Julie Battilana & Coauthors on Institutional Entrepreneurship

Fast Breaking Papers Commentary, August 2011

Julie Battilana, Bernard Leca, & Eva Boxenbaum

Article: How Actors Change Institutions: Towards a Theory of Institutional Entrepreneurship

Authors: Battilana, J;Leca, B;Boxenbaum, E
Volume: 3, Issue: , Page: :65-107, Year: 2009
* Harvard Univ, Sch Business, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.
* Harvard Univ, Sch Business, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA.
* Grp ESC Rouen, Rouen, France.
* Copenhagen Sch Econ & Business Adm, Copenhagen, Denmark.
(Addresses have been truncated)

Julie Battilana, Bernard Leca, & Eva Boxenbaum talk with ScienceWatch.com and answer a few questions about this month's Fast Breaking Paper paper in the field of Economics & Business.

SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

This paper deals with institutional entrepreneurship, that is, the process by which organizations or individuals initiate and implement change that diverges from the taken-for-granted practices in a field of activity. At a time such as now, when the question of how to reform existing institutions has taken on great urgency, understanding the process of institutional entrepreneurship is crucial.

Creating change in deeply rooted systems, such as financial and health care systems or social systems that reproduce inequalities, is distinctively challenging. Patterns of acting and organizing in these systems become so taken-for-granted that people perceive them as the only possible ways of acting and organizing. To successfully reform such systems, one needs to better understand the dynamics of institutional entrepreneurship.

SW: Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

Eva Boxenbaum
Coauthor Eva Boxenbaum

Eva Boxenbaum
Coauthor Bernard Leca.

The paper proposes a model of the process of institutional entrepreneurship that builds on a comprehensive review of the institutional entrepreneurship literature. In doing so, we systematically integrate previous pieces of knowledge on institutional entrepreneurship.

We first address definitional and theoretical issues associated with the concept of institutional entrepreneurship. We then present the different phases of the process of institutional entrepreneurship from the emergence of institutional entrepreneurs to their implementation of change. Finally, we highlight future directions for research on institutional entrepreneurship.

Our aim is to strengthen the theoretical foundation of institutional entrepreneurship and thereby help to develop a theory of action that accounts for actors' embeddedness in their institutional environment while also accounting for their capacity to change this environment.

SW: Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

The paper outlines how individual and organizational actors might contribute to changing their environment despite institutional pressures toward stasis. In doing so, we hope that our work will enable a variety of actors to better understand the challenges of changing deeply rooted social systems as well as how to cope with those challenges.

SW: How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

With most countries facing a major financial and economic crisis, the question of how to reform existing institutions has assumed greater urgency. The demand for institutional change is increasing among organization members and citizens the world over. Efforts to change them, however, face institutions' strong power of inertia.

Recognizing that institutional change is a complex process involving different types of forces and agents, we argue that it is our responsibility as scholars to explain not only how institutions influence actors' behavior, but also how these actors might, in turn, influence, and possibly change, institutions. Uncovering the dynamics of institutional change is a challenging task as it is a complex and multi-dimensional process but it is also an exciting endeavor.

SW: Where do you see your research leading in the future? Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

Because institutional change is a highly complex and uncertain process, the outcome of which is difficult to predict, we should devote additional effort to trying to understand better how actors can initiate and implement change that diverges from the institutional status quo. By doing so, we will inform our understanding not only of the institutional origins of a crisis such as the one that we are currently facing, but also of how actors, in particular, policymakers, might reform institutions.

We also hope that this research will be useful for researchers in various social sciences disciplines including economics, sociology, or development studies, who are willing to engage with the issue of how to reform deeply rooted social systems.End

Julie Battilana
Associate Professor
Organizational Behavior Department
Harvard Business School
Boston, MA, USA

Bernard Leca
Strategy and Organization Theory
IAE of Lille—LEM, UMR 8179
Lille, France
Rouen Business School
Mont-Saint-Aignan, France

Eva Boxenbaum
Associate Professor
Department of Organization
Copenhagen Business School
Frederiksberg, Denmark
Associate Professor
Center for Management Science
Mines ParisTech
Paris, France



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