Affordance-based problem structuring for workplace innovation

Christopher M. Durugbo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Problem structuring methods (PSMs) are operational research (OR) techniques commonly used to investigate and capture the multidimensional and complex nature of situations. This article proposes a novel PSM, termed the situational affordance structuring approach (SASA), for structuring work situations with a view to identifying opportunities for workplace innovation. SASA involves a series of sense-making principles to define work systems, source operational data, gather domain information, and represent situational knowledge using an abstraction-decomposition space (ADS) diagram. The ADS representation is premised on the theory of affordances which posits that objects and events possess inherent meaning as detected and exploited by users. The article intends to support the OR community by introducing the ADS as a novel approach to represent situations during problem structuring and presents findings from a case example involving the use of SASA for industrial design. The case involves an expert-led approach to unravelling perceived messiness in work situations with particular emphasis on representing the situational knowledge of the industrial domain using an ADS. SASA is a novel and unique PSM in two main ways: (i) it is inspired by ecological psychology with an emphasis on the affordances of work situations, and (ii) it uses the ADS as an artefact to illustrate the superior-subordinate arrangements associated with perceived messiness in structured (or semi-structured) work situations. The article also discusses the research implications, practical relevance of the study for the OR field, research limitations and possible future research directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-631
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Affordances
  • Behavioural operations
  • Problem structuring


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