Serendipity Arrangements Paper Published

My previously in press paper — “Serendipity Arrangements for Exapting Science-Based Innovations” — co-authored with Raghu Garud (Pennsylvania State University) and Antonio Paco Giuliani (IÉSEG School of Management), was published in the Academy of Management Perspectives. The paper is part of a special symposium on “Rethinking the Commercialization of Public Science: From Entrepreneurial Outcomes to Societal Impacts” edited by Riccardo Fini, Einar Rasmussen, Donald Siegel, and Johan Wiklund.

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Serendipity Arrangements Article In Press

Today, my latest article — “Serendipity Arrangements for Exapting Science-Based Innovations” — was published online. Co-authored with Raghu Garud and Antonio Giuliani, the article is forthcoming in the Academy of Management Perspectives, as part of a special issue on “The Commercialization of Science: An Integrative Research Agenda on Managing the Science-Business Interfaces” guested edited by Mike Wright (Imperial College London), Riccardo Fini (University of Bologna), Einar Rasmussen (Nord University), Donald Siegel (State University of New York at Albany), and Johan Wiklund (Syracuse University).

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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.

Dow’s Sustainability Strategy

The March 19, 2012 issue of Fortune featured an interview between Geoff Colvin and Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW).

Entitled “Dow’s New Direction” I found several snipets of the interview to be interesting.

What’s Dow’s strategy now? This is the third great transformation of the company. It started out as an inorganic chemistry company 115 years ago. It became a petrochemical and plastics company. The transformation of the past seven or eight years is to a science-based company that takes feedstocks and adds value to them. So less commodities. We’re bringing in biological science, physics, chemistry, material science.

Basically, Liveris is offering a real-time narrative that makes sense of Dow’s past legacies while seeking to insure Dow’s future relevance. Later, Liveris connects these “great transformations” with Dow’s sustainability journey.

I think we’ve really elevated our position, representing ourselves not as Dow Chemical but as Dow, a company based on sustainable business… “Sustainable” is no longer an option, it’s an adjective — sustainable business, sustainable science, sustainable solutions.

Finally, an interesting comment that I don’t believe has received much attention: sustainability as a recruiting strategy.

Our recruiting strategies have changed with our advertising strategy, rebranding the company around the human element and sustainability, presenting a company that is innovation-centric vs. the notion that it was a legacy company in commodity chemicals.