Practices of isolation: The shaping of project autonomy in innovation projects

Thijs Willems, Alfons van Marrewijk, Lizet Kuitert, Leentje Volker, Marleen Hermans

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13 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


A project's autonomy, the degree to which a project can evolve without constant interference from the parent organization, is a key feature of innovation projects. The literature treats autonomy as a passive phenomenon and underestimates how projects as temporary organizations interact with more permanent forms of organizations. A dynamic and contextually sensitive understanding of project autonomy is valuable; autonomy can change over the course of the project's lifecycle and evolve into extreme isolation. We show how autonomy is shaped through practices of isolation and how this influences project outcomes. Two innovation projects were studied through qualitative\055interpretive methods and we analyzed symbolic, discursive and spatial practices of isolation. These practices facilitate the exploration of innovations but limit the transmission of these innovations to the parent organization. We contribute to the literature on temporary organizations and project-to-parent integration by illustrating and theorizing the role of practices of isolation in this process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-228
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Project Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project

Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Innovation
  • Isolation practices
  • Project autonomy
  • Project-to-parent integration
  • Temporary organizations


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