Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

How the Zebra Got Its Stripes: Imprinting of Individuals and Hybrid Social Ventures

by Matthew Lee and Julie Battilana

Abstract

Hybrid organizations that combine multiple, existing organizational forms are frequently proposed as a source of organizational innovation, yet little is known about the origins of such organizations. We propose that individual founders of hybrid organizations acquire imprints from past exposure to work environments, thus predisposing them to incorporate the associated logics in their subsequent ventures, even when doing so requires deviation from established organizational templates. We test our theory on a novel dataset of over 700 founders of social ventures, all guided by a social welfare logic. Some of them also incorporate a commercial logic along with the social welfare logic, thereby creating a hybrid social venture. We find evidence of three sources of commercial imprints: the founder's own, direct work experience, as well as the indirect influence of parental work experiences and professional education. Our findings further suggest that the effects of direct imprinting are strongest from the early tenure of for-profit experience, but diminish with longer tenure. In supplementary analyses, we parse out differences between the sources of imprints and discuss implications for how imprinting functions as an antecedent to the creation of new, hybrid forms.

Keywords: hybrid organizations; imprinting; institutional theory; social entrepreneurship; Social Entrepreneurship; Organizations;

Citation:

Lee, Matthew, and Julie Battilana. "How the Zebra Got Its Stripes: Imprinting of Individuals and Hybrid Social Ventures." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-005, July 2013.