2018-2021 EGOS SWG Institutions, Innovation, Impact

EGOS Standing Working Group (SWG)
Institutions, Innovation, Impact: How Institutional Theory Matters


  • Joel Gehman, University of Alberta, Canada
  • Nina Granqvist, Aalto University, Finland
  • Markus A. Höllerer, WU Vienna & UNSW, Austria & Australia
  • Silvia Dorado, University of Rhode Island, USA

While the question of how institutional theory matters is, in some respects, an old one, we believe the time is ripe to revisit it. Institutions both impact and are impacted by the ongoing transformation of technologies and other material arrangements, as well as changes in practices – the habitual ways of doing and engaging with various objects. Indeed, institutions only exist through the actors that inhabit and recreate them in their daily activities, and thus, are inherently dynamic. Currently, societies around the globe are confronted with diverse grand challenges: financial upheavals, climate change, income inequality, and refugee crises, to name only a few. New ways of organizing in business (e.g., Uber, MTurk, AirBnB), government (e.g., open government initiatives), and civi society (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) are creating new opportunities and practices – and redefine the traditional governance structures in place.

These changes challenge the rules, norms, and behaviors that defined societies in the 20th century and highlight the need for better understanding both the organic emergence and the possibilities for altering extant institutions and creating entirely new arrangements. Recent examples include new regulatory frameworks (e.g., Benefit Corporations, Community Interest Companies) allowing novel social sector organizations; new social processes and movements (e.g., the rise of nativist politics, or anti-austerity demonstrations in Europe) challenge established structures; and alternative market mechanisms (e.g., peer-to-peer platforms, crowdfunding, or the ‘gig economy’) define new entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Accordingly, the time seems right to ask: How does institutional research matter to issues related to technological changes? How does it matter to those interested in the role of strategic action to engage these grand challenges? How do these issues (i.e., the pace of innovation; the perceived urgency of addressing grand challenges) test some of our longstanding assumptions and understandings of institutions? And what do we, as a scholarly community, have to say about the limitations and power of institutional theory to comprehend and navigate these issues? In short, now more than ever, institutional theory matters. This SWG is designed to harness scholarly contributions and to stimulate new learning related to these themes.

Planned events: