Sub-theme 41: Innovating across Boundaries: Practices of Interorganizational Collaboration

Kristina Lauche
Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Hans Berends
VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Paul R. Carlile
Boston University, USA

Call for Papers

Changes in the global landscape require a reshaping of organizational practices to tackle problems that no single organization can address. Realizing innovative solutions for complex problems calls for establishing, maintaining, and transforming collaboration across organizational boundaries. Such settings are socially and materially complex and layered: collaborative activities involve the creation and integration of practices across boundaries (Carlile, 2002), without recourse to traditional means of organizing such as hierarchy, routines, common knowledge, or organizational culture.

This is even more challenging in the case of temporary (Beck & Plowman, 2014) and dynamic collaboration in evolving ecosystems (Dougherty & Dunne, 2011). Collaborations need to go beyond existing inter- and intra-organizational routines and practices to find emergent paths through processes such as bricolage, experimentation, effectuation and learning. Inter-organizational collaboration requires both novel forms of interaction from the actors involved, but also new conceptualizations of organizing.

In this sub-theme, we aim to further open the black box of inter-organizational collaboration and investigate how collaboration is initiated, maintained, negotiated, and transformed. We build upon the 'turn to practice' in organization studies (Nicolini, 2012) and emerging studies that focused on processes and practices of inter-organizational collaboration (e.g., Berends et al., 2011; Levina & Vaast, 2005; Paquin & Howard-Grenville, 2013; Sydow et al., 2012).

We invite scholars from different disciplinary backgrounds and with different theoretical perspectives to discuss processes and practices of innovating across inter-organizational boundaries. Contributions could come from studies on innovation and renewal in inter-organizational networks, alliances, ecosystems, communities, supply chains, and other forms of collaboration. We encourage process research approaches, as these are particularly appropriate for investigating the dynamics of practices and practicing within and between organizations. Papers on ongoing studies are acceptable, but the emphasis will be on rich empirical studies that inform theoretical debates rather than conceptual papers.

Questions and themes that may be addressed in this sub-theme include, but are not limited to:

  • How do emergent approaches for generating novel solutions, such as bricolage and effectuation, unfold across organizational boundaries?
  • How does the relational context (e.g., power, dependency and trust between partners) affect practices of inter-organizational collaboration?
  • How are inter-organizational practices and routines initiated, maintained, negotiated and transformed over time?
  • How do actors establish mutual forms of influence in settings beyond traditional power structures such as in supply chain management?
  • How do intra-organizational practices and inter-organizational practices interact?
  • How do temporal orientations and temporal structures affect collaboration across boundaries?
  • How do organizations learn to collaborate across boundaries?




  • Beck, T.E., & Plowman, D.A. (2014): "Temporary, Emergent Interorganizational Collaboration in Unexpected Circumstances: A Study of the Columbia Space Shuttle Response Effort." Organization Science, 25 (4), 1234–1252.
  • Berends, H., van Burg, E., & van Raaij, E. (2011): "Contacts and Contracts: Cross-Level Network Dynamics in the Development of an Aircraft Material." Organization Science, 22 (4), 940–960.
  • Carlile, P.R. (2002): "A Pragmatic View of Knowledge and Boundaries: Boundary Objects in New Product Development." Organization Science, 13, 442–455.
  • Dougherty, D., & Dunne, D.D. (2011): "Organizing Ecologies of Complex Innovation." Organization Science, 22 (5), 1214–1223.
  • Levina, N., & Vaast, E. (2005): "The Emergence of Boundary Spanning Competence in Practice: Implications for Implementation and Use of Information Systems." MIS Quarterly, 29 (2), 335–363.
  • Nicolini, D. (2012): Practice Theory, Work, and Organization. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Paquin, R.L., & Howard-Grenville, J. (2013): "Blind Dates and Arranged Marriages: Longitudinal Processes of Network Orchestration." Organization Studies, 34 (11), 1623–1653.
  • Sydow, J., Windeler, A., Schubert, C., & Möllering, G. (2012): "Organizing R&D Consortia for Path Creation and Extension: The Case of Semiconductor Manufacturing Technologies." Organization Studies, 33 (7), 907–936.


Kristina Lauche is the Chair of Organizational Development and Design at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Her research addresses coordination practices across boundaries and innovating as upward influencing processes by which innovators shape organizational strategy.
Hans Berends is Associate Professor of Innovation and Organization in the Knowledge, Information and Innovation (KIN) Research Group at VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His research interests concern process dynamics of innovation, inter-organizational collaboration, and organizational learning.
Paul R. Carlile is Associate Professor of Management and Information Systems at Boston University, USA. His work focuses on how the boundaries between different types of knowledge can be managed to more effectively drive collaboration, innovation and change.