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The Organisational Theory & Information Systems PhD pathway

Introduction to Organisational Theory & Information Systems

The study of organisations in the digital global business landscape requires a multidisciplinary perspective. For this reason, the Organisational Theory & Information Systems (OTIS) PhD pathway brings together scholars from organisation theory and information systems to investigate both emerging and long-standing issues faced by individuals and organisations in a holistic manner. The breadth of interests pursued by our OTIS faculty and students creates a vibrant research environment that is supportive of a wide range of methods. This has fuelled our strong international reputation for qualitative research.

Watch Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville talk about the Organisational Theory & Information Systems pathway:

Essential reading

The Organisational Theory & Information Systems PhD pathway

Download detailed information about the nine-month + four-year programme structure & content.

To start on the Organisational Theory & Information Systems pathway you must take one of the following nine-month masters programmes:

Research areas

Our faculty and PhD students have a worldwide reputation as leading scholars who use primarily qualitative methods to explore important questions related to organising in general, and as well as organising in relation to digital technologies.

We study diverse issues and contribute to a range of academic and theoretical conversations, including those on institutional and organisational change, social innovation, digital innovation, and social and environmental issues.

What unites us are several common elements:

  • a deep intellectual curiosity, which means we draw from and contribute to various theories from within and beyond organisation studies
  • a passion to shed light on organising practises and their consequences in settings that matter – often these relate to societal grand challenges, such as those around social and environmental issues
  • a commitment to methods that enable us to get up close to the phenomena we study – including ethnographic methods, in-depth interviewing, and other qualitative data collection techniques

Below are some representative questions that are of interest to OTIS PhD pathway students and faculty. Please be sure to check out our faculty and current PhD student webpages to learn more about the subjects on which we are currently conducting research.

  • How do individuals effectively advance innovation in their organisation and sector? What roles do organisational culture, identity and creativity play in managing change and innovation?
  • How do new institutional fields and markets emerge? How does social change come about? What is the role of hybrid organisations and social innovation in these processes?
  • How is digital innovation shaping the evolution of organisations and industries?
  • How can we theorise the relationship between technologies, people and organisational practices?
  • What roles do partnership and collaboration play in sustainable global business development? 
  • What role do organisations play in addressing the fundamental global social challenges of poverty, climate change, health inequalities and chronic disease?
  • How, when and why are new ventures created? And how can they be a force for social good as well as economic value generation?

What you can expect from the PhD pathway in Organisational Theory & Information Systems

There are several distinguishing features that make the OTIS PhD pathway at Cambridge Judge Business School unique. This pathway has been designed to prepare students to conduct independent, high-calibre research in the OTIS field and to pursue an academic career as a faculty member at a major university.

  • Rigorous academic training: We work with you to develop an integrated and coherent programme of study that includes lectures, intensive seminars and workshops. Students receive funds to attend cutting-edge and highly specialised research methods workshops offered by renowned scholars at other institutions. The research methods you will study include quantitative and qualitative techniques that enable you to adopt either single or mixed methods in your research. This programme will train you in the latest research methods and emerging thinking in innovation, strategy and organisation.
  • Close research collaborations: The core feature of the programme is the close collaboration between our faculty members and doctoral students. You will work with the faculty on joint research projects for presentation at top international conferences and for publication in leading academic journals. Our faculty members maintain research collaborations with students long after they have graduated. Our faculty have served as associate editors and on the editorial boards of leading academic journals, in addition to regularly publishing in these journals. These experiences will help you ensure your work is tailored for academic impact.
  • Highly selective and global: The programme is highly selective. You will interact closely with outstanding fellow PhD students who represent a wide variety of professional backgrounds, nationalities and ethnicities.
  • Connections with renowned scholars and schools around the world: You can interact and collaborate closely with leading scholars from around the world through our active research seminars and renowned visiting scholar programmes. The school also offers student exchange programmes, which will enable you to spend part of your PhD programme at a top international school of your choice. Our students have visited renowned institutions such as Wharton, Oxford and London Business School as part of the PhD programme.
  • Deep engagement approach: The hallmark of this PhD pathway is the combination of high standards of academic rigour and strong practical relevance to the business world. We will help you engage with organisations directly to gain access to unique data and rich insights on key problems facing organisations. This engagement will help you shed new light on ongoing academic debates, and it is this synergy of rigour and relevance that makes the OTIS PhD pathway unique.
  • State-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure: You will have access to comprehensive research databases and the latest software and computer equipment.

What we expect from our PhD students

We expect applicants to be intellectually curious and have a passion for developing new ideas and knowledge that will enable them to make their mark on both their academic field and wider society. It should be your ambition to develop a rewarding academic career in a business school, and you should have a strong desire to engage with external organisations.

You will need to have earned a bachelors degree (and in some cases a masters degree) from a highly regarded university and performed within the top five per cent of your class. Please see the MPhil in Innovation, Strategy & Organisation or Master of Research (MRes) academic requirements for more detail. Our students have first degrees in areas such as business, management, economics, humanities, psychology, philosophy and sociology.

We will need to see evidence of excellent writing skills and quantitative ability. A degree of practical management experience is welcome but not essential.

You will be allocated a principal supervisor within your pathway. A senior academic, normally a Reader or Professor, they will guide you through the programme, help you to succeed in the job market and assist you in gaining a faculty position at a leading business school. Your principal supervisor will take an active role in your research programme. During the PhD, they will assemble a group of faculty (your advisory committee), and members of this team will co-author papers with you.

For this pathway, view the research interests of these faculty that may serve as principal supervisor:

Michael Barrett

Professor Michael Barrett

Digital innovation in diverse settings, including university-based ecosystems, healthcare, and banking. He draws primarily on practice-based theories for understanding digital innovation and transformation. He has also developed rhetorical strategies for understanding IT diffusion, and deploys longitudinal case study research using interpretive and mixed-methods approaches.

Mark de Rond

Professor Mark de Rond

Mark studies people by living with them under similar conditions so as to better understand how they experience, and develop meaningful relations to, the world as it happens. His fieldwork has included long stints with war surgeons, elite rowers, biochemists, and comedians. He contributes to institutional theory and uses ethnographic methods.

Matthew Grimes

Dr Matthew Grimes

How individuals and organisations create, introduce, and sustain positive social change by way of entrepreneurship. He studies these topics primarily in contexts such as social entrepreneurship and business incubators/accelerators. He employs a range of methodologies, including qualitative and quantitative methods.

Helen Haugh

Dr Helen Haugh

Organisational theory; social and community entrepreneurship; qualitative research methods, particularly ethnography.

Jennifer Howard-Grenville

Professor Jennifer Howard-Grenville (not available to take incoming PhD students in October 2020)

Organisational and social change processes, often as they relate to environmental sustainability. She contributes to the literatures on organisational routines, culture, and identity, and has studied the semiconductor manufacturing, oil and gas, and athletic apparel industries, as well as communities and occupations. Her work draws on qualitative data and analysis.

Matthew Jones

Dr Matthew Jones

The relationship between information systems and social and organisational change. He also explores theoretical and methodological issues in information systems research.

Thomas Roulet.

Dr Thomas Roulet

Negative social evaluations (stigma, scandals) and their antecedents (misconduct, deviance). He also contributed to the development of institutional theory and research methods (in particular observational and historical methods). While primarily a qualitative researcher, a share of his work is based on mixed-methods and combines different approaches.

Paul Tracey

Professor Paul Tracey

Social enterprise, entrepreneurship, social innovation, and regional innovation. He contributes to the literatures on institutions and institutional change, as well as that on stigma and legitimacy. He uses qualitative methods to approach these topics.

Dr Stella Pachidi supervises MPhil individual research projects and MPhil dissertations, and is available to join a PhD advisory team.