The Organization of Concerns

Corporations, governments and nonprofits often organize themselves in response to various concerns. My research in this area investigates, empirically, the strategies and practices organizations have pursued in response to sustainability and values concerns, and theoretically, the strengths and limitations of alternative arrangements for addressing sustainability and values concerns. This work has been supported by the Alberta School of Business and the Smeal College of Business.

Metatheoretical Perspectives on Sustainability Journeys. Drawing inspiration from Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision, in 2012, Raghu Garud (Pennsylvania State University) and I co-authored “Metatheoretical Perspectives on Sustainability Journeys: Evolutionary, Relational and Durational.” The paper was part of a Research Policy special issue on sustainability transitions that won the Chris Freeman Award from the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) for “a significant collective contribution to the interaction of science and technology studies with the study of innovation.” I have given several talks based on this research, including the Eric Geddes Lecture at University of Alberta, April 30, 2013; and at TBC Corporation (a subsidiary of Sumitomo Corporation), August 14, 2013.

Related publications:

Garud, R. & Gehman, J. 2012. Metatheoretical Perspectives on Sustainability Journeys: Evolutionary, Relational and Durational. Research Policy. 41(6): 980-995.

Categorical Cleaning. My dissertation investigated how multinational firms respond to negative sustainability ratings. Building on cultural theory, I theorized that firms might purify themselves through divestitures, a mechanism I dubbed “categorical cleaning.” Using panel of diversified firms from 1992 to 2010, I found that negative sustainability ratings are related to divestitures, leading me to propose a cultural perspective on organizational boundaries, as well as implications for divestitures research, categorization theory, and sustainability research. I have presented this work at a variety of universities, including Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business; Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management; HEC Paris (Hautes Études Commerciales de Paris); University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business; Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management; University of New Mexico, Anderson School of Management; McGill University, Desautels Faculty of Management; and University of Alberta, Alberta School of Business. A paper based on my dissertation was presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston, August 3, 2012, where it won the Best Paper on Environmental and Social Practices Award from the Organization and Management Theory Division. Additionally, my dissertation was a finalist or nominee for the Emerald Best International Dissertation Award, the Organizations and the Natural Environment Division Best Dissertation Award, the Society for Business Ethics Best Dissertation Award and the Penn State Alumni Association Best Dissertation Award.

Related publications:

Gehman, Joel. 2012. Sustainability by Dissociation: Categorization, Divestitures and Organizational Boundaries. Pennsylvania State University. University Park.

Values Work. Understanding values in and around organizations is a longstanding interest to management scholars, executives and consultants. However, cognitive and cultural perspectives on values have under-theorized the processes whereby values come to be practiced in organizations. We address this lacuna by studying the emergence and performance of what we call values practices. Drawing on an analysis of the development of an honor code within a large business school, we theorized the multiple kinds of values work involved in dealing with pockets of concern, knotting local concerns into action networks, performing values practices, and circulating values discourse. Published in February 2013, this paper ranked among the Top 50 Most-Read AMJ Articles for the next six months: #5 in March, #14 in April, #36 in May, #39 in June, #37 in July, and #50 in August. An earlier version of this research was presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Montreal, August 9, 2010.

Related publications:

Gehman, J., Treviño, L.K. & Garud, R. 2013. Values Work: A Process Study of the Emergence and Performance of Organizational Values Practices. Academy of Management Journal. 56(1): 84-112.

The Organization of Scientific Concerns. With Raghu Garud (Pennsylvania State University) and Arvind Karunakaran (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), I analyzed the 2009 Climategate email controversy, which prompted questions about the credibility of climate science and the legitimacy of some of the climate scientists’ practices. Multiple investigations unfolded to repair the boundary that had been breached. While exonerating the scientists of wrongdoing and endorsing the legitimacy of the consensus opinion, the investigating committees suggested revisions to some scientific practices. Despite this boundary repair work, the credibility and legitimacy of the scientific enterprise were not fully restored in the eyes of several stakeholders. We explored why this was the case, identified boundary bridging approaches to address these issues, and highlighted policy implications. Earlier versions of this research were presented at Débordements, Mines ParisTech, December 17, 2010; and the Academy of Management Annual Meeting, Boston, August 5, 2012.

Related publications:

Garud, R., Gehman, J. & Karunakaran, A. 2014. Boundaries, Breaches and Bridges: The Case of Climategate. Research Policy. 43(1): 60-73

Garud, R. & Gehman, J. 2010. Procrustean Transformations: Climategate, Scientific Controversies, and Hope. In M. Akrich, Y. Barthe, F. Muniesa, and P. Mustar (eds), Débordements: Mélanges Offerts à Michel Callon. Presses des Mines. 153-167.

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