Sub-theme 21: Self-Reinforcing Processes in Organizations, Networks and Professions

Jörg Sydow
Dept. of Management, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Amalya L. Oliver
Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Georg Schreyögg
Dept. of Management, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Call for Papers


This sub-theme will foster the exchange of theoretical ideas and empirical insights that might be conducive to further understanding self-reinforcing mechanisms that feature prominently in organizations and other kinds of organized collectivities. 'Self-reinforcement dynamics' are defined as a process of positive feedback in which the increase of a particular variable leads to a further increase of this very variable. Examples of such intended and unintended processes, which bring about an action pattern which eventually becomes deeply embedded in (inter-)organizational or professional practice, are self-justification, increasing returns, positive and negative network externalities, and adjusting expectations.

The sub-theme particularly invites contributions that focus on one or more of the following issues:

  • The role of triggering events and actions in self-reinforcing processes
  • Organizational learning and self-reinforcing dynamics
  • The logic of self-reinforcing mechanisms and their development over time (network effects, economies of scale, complementarities, etc.)
  • Surfacing self-reinforcing patterns in organizations and/or professions: making self-reinforcing dynamics reflexive
  • Studying self-reinforcing processes and systemic practices in organizations and/or professions, e.g. the mutual institutionalization of professional roles and professional schools
  • Analyzing self-reinforcing processes in inter-organizational relations and practices, focusing, e.g., on science-industry relations, regional clusters, local and global financial markets, etc.
  • The interaction between self-reinforcing processes at different levels (individual, group, organizational, network, field, profession) and the underlying linkages
  • Breaking the code: to stop self-reinforcement with the help of intentional and unintentional activities (e.g. stopping events, break outs, paradoxical interventions by third party, or designing unlearning patterns)
  • Designing self-reinforcing mechanisms?
  • Characteristics of "lock-in" stages and related events

The sub-theme intends to foster an exchange of theoretical ideas and empirical research results across various substantive issues that are important for the better understanding of self-reinforcing dynamics. Papers that discuss such substantive issues, and possibly others, empirically or conceptually, comparatively or monographically, with regard to recent or more historical developments, are cordially invited.

The sub-theme wishes to attract both high-quality contributions that are ready to be submitted to a scholarly journal as well as research in progress that is exploring these issues as a first step. It seeks to provide an opportunity for engaging in constructive dialogue and to encourage mutual learning among the participating scholars. Papers will be distributed ahead of the Colloquium. All paper presentations will be commented by a discussant from the group. Session leaders will be asked to provide an open and encouraging atmosphere for discussion. Special discussants will be asked to summarize the discussions of at the end of each of the three days, thereby cutting across the various papers presented on that day. In order to allow for as much discussion as possible among the participating scholars, paper presentations will be restricted to 15–20 minutes.


Jörg Sydow JÖRG SYDOW is Professor of Management and Inter-firm Cooperation at the School of Business & Economics of the Freie Universität Berlin, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde’s Graduate School of Business. His recent research focuses on management and organization theory; strategic part¬nering and inter-firm networking, especially in service- and science-based industries; technology and innovation manage-ment, especially the management of innovation networks and clusters; management of temporary systems, and industrial relations.
Amalya L. Oliver is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her recent research involves inter-organizational networks, university-industry technology transfer, scientific entrepre-neurship, scientific misconduct and change processes within professions
Georg Schreyögg GEORG SCHREYÖGG is Professor of Management and Organization Studies at the School of Business & Economics of the Freie Universität Berlin. Formerly, he was Pro-fessor of Organization Studies at the FernUniversität Hagen und Universität Bamberg. He received his doctoral degree from the Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. His recent research has focused on organizational change, path dependence, and organiza-tional capabilities.