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.