcelona and the University of Trento and Bergamo in Italy. His current research focuses on the development of the practice-based approach and its application to phenomena such as knowing, collaboration, safety, and technological innovation in organizations. Although these days most of his empirical work is carried out in healthcare organisations, he also studied construction sites, factories, public organizations, cybersecurity, pharmacies, scientific labs and the work of CEOs.