Research Summary

Divergent change in organizations

by Julie Battilana


The first stream of research in Professor Battilana’s work aims to identify the conditions that enable individual actors to initiate divergent change within organizations as well as the conditions enabling successful implementation of such change. It combines theoretical and empirical work based on data that Professor Battilana collected in various organizational settings, including for-profit, not-for-profit, and public organizations as well as social enterprises.

Through her research, Professor Battilana theorizes and empirically demonstrates that change agents’ likelihood to initiate divergent change depends on their social position, which is dependent on the status of their profession and of their organization, as well as on their position within this organization. Beyond the conditions that enable the initiation of divergent change, Professor Battilana’s research also examines the success factors for implementing such change. Her work indicates that informal networks are critical to change agents’ success. It further shows that while some network configurations are helpful for implementing divergent change, others are more useful in implementing non-divergent change. Building on these findings, Professor Battilana has developed a contingency theory of organizational change that accounts for the level of divergence of the change.

Taken together, studies in this stream of research have implications not only for theory, but also for practice. They show that all changes are not created equal, and may require distinct skills, networks of relationships and resources depending on how much they diverge from the status quo.