Languages and Cultures in Cooperative Decision Making

Placement Details

Location: Flexible. Although we anticipate remote working, we would hope for some in-person visits and face to face meet-ups.


Duration: 3 months full time/ 6 months part time

Start Date: Flexible, to be decided between the student and the placement host

Deadline for Expressions of Interest: Friday 29 April

Placement Description:

Functional specialisation has been integral to the development of modern, industrial societies, with early texts such as Adam Smith’s Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1763) promoting the efficiency gains of a ‘division of labour’. In today’s industrial/post-industrial society, and despite the drive for ‘flat’ or ‘fluid’ organisational structures within certain sectors, it remains common for businesses to be divided into departments or divisions, clustering individuals with specific functions and specialist skills. Typically, these different business domains are driven by devolved local targets. This in turn leads often to the development of local languages, cultures, purposes and modes of thinking which can be inimical to effective, shared decision making.

BT, as a very large organisation concerned with optimising the development of technical and operational processes, wishes to find ways to break down the linguistic and cultural barriers between different local purposes and forms of knowledge, to facilitate the creation of more holistic solutions to problems and opportunities.  The placement will involve working with Principal Research (Business Transformation) to map and then find ways to transcend or translate departments’ differing languages, cultures and modes of thought.

The placement, into which the chosen candidate will have significant design input, will likely involve:

  • Desk research into relevant academic work on occupational sub-cultures and consideration of potential insights from other industries or contexts.
  • Exploratory interviews with individuals involved in decision-making within BT.
  • Engagement in the organisation and delivery of thinking workshops.
  • Development of a potential framework to capture and communicate Stakeholder perspectives as the project moves forward.


The advantages of undertaking this placement include:

  • An interesting intellectual challenge.
  • The opportunity to develop a broad range of transferable skills, including interviewing technique, data handling and report writing.
  • Experience of a commercial workplace and of a diverse range of different departments therein.
  • The opportunity to help develop an important framework for understanding the impact of language on attitudes and behaviours associated with risk (and its management) within the workplace.

BT has supplied a PowerPoint slide with additional information pertaining to this placement which is available on request.


Skills, knowledge or experience needed:

This placement is open to all Open-Oxford-Cambridge DTP students but may be of particular interest to students based in:

  • language and linguistics
  • anthropology
  • history (particularly history of business/science of ideas)
  • philosophy
  • law
  • design 

Experience of one-to-one interviews would be helpful but is not a requirement.

To apply:

To express interest in this placement, please submit a CV, supporting statement, and a very brief summary of what attracted you to the project and some thoughts on how you may approach the work. Please send these documents to by Friday 29 April 2022.