Sub-theme 46: Opportunities for Path Creation: Practices and Processes of Interorganizational Collaboration

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

Call for Papers

Collaborating across organizational boundaries is an important means to innovate, pool resources and address grand challenges. Recent developments such as the climate crisis and the COVID crisis have highlighted the need for collaboration beyond organizational boundaries in dealing with new challenges and mitigating the impact on our economic, social and cultural lives through local and global initiatives. Such collaborations may involve more distributed and fluid interactions with more loosely connected actors than in traditional alliances (e.g. Majchrzak et al., 2018). Such new, distributed forms of organizing create ‘collaborative advantage’ (Huxham & Vangen, 2005) by bringing together various forms of technological, human and financial resources to accomplish a goal that would not be achievable for a single organization. Yet numerous empirical studies have also pointed out that interorganizational collaboration is no easy task: the process of establishing it is often muddier and more long-winded than those initiating it assume (Deken et al., 2018), and they often do not achieve their goals. We explore how these imperfect situations create experimental spaces and opportunities for path creation in new forms of interorganizational collaboration and how imperfection can stimulate renewal and transformation.
We address interorganizational collaboration from a practice theory and process research perspective (Berends & Sydow, 2019). Actors often struggle as they confront the nitty gritty details of making collaboration work (Lauche, 2019). Such findings may conjure up images of muddling through, of messiness and imperfection compared to what the collaboration was set up to achieve. Yet this imperfection, this not-yet-being-as-desired also creates space for experimentation and exploring practices of bricolage as opportunities for experimentation and path creation (Garud & Karnøe, 2001).
Dealing creatively with imperfection also matters when approaching grand challenges for which solutions of the underlying problem may be difficult to achieve. All steps – no matter how imperfect – can lead to additional cycles of action that will make a difference in people’s lives (Ferraro et al., 2015). This requires developing new practices and dynamic forms of organising that can enable actors to deal with incomplete solutions and be more open to risk and shared learning in order to develop workable solutions.
Many of these interorganizational efforts have been mediated through technology, which has required individual actors and organizations to ramp up their capability for digital transformation rapidly and experiment with imperfect technological modes of collaboration. At the same time, the increased use of technology has given a boost to encounters and new practice development across physical distance.
This sub-theme seeks to encourage discussion of how such experimental spaces and opportunities for path creation can arise in new forms of interorganizational collaboration and how imperfection can stimulate renewal and transformation. We specifically welcome papers that take a process and practice lens to study how collaboration emerges, develops, and changes over time.
Questions that may be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How do organizations shape collaborations when goals are broad, problems ill-defined, and possible solutions unclear?

  • How are collaborations shaped to allow for experimentation and renewal?

  • How do organizations interact in, and with, more loosely coupled and distributed collaborations?

  • How do actors create momentum and access resources for collaboration?

  • How are inter-organizational practices initiated, maintained, negotiated and transformed over time?

  • How do intra-organizational practices and inter-organizational practices interact?

  • What role does technology play in the design and emergence of distributed inter-organizational practices?

  • How are activities in inter-organizational collaborations coordinated and governed between organizations, in particular if they involve actors from diverse settings?


  • Berends, H., & Sydow, J. (2019): “Introduction: Process views on inter-organizational collaborations.” In: J. Sydow & H. Berends (eds.): Managing Inter-organizational Collaborations: Process Views. Bingley: Emerarld, 1–10.
  • Deken, F., Berends, H., Lauche, K., & Gemser, G. (2018): “Strategizing and the initiation of interorganizational collaboration through prospective resourcing.”  Academy of Management Journal, 61 (5), 1920–1950.
  • Ferraro, F., Etzion, D., & Gehman, J. (2015): “Tackling grand challenges pragmatically: Robust action revisited.” Organization Studies, 36, 363–390.
  • Garud, R., & Karnøe, P. (2001): “Path creation as a process of mindful deviation.” In: Garud, R. & Karnøe, P. (eds.): Path Dependence and Creation. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1–40.
  • Huxham, C., & Vangen, S. (2005): Managing to Collaborate: The Theory and Practice of Collaborative Advantage. London: Routledge.
  • Lauche, K. (2019): “Insider activists pursuing an agenda for change: Selling the need for collaboration.” In: J. Sydow & H. Berends (eds.): Managing Inter-organizational Collaborations – Process Views. Bingley: Emerald, 119–138.
  • 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.
Kristina Lauche is the Chair of Organizational Development and Design at Nijmegen School of Management, Radboud University, The Netherlands. Her research addresses how actors outside senior management pursue change and create momentum across organizational boundaries using practice and process approaches. Kristina’s work has been published in journals such as ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Management Information Systems Quarterly’.
Hans Berends is Professor of Innovation and Organization in the Knowledge, Information and Innovation (KIN) Research Group at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. His current research interests concern process dynamics of innovation, inter-organizational collaboration, and digital innovation. His work has been published in leading journals including ‘Academy of Management Journal’, ‘Organization Science’, ‘Organization Studies’, and ‘Journal of Management Studies’.
Paul R. Carlile is Associate Professor of Management and Information Systems and the Senior Associate Dean for Innovation at Boston University Questrom School of Business, USA. His work focuses on how the boundaries between different types of knowledge can be managed to more effectively drive collaboration, innovation and change. Paul has published in journals such as ‘Organization Science’, ‘Management Science’, and ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’.