Configurations of craft: alternative models for organizing work
The concept of craft has long lived in the margins of organizational research and has typically been equated with a primitive form of manufacturing. Craft, however, seems to have had a resurgence as of late, and is now increasingly being associated with alternative approaches to work and organization in contemporary society. Yet, in spite of a growing stream of research on the phenomenon, insights have remained fragmented thus far due to a lack of common theoretical infrastructure. In an effort to synthesize the disparate threads of research on craft, we conducted an interpretive review of the use of the concept in management and organizational literature over the past century. Based on this review, we propose a reconceptualization of craft as a timeless approach to work that prioritizes human engagement over machine control. We identify the distinct work skills and attitudes that are typically associated with craft and illustrate how these appear across two conventional configurations (traditional and industrialized craft) and three contemporaneous configurations (technical, pure, and creative craft) that are visible in the literature. Finally, we suggest how our framework could be used as a general theory for understanding alternative approaches to work against the backdrop of growing affordances of machine technology and sketch future research avenues for exploring specific craft-related tensions and evolutionary processes.