Sub-theme 41: Organizing Innovation and Entrepreneurship in and for a Sustainable Society

Georg Reischauer
WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
Henri Schildt
Aalto University, Finland
Elke Schüßler
Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria

Call for Papers

We may be living through a golden age of organizational innovation. While DiMaggio and Powell famously asked in 1983 “why there is such startling homogeneity of organizational forms and practices” (p. 148), the world has clearly changed. Social enterprises and for-profit companies alike are experimenting with new forms and practices of organizing. “Hashtag movements” such as #metoo and #blacklivesmatter exist without formal leadership or structures (Heimans & Timms, 2018). General Motors and IBM have relocated some of their creative teams from corporate campuses to WeWork co-working spaces to facilitate informal interaction. Some organizations, such as Zappos, have tried to remove formal hierarchy altogether in revived attempts to remove traditional hierarchies (Lee & Edmondson, 2017). These new forms of organizing result in part from a ‘push’ provided by new digital technologies that facilitate collaboration across organizational boundaries (Yoo et al., 2012) and in part from a ‘pull’ for greater agility, innovativeness, entrepreneurialism, connectedness and the ability to address complex and systemic challenges. New forms and practices of organizing may thus be necessary for us to be able to address the ‘grand challenges’ of our time that require the development of coordinating architectures and enable multilevel action (George et al., 2016).
New forms of organizing provide solutions to link previously disconnected actors and bridge social boundaries. International boundary organizations, such as Fairtrade International (Reinecke & Ansari, 2015), can offer brokering between distinct normative logics. Likewise, a study of the Structural Genomics Consortium (Perkmann & Schildt, 2015) shows how a boundary organization enabled innovation by facilitating collaboration among actors with misaligned incentives and interests. Many new digital ventures, such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (Majchrzak et al., 2018) and sharing economy platforms (Reischauer & Mair, 2018a) are organized around digital infrastructures that facilitate effortless interactions without a need for physically” being there” (Grabher et al., 2018). These platform organizations – organizations that provide generic resources and connections for third parties to provide and deliver products and services – act as a disruptive force in established markets (Kirchner & Schüßler, 2019; Mair & Reischauer, 2017; Reischauer & Mair, 2018b) as they enable innovation and entrepreneurial activity (Muñoz & Cohen, 2018). While building and managing the resulting digital workforces has been identified as grand challenge (George et al., 2016), platform organizations can also provide a home for societal groups that are excluded from traditional labor markets. In a similar vein, many social enterprises are hybrid organizations that can bridge multiple institutional logics (Mair et al., 2015; Schildt & Perkmann, 2017), thereby combining the pursuit of social value with market-based approaches and ultimately tackle important challenges such as inequality (Mair et al., 2016).
These new forms are complemented with new organizing practices. One prominent set of practices relates to the orchestration of actors with limited formal authority or traditional incentives (Giudici et al., 2017; Paquin & Howard-Grenville, 2013). Post-bureaucratic organizations require new coordination mechanisms, such as ‘trading zones’ where professionals from different disciplinary backgrounds can interact (Kellogg et al., 2006). With increasing precariousness, individuals and organizations must develop practices to cope with emotional strain and lack of stable organizational identification (Petriglieri et al., 2019). Non-bureaucratic forms may also require specific practices that facilitate incomplete behavior (Garud et al., 2008) and foster collaboration (Gulati et al., 2012) to support innovation. Interstitial and playful spaces are established as sites for experimentations with new practices on organizational and field levels (Furnari, 2014; Hjorth et al., 2018).
However, new forms and practices of organizing can create unintended and often undesirable consequences in the absence of regulation. Online knowledge-exchanging communities, for example, tend to replicate existing geographic and social boundaries and inequalities (Hwang et al., 2015). Platform organizations are criticized for promoting insecure work (Fleming, 2017) with a strong control regime (Petriglieri et al., 2019; Wood et al., 2019). The entrepreneurial ideal, in platform contexts and beyond, is often misused to justify deregulated and exploitative labor practices (Ahsan, 2018). Moreover, algorithms and digitalization of platforms and traditional organizations has a tendency to create transparency and surveillance, with potential negative consequences (Hansen & Flyverbom, 2015; Schildt, 2017). These dynamics provide a valuable and important area for more academic research.
The experimentation with new forms and practices of organizing and their promise in bridging communities and helping address some of the societal grand challenges as well as their potentially problematic consequences motivates this sub-theme. We invite qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and conceptual papers to increase our knowledge of new forms and practices of organizing and their consequences for facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship and ultimately in building a more sustainable society. The following research questions are intended for inspiration:


New forms of organizing

  • What are the key commonalities in new forms of organizing, and what are their consequences in relation to the more traditional organizations?

  • How should we theorize and study governance and strategy in organizations that lack traditional organizational boundaries and hierarchical authority?

  • How do new forms of organizing differ from traditional ones with respect to their resource and knowledge base, and in the way they emerge and develop over time?

  • Which new organizational forms are especially suitable to tackle grand challenges and why?

  • What theories and concepts are especially suitable to examine new forms of organizing?


New organizing practices

  • What kind of organizing practices are emerging in response to increasing data processing capabilities and mobile devices?

  • How and why do established organizations adopt or experiment with new organizing practices?

  • What are the relationships of new social innovations and new organizing practices?

  • What are new organizing practices that either create or alleviate negative individual outcomes in the gig economy?

  • How can new practices facilitate coordination and orchestration across organizational boundaries?


Consequences of new forms and practices of organizing

  • What are the intended and unintended consequences of new forms and practices of organizing?

  • How do new forms and practices of organizing affect inequality and/or power regimes?

  • How do new forms and practices of organizing affect the relationship between the public and private domain, including non-market strategies?

  • How do civil society and social movements leverage and respond to new forms and practices of organizing?

  • What are the implications of new forms and practices of organizing for the wellbeing of members?

  • Which are adequate regulatory frameworks for new forms and practices of organizing?




  • Ahsan, M. (2018): “Entrepreneurship and Ethics in the Sharing Economy: A Critical Perspective.” Journal of Business Ethics, first published online on July 23, 2018;
  • DiMaggio, P., & Powell, W.W. (1983): “The iron cage revisited. Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields.” American Sociological Review, 48 (2), 147–160.
  • Fleming, P. (2017): “The Human Capital Hoax: Work, Debt and Insecurity in the Era of Uberization.” Organization Studies, 38 (5), 691–709.
  • Furnari, S. (2014): “Interstitial spaces: Microinteraction settings and the genesis of new practices between institutional fields.” Academy of Management Review, 39 (4), 439–462.
  • Garud, R., Jain, S., & Tuertscher, P. (2008): “Incomplete by Design and Designing for Incompleteness.” Organization Studies, 2 9(3), 351–371.
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
  • Giudici, A., Reinmoeller, P., & Ravasi, D. (2017): “Open-system orchestration as a relational source of sensing capabilities: Evidence from a venture association.” Academy of Management Journal, 61 (4), 1369–1402.
  • Grabher, G., Melchior, A., Schiemer, B., Schüßler, E., & Sydow, J. (2018): “From being there to being aware: Confronting geographical and sociological imaginations of copresence.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, 50 (1), 245–255.
  • Gulati, R., Puranam, P., & Tushman, M. (2012): “Meta-organization design: Rethinking design in interorganizational and community contexts.” Strategic Management Journal, 33 (6), 571–586.
  • Hansen, H.K., & Flyverbom, M. (2015): “The politics of transparency and the calibration of knowledge in the digital age.” Organization, 22 (6), 872–889.
  • Heimans, J., & Timms, H. (2018): New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World – and How to Make It Work for You. New York: Doubleday.
  • Hjorth, D., Strati, A., Drakopoulou Dodd, S., & Weik, E. (2018): “Organizational Creativity, Play and Entrepreneurship: Introduction and Framing.” Organization Studies, 39 (2–3), 155–168.
  • Hwang, E.H., Singh, P.V., & Argote, L. (2015): “Knowledge sharing in online communities: Learning to cross geographic and hierarchical boundaries.” Organization Science, 26 (6), 1593–1611.
  • Kellogg, K.C., Orlikowski, W.J., & Yates, J. (2006): “Life in the trading zone: Structuring coordination across boundaries in postbureaucratic organizations.” Organization Science, 17 (1), 22–44.
  • Kirchner, S., & Schüßler, E. (2019): “The Organization of Digital Marketplaces: Unmasking the Role of Internet Platforms in the Sharing Economy.” In: G. Ahrne & N. Brunsson (eds.): Organization outside Organizations: The Abundance of Partial Organization in Social Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 131–154.
  • Lee, M.Y., & Edmondson, A.C. (2017): “Self-managing organizations: Exploring the limits of less-hierarchical organizing.” Research in Organizational Behavior, 37, 35–58.
  • Mair, J., Mayer, J., & Lutz, E. (2015): “Navigating Institutional Plurality: Organizational Governance in Hybrid Organizations.” Organization Studies, 36 (6), 713–739.
  • Mair, J., Wolf, M., & Seelos, C. (2016): “Scaffolding: A process of transforming patterns of inequality in small-scale societies.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 2021–2044.
  • Mair, J., & Reischauer, G. (2017): “Capturing the dynamics of the sharing economy: Institutional research on the plural forms and practices of sharing economy organizations.” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 125 (C), 11–20.
  • Majchrzak, A., Griffith, T.L., Reetz, D.K., & Alexy, O. (2018): “Catalyst Organizations as a New Organization Design for Innovation: The Case of Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 4 (4), 472–496.
  • Muñoz, P., & Cohen, B. (2018): “A compass for navigating sharing economy business models.” California Management Review, 61 (1), 114–147.
  • Paquin, R.L., & Howard-Grenville, J. (2013): “Blind Dates and Arranged Marriages: Longitudinal Processes of Network Orchestration.” Organization Studies, 34 (11), 1623–1653.
  • Perkmann, M., & Schildt, H. (2015): “Open data partnerships between firms and universities: The role of boundary organizations.” Research Policy, 44 (5), 1133–1143.
  • Petriglieri, G., Ashford, S.J., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2019): “Agony and Ecstasy in the Gig Economy: Cultivating Holding Environments for Precarious and Personalized Work Identities.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 64 (1), 124–170.
  • Reinecke, J., & Ansari, S. (2015): “When times collide: Temporal brokerage at the intersection of markets and developments.” Academy of Management Journal, 58 (2), 618–648.
  • Reischauer, G., & Mair, J. (2018a): “How organizations strategically govern online communities: Lessons from the sharing economy.” Academy of Management Discoveries, 4 (3), 220–247.
  • Reischauer, G., & Mair, J. (2018b): “Platform organizing in the new digital economy: Revisiting online communities and strategic responses.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 57, 113–135.
  • Schildt, H. (2017): “Big data and organizational design: The brave new world of algorithmic management and computer augmented transparency.” Innovation: Organization & Management, 19 (1), 23–30.
  • Schildt, H., & Perkmann, M. (2017): “Organizational settlements: Theorizing how organizations respond to institutional complexity.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 26 (2), 139–145.
  • Wood, A.J., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V., & Hjorth, I. (2019): “Good Gig, Bad Gig: Autonomy and Algorithmic Control in the Global Gig Economy.” Work, Employment and Society, 33 (1), 56–75.
  • Yoo, Y., Boland, R.J., Lyytinen, K., & Majchrzak, A. (2012): “Organizing for innovation in the digitized world.” Organization Science, 23 (5), 1398–1408.
Georg Reischauer is a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Strategy and Innovation at WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. His research focuses on digital innovation and digital organization.
Henri Schildt is a Professor in Strategy with a joint appointment at the Aalto School of Business (Management & Organizations) and the School of Science’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Finland. He is also the principal investigator in the Academy of Finland funded project studying how social enterprises and NGOs work with refugees to counter marginalization. Henri’s ongoing research interests include strategic change, strategy processes, and organizational cognition.
Elke Schüßler is Professor of Business Administration and Head of the Institute of Organization Science at Johannes Kepler University (JKU) Linz, Austria. Her broader research interests include organizational and institutional change, creativity and innovation, global production networks, and digitalization. She is a member of the Research Unit “Organized Creativity”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), where she studies the role of temporary compresence, e.g. at field-configuring events or in virtual communities, as a driver for creativity.