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Organisational Theory & Information Systems

The Organisational Theory & Information Systems group focuses on organisational theory and the dynamic relationship between information technologies and organisations. The range of research interests crosses individual, group, organisational levels of analysis in developed and developing country contexts.

The group focuses on:

  • Organisational and institutional creation, maintenance and change
  • Information systems and organisational change
  • Group behaviour in organisations
  • Leadership
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Knowledge translation and service innovation
  • People and organisational effectiveness
  • Strategic and international human resource management
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation

The group is engaged with cross-disciplinary themes including health management, financial services, public sector, international development, innovation and entrepreneurship.


  • Barrett, Michael
    Professor of Information Systems & Innovation Studies
  • de Rond, Mark
    Professor of Organisational Ethnography, Head of the Organisational Theory & Information Systems Subject Group
  • Goodall, Keith
    Senior Faculty in Management Practice
  • Haugh, Helen
    Director of the MPhil in Innovation, Strategy & Organisation Programme, Director of the MoTI Programme, Research Director of the Centre for Social Innovation, Senior Lecturer in Community Enterprise
  • Howard-Grenville, Jennifer
    Diageo Reader in Management Studies, Director of the MPhil in Management Programme
  • Jones, Matthew
    Reader in Information Systems
  • Learmount, Simon
    Lecturer in Corporate Governance, Fellow of the Centre for Business Research (CBR)
  • Orlikowski, Wanda
    Research Director (Organisational Theory & Information Systems)
  • Pachidi, Stella
    University Lecturer in Information Systems
  • Richter, Andreas
    Reader in Organisational Behaviour, Director of the Management Studies Tripos
  • Stiles, Philip
    University Senior Lecturer in Corporate Governance, Co-Director of the Centre for International Human Resource Management
  • Stott, Neil
    Senior Faculty in Management Practice, Director of the Master of Studies in Social Innovation, Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation
  • Thompson, Mark
    University Senior Lecturer in Information Systems
  • Tracey, Paul
    Professor of Innovation & Organisation, Co-Director of the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation

Lecturer and Senior Lecturer are equivalent to Assistant Professor in North American terminology. Reader is equivalent to Associate Professor with tenure in North American terminology.

PhD students

Research staff

Honorary appointments

Group members have published widely in leading journals, including Academy of Management Journal, MIS Quarterly, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Applied Psychology, Organization Science, Personnel Psychology, Human Resource Management, Organization Studies, and Research in the Sociology of Organizations as well as theory outlets such as the Academy of Management Review.

A number of the group members have editorial appointments in leading journals in their research areas.

The research agenda of the group is stimulated by regular contacts with senior personnel of large national and international organisations such as Cadbury, Rolls Royce, Oracle, British Telecom, BAE Systems, Sealed Air, Daikin, Samsung, Matsushita, SIAM, Infosys, TCL, Unilever, ABB, Proctor and Gamble, Siemens, Total, EDF, American Express, Shell and International Business Machines (IBM), Statoil, Bank of China, UK Government, Cambridge University Hospitals, World Health Organization, UNICEF.

There are long-standing collaborations with leading academics and cognate groups in the UK, Europe and across the Atlantic.

The Organisational Theory & Information Systems subject group hosts a seminar series of distinguished visiting scholars. Please contact Luke Slater if you would like to be added to the mailing list.

Upcoming seminars

Easter Term 2017

Transcending the Formalisation Dilemma: How Communities Formalise without Subverting Founding Values
Dr Marya Besharov, The ILR School, Cornell University

12:15-13:45, 26 April 2017
Room W2.02, Cambridge Judge Business School


Formal structures enable social collectives to coordinate and manage their activities as they grow in scale and scope, but their introduction has historically undermined collectives' founding values by reducing opportunities for participation, autonomy, and free expression. Although the benefits and costs of formalisation are well known, little research explores how collectives navigate this "formalisation dilemma" in ways that enable them to grow while remaining true to their founding values. We address this question through a comparative ethnographic study of three open source software communities. Following these communities longitudinally over a 15-year period, we find they confronted similar organising challenges around coordinating work, managing participation, and maintaining order. Yet they addressed these challenges in different ways, relying on varying combinations of formal and informal approaches to manage growth. Moreover, the adoption of formal structures did not necessarily undermine participatory and expressive values, nor did their absence prevent communities from expanding in scale and scope. In contrast to prior research, these findings suggest the trade-off between formalisation and collectivist ideals is a false dichotomy. They further contribute a previously under-appreciated range of organising models – which we term federated, bureaucratic, and informal – that communities can adopt to incorporate formal structures in ways that sustain rather than undermine their founding values.

Speaker bio

Dr Marya Besharov is an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the ILR School at Cornell University. An organisational theorist with a background in organisational sociology, Marya studies how organisations and their leaders navigate competing goals. Much of her research focuses on social-business hybrid organisations such as social enterprises and mission-driven businesses that combine social and commercial goals. Her work has been published in journals such as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Business Ethics Quarterly, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Research in Organizational Behavior, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, and Industrial and Corporate Change. Marya currently serves on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, and Administrative Science Quarterly. She received a BA in Social Studies, an MA in Sociology, and a PhD in Organisational Behaviour from Harvard University. She also holds an MBA from Stanford. Prior to her academic career, Marya worked as a researcher and consultant in the health care field.

Title tbc
Professor Moshe Farjoun, York University (and CJBS Visiting Research Fellow in 2017)

12:15-13:45, 17 May 2017
Room W2.01, Cambridge Judge Business School

Title tbc
Dr Siobhan O’Mahony, Questrom School of Business, Boston University

12:30-14:00, 24 May 2017
Room W2.02, Cambridge Judge Business School

Speaker bio

Professor O’Mahony is Chair of the Strategy and Innovation Department. Her research explores how technical and creative projects organise for innovation. She has examined how high technology contractors, open source programmers, artists, music producers, internet startups and product development teams coordinate their efforts in projects, teams and communities. She is interested in how people create organising structures that promote innovation, creativity and growth without replicating the bureaucratic structures they strive to avoid. Dr O’Mahony’s research has appeared in Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Academy of Management Journal, Research in Organizational Behavior, Research Policy, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Industry and Innovation, and the Journal of Management and Governance. A former consultant with Price Waterhouse LLP and Electronic Data Systems, she has consulted to organisations such as IDEO, the Global Business Network, Novell, Cap Gemini, Proquest, Microsoft, McDonald Investments, and the European Union.

Title tbc
Dr Trish Reay, Alberta School of Business, University of Alberta

14:45-16:15, 25 May 2017
Room KH107, Cambridge Judge Business School

Getting in the Set: The Counter-Intuitive Effects of Impact Investing in Global Microfinance
Dr Tyler Wry, The Wharton School

12:00-14:30, 16 June 2017
Room CTR, Cambridge Judge Business School


Much of the funding in global microfinance is from impact investment funds. These funds seek out and value opportunities that deliver strong social and financial returns. This is considered a way to grow capital while having a positive influence in the world. Building on insights from categories and resource dependence theories, however, we argue that the influence of such funds is uneven across different types of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and is likely to have an overall negative impact. This is related to how impact funds apply financial and social screens when making investment decisions: MFIs are first screened based on financial performance; social screens are then applied to the MFIs that comprise the set of "investable" organisations. Based on this, we predict that higher levels of impact investment funding in a nation create incentives for most MFIs to reduce social outreach in order to get into the funder’s consideration set. For those at the top of the market, however, there is an incentive to increase social outreach so as to stand out and attract funder attention. We test our arguments with a comprehensive analysis of the microfinance funding structure in 115 countries from 1995-2013, which we supplement with interviews with 34 investment fund managers. Results are consistent with our predictions: an increased supply of impact investment capital in a nation’s microfinance sector results in significant mission drift among most MFIs, but modestly increases outreach at the top of the market.

Speaker bio

Dr Tyler Wry studies hybrid ventures, which are organisations that simultaneously pursue goals associated with different meaning systems: for example, nanotechnology companies that integrate scientific discovery and technology commercialisation, and social enterprises that work to generate profits while addressing social issues. These organisations have the potential to generate important commercial and social innovations, but also face a number of unique challenges, particularly in the startup stage of development. Building on this, Tyler’s research focuses on how hybrids emerge, attract resources, and positively affect society.

Tyler’s work has appeared in outlets such as the Academy of Management Annals, the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of Management Review, the Journal of Business Venturing, and Organization Science. He serves on the editorial boards of Administrative Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Journal and the Academy of Management Review. In his spare time, Professor Tyler is a tired dad who enjoys running, racquet sports, and fleeting moments of quiet.

Previous seminars

Lent Term 2017

Cumulative Advantage & the Status-Quality Link
Professor Jerker Denrell, Warwick Business School

14:00-15:30, 1 February 2017
Room W4.05, Cambridge Judge Business School


Prior research has shown that processes of cumulative advantage can lead to a low correlation between status and quality. When past success makes future success more likely even an agent or object of moderate quality can achieve repeated success and high status. Here we show that processes of cumulative advantage can also generate a negative correlation between status and quality: high status may indicate lower expected quality than moderate status does. The mechanism is that succeeding under favourable circumstances, caused by past success, is less informative about quality than succeeding under adverse circumstances, caused by past failure. In competitive systems, where winning requires beating an opponent, there is an additional mechanism: wins and losses are informative about the quality of the opponent. Repeated winning indicates that the quality of the opponent is low which makes winning less impressive. A sequence of wins followed by a loss indicates that the quality of the opponent is high, especially if the opponent was disadvantaged as a result of past losses, which makes the initial wins more impressive. The results have implications for status signalling, careers, and imitation processes.

Speaker bio

Prior to joining Warwick Business School in 2012 Jerker Denrell was Professor of Strategy and Decision Making at University of Oxford and Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business. He has published widely on topics including social dynamics, behavioural strategy, organisational learning and risk taking in leading journals including Psychological Review, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Management Science, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal, and Administrative Science Quarterly.

Enacting Fairness in Organisations: Handling Morally Puzzling Requests for Exceptional Funding in the English Health System
Dr Emmanouil Gkeredakis, Warwick Business School

13:00-14:30, 24 February 2017
Room W4.05, Cambridge Judge Business School


This paper explores how fairness is enacted in organisations. While early organisational researchers and moral psychologists approached fairness as a consciously deliberated ethical issue, recent behavioral and sensemaking studies highlight the intuitive and emotional foundations of fairness. Fairness is also increasingly understood as situationally malleable. Whether and how individuals engage with fairness (intuitively/deliberately) may depend on the circumstances in which they find themselves and where their responses to moral issues are primed (rather than consciously chosen). Yet, most of this research has not investigated how organisational context, especially when equipped with an 'ethical infrastructure' (e.g., ethical codes, frameworks), shapes engagement with fairness issues. The following question thus remains empirically and theoretically unaddressed: when organisations formally pursue fairness, how do organisational actors enact situated judgements on fairness? To explore this question, we conducted a field study of three English health authorities, which overtly aimed to handle complex cases - patients with atypical needs requesting exceptional funding - with fairness. These organisations explicitly framed fairness in utilitarian terms (maximisation of clinical benefit) and stipulated that a formal model of fairness be applied in every atypical case. Our ethnographic observations focused on how organisational actors enacted fairness when dealing with particular cases. Our findings suggest that fairness is a collective and effortful accomplishment that entails cognitive, moral, and affective work. It is through this work that situated judgements on fairness are crafted in an organisational context where fairness is a formal objective. The paper thus unpacks the internal workings of morally-attuned organisations and draws implications for future research on moral decision making.

Speaker bio

Emmanouil (Manos) Gkeredakis is Assistant Professor at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, UK. He received his PhD from the University of Liverpool and has previously held postdoctoral positions at New York University, Stern School of Business, and University of Warwick. His research focuses on process organisation studies with a particular interest in coordination practices and emerging phenomena of crowd-based innovation. His work has appeared in journals such as Organization Studies and Information Systems Research. His research is generally inspired by practice theories.

Family Firms as Institutions: A Study of Multi-centenary Japanese Shinise
Professor Davide Ravasi, Cass Business School 

with Professor Royston Greenwood, University of Alberta Business School, as discussant and commenting on "where institutional theory is going"

12:30-14:30, 28 February 2017
Room W4.05, Cambridge Judge Business School


In this study, we build on Selznick's theoretical insights to investigate how a group of multi-centenary family firms that are regarded as "institutions" - Japanese shinise - maintain this status. Our findings reveal a system of mutually supporting relationships between family, business, and community that explain the distinctive social standing of these organisations, the preservation of their identity-defying elements despite environmental changes, and their striking continuity. This study contributes to family business research and institutional theory by beginning to unpack the interrelations between communities, as a distinctive sociocultural context, and family firms, and by extending Selznick's ideas beyond organisational boundaries to appreciate the central role of communities in providing and preserving values.

Paper co-authored by Innan Sasaki and Evelyn R. Micelotta.

Hostile Principals: Managerial Response to Short Sellers
Professor Brian L. Connelly, Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, Auburn University

13:00-14:30, 17 February 2017
W4.05, Cambridge Judge Business School

in association with the Cambridge Corporate Governance Network (CCGN)


Agency theory describes the relationship between agents and principals, but there are some principals who profit from downward stock price movement. These are "short sellers", and they are hostile in the sense that they temporarily own shares of the firm, but are obligated to return the shares at a set price, so their value is maximised when firm value is minimised. Short-selling has increased considerably among publicly traded North American firms in recent years, making them an important component of the corporate governance landscape. Building on threat rigidity theory, we develop arguments about how managerial agents respond to short-sellers. We theorise that when firms have a high level of short interest shareholdings, managers will adopt a defensive stance by undertaking a smaller number of growth-oriented competitive actions and a larger number of consolidation initiatives. We then invoke the awareness, motivation, capability (AMC) perspective to help uncover scenarios where managers might be less likely to respond to the threat of short sellers. Specifically, we find that managers are less reactionary when (1) analysts are bullish on the firm, (2) CEOs are financially incented for growth and (3) the firm has ample financial slack.

Speaker bio

Professor Brian L. Connelly is Luck Eminent Scholar at Habert College of Business Auburn University. His research explores how corporate governance structures, such as shareholders and boards, affect competition and strategic outcomes. Some of the key theoretical mechanisms that underlie his work include signalling theory, social network theory, and tournament theory. Professor Connelly is Associate Editor at the Academy of Management Journal and has published in journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, and the Journal of Management.

Michaelmas Term 2016

The Generativity of Institutional Logics
Professor William Ocasio, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

16:00-17:30, 25 October 2016
Room W4.03, Cambridge Judge Business School


This study proposes and theorises a distinctive driver of institutional change, which we label the generativity of institutional logics. Departing from prevailing theory, which tends to conceptualise individual logics as sources of stability, we propose that certain logics actively encourage institutional change, in the form of their own ongoing elaboration. Drawing on a qualitative case study of the logic of hospital medicine in the United States, we develop empirically grounded theory to explain when and how logics are likely to generate change. We propose that institutional logics possess differing generative capacities, making institutional elaborations – changes in roles, theories and practices – more or less likely. We identify two key components of this capacity – incompleteness and openness – and three generative activities through which this capacity is realised – reflection, experimentation, and energetic engagement. We explain how our theory contributes to the institutional logics perspective, to debates on the role of embedded agency, to the literature on institutional work, and to recent concerns with institutions and emotions.

Building Meaning: City Identity and the Built Environment
Dr Candace Jones, University of Edinburgh

12:15-13:45, 9 November 2016
Room W4.05, Cambridge Judge Business School


Meaning is at the heart of identity – who we are and what we do. We focus on a specific form of collective identity – city identity – and build on Cerulo’s research (1995, 2005, 2009) that collective identity and shared experiences are encoded into material form. We extend collective identity by focusing on space and the built environment, which in contrast to national symbols, are in constant process of revision, including both change and stability. This combination of stability and change in material form enables us to examine the dynamic, interactive processes of collective identity. We engage in an inductive case study of Boston from 1930 through 2014 to explore how city identity and meaning is expressed, co-constructed and contested in the construction and removal of the elevated freeway. We trace the discourse and relations among key stakeholders: government policymakers, the Mayor, trade associations (private business interests), architects, architectural critics and the lay public. Our tentative and initial findings reveal how the built environment serves as a mnemonic device, triggering some historical memories and narratives to construct meaning and the city’s identity.

Speaker bio

Candace Jones research interests include creative industries and professional services from the lenses of networks, vocabularies, institutional logics, and materiality.

She has published on range of creative industries, including film, music, architects and architecture, in a variety of top journals, including the Academy of Management ReviewAcademy of Management AnnalsAdministrative Science QuarterlyJournal of Organizational Behavior,Organization Science, and Organization Studies and Poetics.

In 2015, she co-edited the Oxford Handbook of Creative Industries with Jonathan Sapsed and Mark Lorenzen.

She is on the Editorial Review Boards of Academy of Management ReviewJournal of Professions and OrganizationOrganization Science andOrganization Studies.

Bringing the Boss's Politics In: Supervisor Political Ideology and the Gender Gap in Earnings
Professor Aparna Joshi, Smeal College of Business, Penn State University

14:00-15:30, 21 November 2016
Room W4.03, Cambridge Judge Business School


The gender gap in earnings and rewards remains persistent across many professional and managerial work contexts. In these settings, where there are few objective criteria for performance and organisational mechanisms are weak, we propose that personal political values can serve as a powerful influence on whether supervisors reduce or enhance inequalities in performance-based rewards. We develop theory about how political liberalism versus conservatism, reflecting different views on social inequality and social change, affect supervisors' perceptions and allocative decision making. Combining internal personnel and billings data with publicly-available political donation records in a large law firm, we test the effect of political ideology among supervising law firm partners on the performance-based bonuses awarded to male and female subordinate lawyers. We find the male-female gender gap in performance-based pay is reduced for professional workers tied to liberal supervisors, relative to conservative supervisors. We further find this political ideology effect increases for workers with greater seniority in the organisation. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the determinants of the gender earnings gap, suggesting that in settings where managers have leeway over rewards and careers, their personal political beliefs have an important influence on outcomes for male and female workers.

Speaker bio

Aparna Joshi's work focuses on multilevel issues in workplace diversity, gender issues in science and engineering, collaboration in global and distributed teams, generational issues in the workplace, and international and cross-cultural management. Her work in the area of gender dynamics in engineering work groups was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant. Her research appears in Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and Organization Science. Aparna's work has received the Academy of Management's Saroj Parasuraman Award in 2010, the Dorothy Harlow Distinguished Paper Award in 2006 and 2008, the Ulrich-Lake Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Human Resource Management Journal, and the Academy of Management's Best Dissertation Award (Gender and Diversity in Organizations division) and has also been featured in the Cincinnati Enquirer, USA Today, and the Times of India. Prior to joining Smeal she was on the faculty of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. She has served on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Journal and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes and is currently an Associate Editor for the Academy of Management Journal. She was awarded the 2014 Cummings Award for Early to Mid-Career Scholarly Achievement, one of the highest professional honors in the field, by the Organizational Behavior Division of the Academy of Management.

Construction of Illegitimacy in the Case of Absinthe
Professor Eero Vaara, Aalto University School of Business

14:00-15:30, 6 December 2016
Castle Teaching Room, Cambridge Judge Business School


While there is a proliferation of research on legitimacy and legitimation, much less is known about how illegitimacy is socially constructed. In fact, a big part of this literature tends to assume that rendering something illegitimate is just the reverse of the process of legitimation. We argue that this is not the case with many phenomena that through social negotiation become to be seen or labelled as illegitimate. To develop a better understanding of how new illegitimate forms or categories are created, we adopt an historical discursive perspective that helps to highlight the processes and actions taken by various actors to construct senses of illegitimacy. In this paper, we draw on an historical case study of illegitimacy construction surrounding the alcoholic beverage absinthe between 1859 and 1915 in France. Along with the popularisation of absinthe, skepticism and criticism were voiced. Absinthe was portrayed as harmful to human health, society, and even the French nation. In 1915, while the consumption of absinthe was still popular and widespread, the French government issued a law banning its production and consumption in France. Based on this analysis, we develop a model that elucidates three interrelated dynamics of illegitimacy construction: construction of discursive resources to make sense of the novel category, mobilisation of these resources by various actors, and the stage-wise convergence of views through opportune moments and turning points.

Speaker bio

Eero Vaara is a Professor of Organization and Management at Aalto University School of Business, a Permanent Visiting Professor at EMLYON Business School, and a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Lancaster University, UK. His research interests focus on organisational, strategic and institutional change, strategic practices and processes, and historical and methodological issues in management and organisation research. He has worked especially on discursive and narrative approaches. He is serving as an Associate Editor of the Academy of Management Journal.

Seminars are added as they are arranged.

View a list of all Cambridge Judge research seminars