2013 Emerald Best International Dissertation Award Finalists

My dissertation– Sustainability by Dissociation: Categorization, Divestitures, and Organizational Boundaries — was selected as a finalist by the Academy of Management International Theme Committee (ITC) for the 2013 Emerald Best International Dissertation Award. The 2013 selection committee consisted of David Patient (Chair); Anders Dysvik, Norwegian Business School; Sébastien Mena, University of Alberta; and Radha R. Sharma, Management Development Institute. The winner will be announced at the Carolyn Dexter Award Reception on Sunday, August 11, 2013.

2013 Society for Business Ethics Best Dissertation Award Finalist

Today I learned my dissertation — Sustainability by Dissociation: Categorization, Divestitures, and Organizational Boundaries — was selected by the Society for Business Ethics as one of three finalists for its 2013 Best Dissertation Award. The winner will be announced at its annual meeting in August.

Upcoming Talks

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve heard back on several conference submissions. Below is a summary of some upcoming talks.

Putting B-Corp Certification to Work? Differences in Cultural Entrepreneurship within an Emerging Category. With Matthew Grimes. Sustainability, Ethics and Entrepreneurship Annual Conference; Denver, April 2013.

The “B-Corp certification” is a recent endeavor requiring that organizations complete a social impact assessment and make changes to key corporate governance documents that specify the importance of social impact to the organizations. Despite increased organizational interest and adoption of the B-Corp certification as a cultural resource, we have found meaningful variation in the degree to which certified B-Corps associate with the certification, highlighting a gap in research on cultural entrepreneurship.  As such this research explores how organizations within an emerging market category vary in their use of cultural resources and what factors explain this variation. Our work contributes to theories of cultural entrepreneurship as well as the study of sustainable organizations.


Predatory Selection: An Analysis of Cultural Vulnerability and Opportunity Exploitation in Marcellus Shale Drilling, 2004-2011. With Dror Etzion. Inequality, Institutions and Organizations Conference. Simon Fraser University; Vancouver, June 2013.

Prior research on opportunity exploitation has generally conceptualized opportunities as scarce and fleeting. However, organizations often find themselves confronted with the opposite problem – abundant opportunities relative to their available financial, human and temporal resources. But in that case, how do organizations prioritize multiple competing exploitation opportunities? In this paper we link emerging cultural perspectives in organization studies together with community health and environmental justice studies, and propose the concept of cultural vulnerability as a way of meaningfully assessing differences in exploitation opportunities across geographies. Our core hypothesis is that firms are likely to prioritize their exploitation opportunities through a process we call predatory selection. That is, opportunities located in areas of greater cultural vulnerability are likely to be exploited first, all other factors being equal. To empirically test our proposition, we study how oil and gas exploration companies prioritize among available unconventional drilling locations. Our study utilizes a large-scale, longitudinal panel of oil and gas wells in the Marcellus Formation in Pennsylvania, considered one of the largest unconventional shale gas plays in the world.

Categorical Dynamics: Sociomaterial Processes of Category Emergence and Performance. With Raghu Garud and Peter Karnøe. Subtheme 48: The Emergence of Categories, Identities, Fields and Organizational Forms; European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium; Montreal, July 2013.

Questions about categories, the dynamics of their emergence and performance, and the naturalization and transformation of their various meanings and consequences are part of an ongoing research program that spans multiple levels and domains. Taking as its starting point a view of categories as materially anchored, institutionally performed, socially relevant and entrepreneurially negotiated, we are interested in theorizing some of the mechanisms involved in these categorical processes. For instance, under what conditions do categorical dynamics lead to convergence of the various interpretations involved? The assumption that such convergence occurs is the mainstay of the Bayesian updating hypothesis. However, our work shows that there is a considerable contestation around categories (whether they are descriptive or evaluative). Thus, categorical dynamics may be driven both by centripetal and centrifugal forces. If so, then under what conditions do members of a field (e.g., Fligstein & McAdam, 2012) come together, and when might they break apart? These are just some of the issues we are currently theorizing.

The Meaning of Water: Institutional Complexity and Strategic Practice in Issue Driven Fields. With Miriam Wolf and Krsto Pandza. Subtheme 48: The Emergence of Categories, Identities, Fields and Organizational Forms; European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium; Montreal, July 2013.

Literature on practice and institutional complexity has addressed the question how actors deal with the challenges that emerge from reproducing habitual practices in the context of multiple, competing logics. In this paper, we propose a more nuanced conception of practice and suggest that in the context of institutional complexity, agents are more likely to engage in a projective and strategic rather than iterative, habitual mode of agency. Drawing on a case study in an issue driven policy field, we explore the practices an actor draws on in order to influence the meaning of the issue of water in the context of multiple and competing meanings. We identify three strategic practices: appraising, legitimizing and materializing. Building on our empirical insights, we theorize that institutional complexity provides actors with a toolkit of discursive resources they strategically draw on in order to influence the creation of meaning within issue driven fields.

Cultural Perspectives on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Professional Development Workshop. Academy of Management Annual Meeting; Lake Buena Vista, August 2013.

This Professional Development Workshop (PDW) is designed to offer participants hands-on experience studying entrepreneurship and innovation through theoretical and empirical approaches associated with cultural sociology. The backdrop for the PDW is increasing recognition across entrepreneurship and innovation research that cultural resources such as frames, discourses or narratives are an integral part of an on-going process by which entrepreneurs create new ventures or innovations and communicate about them with their stakeholders to acquire much needed capital and support (e.g., Bartel and Garud, 2008; Lounsbury & Glynn, 2001). Although the role of culture in general, and of narratives in particular, has been acknowledged in prior research, this area remains theoretically and empirically underdeveloped and methodological protocols have yet to be solidified. Given growing interest in adopting cultural approaches to understanding the nature of entrepreneurship and innovation, in this PDW we aim to provide direct access to a valuable set of theoretical and methodological resources and protocols for exploring questions of entrepreneurship and innovation within different institutional contexts. Thus, the purpose of this PDW is to bring together individuals from entrepreneurship, innovation and organization theory who are experienced in the use of cultural and narrative approaches to run a PDW, which will enable others to do more work in this area. PhD students and junior scholars with data on entrepreneurial or innovative activities who are interested in adopting such an approach will benefit from the workshop.

Sociomaterial Processes of Category Emergence and Naturalization

This past week, at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Boston, I was part of a workshop entitled: Revealing the Cultural in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The other presenters, discussants and organizers included included:

  • Jean Clarke; University of Leeds
  • Joep Cornelissen; VU University Amsterdam
  • Davide Ravasi; Bocconi University
  • Tyler Wry; University of Pennsylvania
  • Krsto Pandza; University of Leeds
  • Howard Aldrich; University of North Carolina
  • Miriam Wolf; University of Leeds
  • Robin Holt; University of Liverpool
  • Charlotte Coleman; University of Leeds

My talk was on Sociomaterial Processes of Category Emergence and Naturalization. It drew on two of my existing papers, as well as ongoing work.

The presentation is available through Slideshare.

Categorization by Association Paper Reviewed in ASQ

My first publication — Categorization by Association: Nuclear Technology and Emission-Free Electricity — was coauthored with Raghu Garud and Peter Karnøe and appeared in Research in the Sociology of Work, Volume 21: Institutions and Entrepreneurship, edited by Wesley D. Sine and Robert J. David. Other contributors to the volume included W. Richard Scott, Howard Aldrich, Mary Ann Glynn, Candace Jones, Stephen J. Mezias, Theresa K. Lant, Paul Ingram, Chad Navis, Jason Owen-Smith, Paul Ingram, Philippe Monin and others.

The entire volume was reviewed in the latest issue of Administrative Science Quarterly by Klaus Weber of Northwestern University. According to Weber, the eleven chapters “work well as a collection, balancing diversity with a clear sense that the contributors are indeed part of the same conversation.”

Regarding our chapter, Weber writes:

In “Categorization by Association: Nuclear Technology and Emission-free Electricity,” Garud, Gehman, and Karnøe examine entrepreneurial meaning-making. Their study documents changes in the associative meanings of nuclear technology over several decades and provides an account of the agents and material arrangements that influenced this evolution.

Categorization by Association can be downloaded for free at SSRN.

My First Publication

I’m very pleased to report that a paper I began working on in September 2008 has recently been published, which is actually quite rapid as these things go. (If you need immediate gratification, a career in academics is probably not for you.)

Institutions and Entrepreneurship

The paper is called Categorization by Association: Nuclear Technology and Emission-Free Electricity. In the paper we (Raghu Garud, Peter Karnøe and I) analyze the categorization of nuclear technology from 1945 to 2010. In particular, we were intrigued to understand how a technology once categorized as an atomic bomb has been able to transform itself into a technology now considered as a potential source of sustainable and emission-free electricity. Of note, our paper draws on actor network theory and a sociology of associations perspective, and conceptualizes technologies as sociomaterial — that is,  materially anchored, institutionally performed, socially relevant and entrepreneurially negotiated. Based on our findings, we consider some implications for our theoretical understanding of categorization processes. Specifically, we propose that it may be useful to re-conceptualize categories as a relational phenomenon. Rather than being established once and for all, categories can be understood as always in the making. We then suggest directions for future research that such an insight opens up.

The paper appears in Research in the Sociology of Work Volume 21: Institutions and Entrepreneurship, edited by Wesley D. Sine and Robert J. David. Other contributors to the volume include: W. Richard Scott, Howard Aldrich, Mary Ann Glynn, Candace Jones, Stephen J. Mezias , Theresa K. Lant, Paul Ingram, Jason Owen-Smith, Paul Ingram, Philippe Monin and others.

Along the way, my co-authors and I were privileged to have presented working versions of the paper at a number of conferences, including the European Group for Organization Studies Colloquium (July 2009), the Medici Summer School in Management Studies (July 2009), the Wharton Technology Conference (April 2010), the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (June 2010), the Cultural Entrepreneurship Network Workshop (June 2010), the Academy of Management (August 2010), and the West Coast Research Symposium (August 2010).