Classifying Organizational Diversity: Emergence and Evolutionary Trends
Joeri M. Mol
University of Melbourne (Australia)
Johannes M. Pennings
Wharton School (United States)
Filippo Carlo Wezel
University of Lugano (Switzerland)
Call for papers
The ability to recognize the existence of boundaries that discriminate between categories lies at the core of every scientific endeavor. It enables us to separate one species of butterflies from the next, to distinguish one viral DNA strain from another and to identify which cellular growth patterns are benign and which are malignant. And organization science is no exception. In our discipline the use of classification systems is crucial since it helps us to observe variation between as well as within industries.
Although the emergence and the evolution of classification systems have vast implications for how we understand organizations they have received but scant attention in the literature. While quantitative studies are becoming the norm in our discipline, we have turned a blind eye to how key variables are being operationalized. Implicitly we assume that key variables are distinct concepts and have a clear reference to the category that they represent at the theoretical level. Yet in actual investigations we have come to rely on 'samples of convenience' such as the SIC-classification system for industries and we do not shy away from drawing conclusions at the industry level from analyses conducted on SIC data Yet the validity of these data are intricately related to the validity of the SIC classification system as a whole. And the validity of such artificial conventions have been but sparsely questioned since the SIC differs substantially from the way in which actual industry players do the classifying (but see Porac & Thomas, 1990). As a result theoretical concerns are mounting since – without a thorough understanding of industry definitions – it is hard to validate theoretical constructs or concepts (see, e.g., Hannan, Pólos & Carroll, 2007). For instance, how can one conduct investigations into concepts as 'new entry' and 'strategic positioning' when it is not clear how we define industry membership and the boundaries that define its segments and niches?
Since the way we categorize industries and the criteria that we employ to justify competitive segmentation have such a profound impact on our understanding of organizations (Lounsbury & Rao, 2004), it seems justified to at least investigate how we have gone about it so far. The present track proposal is aimed at discussing the process leading to boundary formation, i.e., between-industry segregation (Astley, 1985; Hannan, Pólos & Carroll, 2007) and their impact on the dynamics of competitive heterogeneity, i.e., within-industry segregation (Anand & Watson, 2004; Hsu, 2006).
In this track, we welcome contributions from multiple theoretical perspectives. We will seek cross-pollinization between strategic and managerial frameworks, whether inspired by economics or sociology (Berger & Luckman, 1966; Douglas, 1986). We also welcome studies that incorporate insights from related disciplines, including (but not limited to) political science, business history, linguistics and logic, psychology and philosophy. Likewise we are open to longitudinal and multi-level methods whether stemming from quantitative perspectives such as large scale field studies as well as more qualitative approaches such as discourse analysis, historical case studies and qualitative case studies.
Specifically we invite papers dealing with the following topics, among others:
- The formation of market categories, such as product categories, industry segments, market niches, e.g., SUVs or Shiraz wines
- The antecedents and consequences of population/market/industry-level diversity and its evolutionary dynamics
- The emergence and evolution of industry boundaries and technological trajectories
- Product and service innovations that unravel existing boundaries and propagate new ones (e.g., chemical film and photo equipment towards MP4, CD/DVD towards on-line film and music distribution)
- The role played by particular agents (e.g., movie critics) for the emergence of new product or market categories (e.g., cult movies)
- Identity formation both at the firm as well as at the form level
- Methodological issues having to do with classifying variables, such as the advantage and disadvantage of SIC codes or patent classes
To foster a vibrant dialogue we encourage authors to contemplate multiple levels of analysis in their studies.
Anand, N. & Mary R. Watson (2004): Tournament Rituals in the Evolution of Fields: The Case of the Grammy Awards. Academy of Management Journal, 47: 59-80.
Astley, W.G. (1985): The Two Ecologies: Population and Community Perspectives on Organizational Evolution. Administrative Science Quarterly, 30: 224-241.
Berger, Peter L. & Thomas Luckman (1966): The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co.
Douglas, Mary (1986): How Institutions Think. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Hannan, M.T., L. Pólos & G.R. Carroll (2007): Logics of Organization Theory: Audiences, Codes and Ecologies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Hsu, Greta (2006): Evaluative Schemas and the Attention of Critics in the U.S. Film Industry. Industrial and Corporate Change, 15: 467-496.
Lounsbury, Michael & Hayagreeva Rao (2004): Sources of Durability and Change in Market Classifications: A Study of the Reconstitution of Product Categories in the American Mutual Fund Industry, 1944-1985. Social Forces, 82 (3): 969-999.
Porac, J.F. & H. Thomas (1990): Taxonomic Mental Models in Competitor Definition. Academy of Management Review, 15 (2): 224-240.
About the convenors
Joeri M. Mol is a lecturer at the Department of Marketing & Management at the University of Melbourne, Australia. He holds a PhD in Management Science from Groningen University. His research interests include classification systems and genre formation, power and appropriation in organizations, and diffusion patterns of innovations. His work has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Management Studies, the Journal of Economic Issues, among others.
Johannes M. Pennings is Marie and Joseph Melone professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and visiting professor at the faculty of Economics and Business Administration of Tilburg University, The Netherlands. His current research invokes social network theory to examine technological and market evolution of the imaging sector drawing on qualitative observations and patent data. His work has been published in Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Strategic Management Journal, among others.
Filippo Carlo Wezel is a Professor of Organization Theory at University of Lugano (Switzerland). He previously held appointments at the University of Groningen and at Tilburg University (The Netherlands). His recent research interests focus on the competitive consequences of inter-firm mobility and on the drivers of population-level diversity. His work appeared in Organization Science, Organization Studies, Advances in Strategic Management and Long Range Planning. His last book (co-authored with J. Pennings) entitled Human Capital, Inter-firm Mobility and Organizational Evolution is forthcoming.