Knowledge Co-creation in Design Games: Conversation Analysis of an Interorganizational Design Game Session

Otso Hannula

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


The development of organizations depends on their ability to create knowledge: the capabilities of organizations are tied to the knowledge of individuals and groups, but knowledge in organizations also takes the form of conceptual artefacts, such as the designs of products and services, and the organizations' ways of working. Prior research has shown that new knowledge is often created at the boundaries between communities-of-practice such as professional disciplines or organizational departments. In knowledge co-creation, especially relevant conceptual artefacts are developed in interaction between members of various communities-of-practice. However, there is a lack of research on how knowledge co-creation takes place in interpersonal interaction. To address the gap, this thesis brings together literature on knowledge co-creation, conversation analysis and design games. Design games are a methodology originating from participatory design in which knowledge co-creation takes place using a physical game. Knowledge co-creation is defined in this thesis as interaction between people from various communities-of-practice, where an interorganizationally relevant conceptual artefact, i.e. an epistemic object, is developed. Development of an epistemic object takes place through distinctions, i.e. verbal statements that define the epistemic object in novel ways. The empirical case of this thesis is a session where a group of professionals led by a facilitator played the design game ATLAS to create a plan for a joint project between two organizations. The session was recorded, and conversation analysis was applied to study knowledge co-creation at the level of turns-at-talk. The findings of this thesis identified a total of 156 knowledge co-creation sequences, each of which contained offering a distinction about the project plan, which was the epistemic object being developed. Each offer had a response that determined whether the offer resulted in a change in the epistemic object, and thus determined whether new knowledge was created. Based on the responses, the sequences were divided into productive dialogue where new knowledge was co-created, and non-productive dialogue in which knowledge was not co-created. The results of this thesis 1) show how knowledge co-creation sequences lead to the creation of distinctions in design games, 2) show how a game structure guides the collective creation of distinctions and promotes productive dialogue by providing an overall sequential organization and game goals for the interaction. In addition, this thesis provides a framework for the effects of design games on knowledge co-creation: design games provide physical, social, conceptual and structural support. This work contributes to the literature by providing a model for understanding knowledge co-creation as productive dialogue consisting of individual turns-at-talk that prompt, offer and accept distinctions, and by describing how design games can support the creation of distinctions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Smeds, Riitta, Supervisor
  • Harviainen, J. Tuomas, Advisor
  • Hirvensalo, Antero, Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-3824-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3827-8
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • knowledge co-creation
  • knowledge creation
  • distinction
  • design games
  • conceptual artefacts
  • knowledge building
  • boundary objects
  • epistemic objects

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