Sub-theme 32: Hybrid Organizations and Organizing: Coping with Uncertainty and Creating the Unexpected

Tommaso Ramus
Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal
Antonino Vaccaro
IESE Business School, Spain
Francesco Rullani
LUISS University, Italy

Call for Papers

It is widely recognized that organizations cope with increasingly instable and complex institutional fields due to the emergence of unexpected stakeholders’ pressures (Toubiana & Zietsma, 2017), changes in regulations (Reay & Hinings, 2009), and unpredicted market jolts (Almandoz, 2012) that transform fields’ characteristics. Organizations’ survival and performance thus depend on their capacity to navigate this complexity and uncertainty (Ramus et al., 2017). Yet, scholars have also shown that organizations not only react to instability and complexity, but also cause it, intentionally or unintentionally, by developing and spreading new institutional arrangements that can transform institutional fields (Smets et al., 2012) and create unexpected space for the emergence of new market and entrepreneurial opportunities (York et al., 2016). A growing research stream has suggested that hybrid organizations (Battilana & Lee, 2014) can be particularly effective in coping with situations of unexpected uncertainty and complexity (Almandoz, 2012), as well as in precipitating surprising transformation of institutional fields where they operate (Tracey et al., 2011).
Hybrid organizations recombine in innovative ways multiple institutional elements – institutional logics (Mongelli et al., 2017; Pache & Santos, 2013), identities (Glynn, 2000) and organizational forms (Battilana et al., 2015) – and can therefore build on a broad institutional repertoire to develop innovative arrangements to navigate complexity and uncertainty (Battilana & Lee, 2014). These innovations can also spread and become assimilated at the field level, or lead to a more radical transformation of the overall institutional arrangements characterizing a field (York et al., 2016) and impact society at large (Mongelli & Rullani, 2017). However, hybrids also face unique challenges for their sustainability, in particular when they face unpredicted exogenous shocks that exacerbate the inconsistency of the elements that they recombine (Ramus et al., 2016) or trigger negative emotions among organizational members (Toubiana & Zietsma, 2017). So, while hybrid organizations can be a locus of learning, innovation and change (Besharov & Smith, 2014), they may also experience disorder and tensions (Battilana et al., 2015).
To expand our knowledge of hybrid organizations we invite papers from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches. Questions of interest include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Institutional fields influence on hybrid organizations: How does the (changing) structure of an institutional field influence hybrid organizations? Under which conditions unexpected institutional jolts become a source of opportunities/tensions for hybrids? What can hybrids learn from changes in the institutional environment? How can hybrids prepare themselves to cope with institutional jolts?

  • Hybrid organizations influence on institutional fields: How and under which conditions hybrids can change the structure and characteristics of a field? What are the expected and unexpected effects of hybrids on the structure of institutional fields? How can hybrids legitimize themselves and their innovations? What are the expected and unexpected effects of legitimacy threats?

  • Hybrid organizations, innovation and organizational change: What are the intended and unintended effects of hybrid organizations’ efforts to recombine divergent elements? How can hybrid organizations leverage surprising events as opportunities for change and innovation? How do surprising events influence the process of hybridization and de-hybridization?

  • Hybrid organizations and their stakeholders: How can hybrids get symbolic and material resources from their stakeholders? How do tensions and paradoxes emerge in and around hybrid organizations as an effect of surprising events? What is the impact of surprising events on stakeholders’ emotions, identification and evaluation of hybrid organizations? How can leaders foster collaboration among (internal and/or external) stakeholders?

  • The role of hybrid organizations in current global societal challenges: What kind of societal challenges are hybrids able to tackle? What are instead challenges that they not suited to solve? What kind of society-level mechanisms hybrids can trigger to spread their effect and scale their operations?

This sub-theme aims at deepening our theoretical understanding of hybrid organizations’ capability to cope with uncertainty and complexity and how, under these conditions, hybrids trigger unexpected transformations at organizational, field, and society level. The discussion will also include issues relevant for managers of hybrid organizations and policy makers: Innovation opportunities coming from field’s changes, strategies to navigate increasingly complex and uncertain markets, opportunities opened by the role hybrids can have in the transformation of economic systems both in emerging and developed economies, both within local areas and in the wider global society.


  • Almandoz, J. (2012): “Arriving at the Starting Line: The Impact of Community and Financial Logics on New Banking Ventures.” Academy of Management Journal, 55, 1381–1406.
  • Battilana, J., & Lee, M. (2014): “Advancing Research on Hybrid Organizing – Insights from the Study of Social Enterprises.” Academy of Management Annals, 8, 397–441.
  • Battilana, J., Sengul, M., Pache, A.C. & Model, J. (2015): “Harnessing Productive Tensions in Hybrid Organizations: The Case of Work Integration Social Enterprises.” Academy of Management Journal, 58, 1658–1685.
  • Besharov, M.L., & Smith, W.K. (2014): Multiple institutional logics in organizations: Explaining their varied nature and implications.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (3), 364–381.
  • Glynn, M.A. (2000): “When cymbals become symbols: Conflict over organizational identity within a symphony orchestra.” Organization Science, 11, 285–298.
  • Mongelli, L., & Rullani, F. (2017): “Inequality and marginalisation: social innovation, social entrepreneurship and business model innovation.” Industry and Innovation, 24 (5), 446–467.
  • Mongelli, L., Rullani, F., & Versari, P. (2017): “Hybridisation of diverging institutional logics through common-note practices – an analogy with music and the case of social enterprises.” Industry and Innovation, 24 (5), 492–514.
  • Pache, A.C., & Santos, F. (2013): “Inside the Hybrid Organization: Selective Coupling as a Response to Competing Institutional Logics.” Academy of Management Journal, 56 (4), 972–1001.
  • Ramus, T., Vaccaro, A., & Brusoni, S. (2017): “Institutional Complexity in Turbulent Times: Formalization, Collaboration, and the Emergence of Blended Logics.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (4), 253–1284.
  • Reay, T., & Hinings, C.R. (2009): “Managing the rivalry of competing institutional logics.” Organization Studies, 30 (6), 629–652.
  • Smets, M., Morris, T., & Greenwood, R. (2012): “From practice to field: A multilevel model of practice-driven institutional change.” Academy of Management Journal, 55 (4), 877–904.
  • Toubiana, M., & Zietsma, C. (2017): “The Message is on the Wall? Emotions, Social Media and the Dynamics of Institutional Complexity.” Academy of Management Journal, 60 (3), 922–953.
  • Tracey, P., Phillips, N., & Jarvis, O. (2011): “Bridging Institutional Entrepreneurship and the Creation of New Organizational Forms: A Multilevel Model.” Organization Science, 22 (1), 60–80.
  • York, J.G., Hargrave, T.J., & Pacheco D. F. (2016): “Converging Winds, logics Hybridization in the Colorado Wind Energy Field.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (2), 579–610.


Tommaso Ramus is an Assistant Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Lisbon, Portugal. Tommaso’s research focuses on hybrid organizations, institutional complexity and social entrepreneurship. His publications have appeared in the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, and ‘Voluntas’.
Antonino Vaccaro is an Associate Professor at IESE Business School, Spain. His research focuses on social innovation and social entrepreneurship. Antonino’s works have been published in journals such as the ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Journal of Management Studies’, ‘Research Policy’, and ‘Journal of Business Ethics’. He is currently section editor of the ‘Journal of Business Ethics’ and Director of IESE’s Social Entrepreneurship Platform.
Francesco Rullani is an Assistant Professor in Entrepreneurship and Management of Innovation at LUISS Guido Carli in Rome, Italy. Francesco’s research focuses on collective knowledge creation, self-organizing innovation, social entrepreneurship, and hybrid organizations. He has published in ‘Strategic Management Journal’, ‘Research Policy’, and ‘Industrial and Corporate Change’. He is Director of the ERShub, the hub for ethics, responsibility and sustainability at LUISS.