How can actors – be they individuals or organizations – diverge from deeply-seated norms and develop new ones, when their beliefs and actions are shaped by these very norms? This question lies at the heart of Professor Battilana’s research. To address it, she examines the processes by which individuals and organizations initiate and implement change that diverges from taken-for-granted norms in their environment. Such divergent changes are particularly challenging to implement because they require not only breaking with existing norms, but also convincing others to rally behind the change.
Professor Battilana’s research aims to elucidate what it takes to initiate divergent change, and how to succeed in its implementation. To do so, she has developed two streams of research that address divergent change at different levels of analysis. The first focuses on understanding the conditions that enable individuals to initiate and implement divergent change within their organizations. The second examines how organizations themselves can diverge from deeply-seated organizational forms, which, as they become taken-for-granted over time, prescribe the structures and management systems that organizations in a given sector ought to adopt. Studies in this stream reveal the role of hybrid organizing in this process—defined as the activities, structures, processes and meanings by which organizations make sense of and combine multiple organizational forms. In her research, Professor Battilana focuses on a specific instance of hybrid organizing by examining social enterprises that diverge from the established organizational forms of both typical corporations and typical not-for-profits by combining aspects of both at their core.