The Inaugural Paul R. Lawrence Conference: Connecting Rigor and Relevance in Institutional Analysis

June 2 - 4, 2013

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Welcome to the The Inaugural Paul R. Lawrence Conference: Connecting Rigor and Relevance in Institutional Analysis.




Over the past three years, the ABC Network has held a series of conferences on institutional theory (see for details), addressing important topics such as agency in interpretive approaches, institutional emergence and institutional logics. In this conference, we aim to tap into that momentum, holding a conference focused on a significant critique of institutional theory – practical relevance.  That is, while it is recognized that institutional theory encompasses a rigorous set of tools and mechanisms for understanding changes in firms’ external environments, such tools are not as relevant for helping practitioners address important problems and issues.
The time is ripe for such a conversation because contemporary societies are struggling with reforming deeply rooted systems, such as financial, educational and health care systems.  Institutional theory can contribute to understanding how change unfolds and can be shaped in such domains at both organizational and institutional levels.  The conference will focus on how institutional theory can be mobilized to help understand and manage such organizational and institutional dynamics.
This conference will be the inaugural Paul R. Lawrence Conference, the first of what will be annual HBS conferences to honor the legacy of Paul Lawrence’s career in service of rigorous research that has an impact on practice. Paul was one the originators of the field of organizations as a domain of study. Over a 60-year career at HBS, Paul’s research spanned individual, group, organizational, and inter-organizational levels of analysis. His work was always done rigorously with an eye to shape practice.
We explicitly look for papers that aim to show how institutional analysis can both be scientifically rigorous and also provide a relevant perspective on leadership, managerial action, and organizational functioning.  Some possible areas of inquiry include:
·         The emergence and institutionalization of new organizational practices, such as diversity management and corporate social responsibility, to address longstanding social and economic problems.  How are these practices enacted by corporations? Are these authentic attempts by corporations to “do good,” or mainly window dressing?
·         Policymaking and reform implementation at the state and global levels. For example, how do organizations and social movements influence political processes, and what effect does this have on the structure of markets and organizations? What are the implications of the rise of multinational corporations on the transnational political stage?
·         The development of novel organizational forms to address societies’ challenges. For example, we are witnessing the rise of hybrid organizations which are neither typical corporations nor typical nonprofits but combine elements of the two.  Where and when are these organizations most effective?  How stable are they over time? 
·         The influence that technological changes have on organizations and the organization of work.  For example, how have new organizing capabilities created by technological advances influenced the development of new practices such as collaborative product development and distributed innovation?  What are the implications for organizational and managerial action?
We are also open to other topics that examine the connection between organizations and institutional change more generally.  We encourage methodological and theoretical diversity including quantitative and qualitative studies as well as studies that take a multi-level approach connecting organizational processes with the broader institutional environment. 
Abstract submission (approximately 500 words): October 15, 2012
Notification of acceptance: December 15, 2012
Submission of full paper (maximum 8,000 words): April 1, 2013
Please send submissions to Julie Battilana ( and Chris Marquis ( and cc: Tom Barrow (
The workshop will be held at Harvard Business School
Julie Battilana (, Shon Hiatt (, Mukti Khaire ( and Chris Marquis (
Advisory committee
Eva Boxenbaum (Copenhagen Business School), Frank Dobbin (Harvard U.), Mary Ann Glynn (Boston College), Royston Greenwood (U. of Alberta), Ranjay Gulati (Harvard U.), Rakesh Khurana (Harvard U.), Micheal Lounsbury  (U. of Alberta), Jesper Strandgaard (Copenhagen Business School), and Michael Tushman (Harvard U.).