CFP: EGOS Sub-Theme: Theorizing the Past, Present and Future in Organization Theory

28 09 2016

Sub-theme 43: Theorizing the Past, Present and Future in Organization Theory


David Chandler
University of Colorado Denver, USA

Mar Pérezts
EMLyon Business School, France

Roy Suddaby
University of Victoria, Canada, & Newcastle University Business School, United Kingdom

Call for Papers
Many organizational outcomes are the result of processes that occur over long periods of time. In spite of this, within much macro-level research the passage of time tends to be assumed or ignored, rather than theorized rigorously (Bluedorn & Denhardt, 1988; Goodman et al., 2001; Lee & Liebenau, 1999). One way in which we exclude time from our theories is by studying climactic moments of change. Although these “moments of institutional choice” are inherently interesting, focusing on them risks privileging the instance of change at the expense of the essential groundwork that generated the conditions under which the opportunity for change emerged (Pierson, 2004, p. 136). That is, our preference for studying dramatic instances of revolutionarychange means that we know relatively little about processes of evolutionary change.

One way in which we make assumptions about time is to model “temporal homogeneity,” which adds to theoretical parsimony, but detracts from the ability to capture “decay in the influence of events over time” (Strang & Tuma, 1993, p. 614). We do this because much of our theory is driven by popular representations of clock time. This characterization presents time “as homogenous and divisible in structure, linear and uniform in its flow, objective and absolute, that is, existing independent of objects and events, measurable (or quantifiable), and as singular, with one and only one ‘correct’ time” (Lee & Liebenau, 1999, p. 1038). In reality, however, time is relative (Einstein, 1916). It is a social construct that is subject to complex social, cultural, and political influences (Picard et al., 2015). In other words, time is a radically subjective phenomenological experience that affects our being in the world as individuals and collectives.

Our goal for this sub-theme, therefore, is to encourage theory about how the passage of time unfolds in the past, present, and future in relation to organizations and organizing. While this encompasses a broader understanding of complex historical processes, it also includes work on theories of the passage of time (e.g., a richer theorization of social time and experienced time). The resulting discussion, we believe, presents the opportunity for an exciting avenue of research that can bridge many existing research streams:

· To explore the role of “ancestral organizations” (organizations that previously dissolved) and “organizational legacy” in embedding routines, knowledge, and technology in the community that subsequently fosters the founding, evolution, and dissolution of descendent organizations (e.g., Walsh & Bartunek, 2011; Walsh & Glynn, 2008).

· To understand the role of rhetoric, narrative, and related social processes used to construct organizations, institutions, and collectives as mnemonic communities (e.g., Suddaby et al., 2010; Zerubavel, 2003).
· To understand how organizations use history strategically to foster identification with key stakeholders (Foster et al., 2011; Suddaby et al., 2016).
· To understand how the past, present, and future may become elements of organizations’ imaginary dimension and foster various forms of political activity (Picard et al., 2015).
· To conceptualize organizations and institutions as cumulative, sedimented entities that become subject to change depending on the stability of their past – a dynamic resource that is curated in the present (e.g., Chandler & Foster, 2015).
· To differentiate between objective time (normatively developed scales) and subjective time (socially-constructed perceptions) to redefine our conceptions of agency and explore processes of organizing within complex temporalities (e.g., Lee & Liebenau, 1999).
· To understand the implications of artifacts that pace organizational life and activities (e.g. annual reviews, quarterly objectives, seasonality) and of phenomena happening outside or beyond the realm of experienced time (e.g. instantaneous global reach of social networks, or mechanisms of time-compression such as high-frequency trading).
· To understand how perceptions of the future, examined through the lens of the past, affect organizational dynamics today – what Gioia, Corley, and Fabbri (e.g., 2002) term “revising the past while thinking in future perfect tense”.

We aim to explore these questions and many more, together with their implications for research, in a wide-ranging discussion about a fundamental area of organizational sociology (Clark, 1985). In this spirit, researchers across the range of organization theories are encouraged to apply for this sub-theme with submissions that encompass both theory (e.g., path dependence, sedimentation, philosophical conceptions of time) and methodology (e.g., qualitative analysis, rhetorical analysis). Our goal is to foster discussions that locate the past, present, and future as integral to the organizational story.


· Bluedorn, A.C., & Denhardt, R.B. (1988): “Time and Organizations.” Journal of Management, 14 (2), 299-320.
· Chandler, D., & Foster, W.M. (2015): A Present Past: A Historical Perspective on Institutional Maintenance and Change. Paper presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting. Vancouver, Canada.
· Clark, P.A. (1985): “A Review of the Theories of Time and Structure for Organizational Sociology.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 4, 35-79.
· Einstein, A. (1916): Relativity: The Special and General Theory. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
· Foster, W.M., Suddaby, R., Minkus, A., & Wiebe, E. (2011): “History as Social Memory Assets: The Example of Tim Hortons.” Management & Organizational History, 6 (1), 101-120.
· Gioia, D.A., Corley, K.G., & Fabbri, T. (2002): “Revising the Past (While Thinking in the Future Perfect Tense).” Journal of Organizational Change Management, 15 (6), 622-634.
· Goodman, P.S., Lawrence, B.S., Ancona, D.G., & Tushman, M.L. (2001): “Introduction to the Special Issue: Time in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review, 26 (4), 507-511.
· Lee, H., & Liebenau, J. (1999): “Time in Organizational Studies: Towards a New Research Direction.” Organization Studies, 20 (6), 1035-1058.
· Picard, S., Steyer, V., Pérezts, M., & Philippe, X. (2015): “Exploring Corporation’s Activism: Predatory Modus Operandi and Its Effects on Institutional Field Dynamics.” In: C. Garsten & A. Sörbom (eds.): Politics and the Corporate World: Advocacy, Lobbying and Markets. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
· Pierson, P. (2004): Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
· Strang, D., & Tuma, N. B. (1993): “Spatial and Temporal Heterogeneity in Diffusion.” American Journal of Sociology, 99 (3), 614-639.
· Suddaby, R., Foster, W.M., & Quinn Trank, C. (2010): “Rhetorical History as a Source of Competitive Advantage.” In: J.A.C. Baum & J. Lampel (eds.): The Globalization of Strategy Research. Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 27. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 147-173.
· Suddaby, R., Foster, W.M., & Quinn Trank, C. (2016): “Re-Membering: Rhetorical History as Identity Work.” In: M.G. Pratt, M. Schultz, B.E. Ashforth & D. Ravasi (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Identity. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 297-316.
· Walsh, I.J., & Bartunek, J.M. (2011): “Cheating the Fates: Organizational Foundings in the Wake of Demise.” Academy of Management Journal, 54 (5), 1017-1044.
· Walsh, I.J., & Glynn, M.A. (2008): “The Way We Were: Legacy Organizational Identity and the Role of Leadership.”Corporate Reputation Review, 11 (3), 262-276.
· Zerubavel, E. (2003): Time Maps: Collective Memory and the Social Shape of the Past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

David Chandler is Assistant Professor of Management and Co-Director of the Managing for Sustainability Program at the University of Colorado Denver, USA. His research focuses on understanding how organizations interact with their complex institutional environments.

Mar Pérezts is Associate Professor at EMLyon Business School, France, where she belongs to the OCE Research Center. Her research is transversal, linking managerial and organizational questions (e.g., business ethics) with philosophical and sociological approaches.

Roy Suddaby is Professor & Winspear Chair at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria, Canada. He is also Research Professor at Newcastle University Business School, Newcastle University, UK. His research focuses on organizational and social change.

Asset ownership and incentives in early shareholder capitalism: Liverpool shipping in the eighteenth century

27 09 2016

The Strategic Management Journal has published a fascinating article that uses business history to address some pressing issues in management theory and practice. The paper, “Asset ownership and incentives in early shareholder capitalism: Liverpool shipping in the eighteenth century” was written by Brian S. Silverman (Toronto-Rotman) and
Paul Ingram (Columbia Business School).


Research summary: We explore captain-ownership and vessel performance in eighteenth-century transatlantic shipping. Although contingent compensation often aligned incentives between captains and shipowners, one difficult-to-contract hazard was threat of capture during wartime. We exploit variation across time and routes to study the relationship between capture threat and captain-ownership. Vessels were more likely to have captain-owners when undertaking wartime voyages on routes susceptible to privateers. Captain-owned vessels were less readily captured than those with nonowner captains, but more likely to forgo voyage profits to preserve the vessel’s safety. These results are consistent with multitask agency, where residual claims to asset value rather than control rights influence captain behavior. This article is among the first to empirically isolate mechanisms distinguishing among major strands of organizational economics regarding asset ownership and performance.

Managerial summary: Organizations face an enduring challenge: Owners hire an executive to act on their behalf, but it is difficult to ensure that the executive indeed acts in their interests. In this study, we exploit a useful historical context—eighteenth-century transatlantic shipping from Liverpool—to explore the cause and effect of a captain’s becoming part-owner of his vessel. Captains became part-owners for voyages likely to encounter enemy privateers. Captain-owners were less likely to be captured, but were more willing to forgo cargo profits to preserve the vessel’s safety. Our results provide a useful analogy to modern firm owners who must determine whether to award equity to executives, and to managers who must determine whether to provide assets to employees or rely on employee self-provision of assets (e.g., tools for tradespeople).


I see that Prof. Silverman is working on another paper that uses historical data from Liverpool. This paper is on “the role of social ties, particularly to high-status ship owners, in leading Liverpool merchants to enter the slave trade in the face of an increasing stigma against that trade.”

Corporate Archives in Global Perspective: Preliminary timetable

26 09 2016


This is the programme of the workshop on Corporate Archives that will be held at the University of Gothenburg in November.

Thursday 24th November 2016:

10.00 Opening of workshop, words of welcome, practical information

10.15. Key note 1:

11.00 -12.15 Session I: National vs. International Perspectives on Preservation of Corporate Archives

Karl-Magnus Johansson (Landsarkivet i Göteborg), “Short Introduction to Swedish Corporate Archives and their Preservation.”

Anders Houltz (Centre for Business History, Sweden), “Private Interests and National heritage: A Swedish Model for Preserving Corporate Archives.”

Diego Coraiola (University of Victoria, Canada) & Stephanie Decker (Aston Business School, UK), “International Archives and National Institutions.”


Lunch: 12.15-13.15

13.15-14.45 Session II: Public needs vs Private Interests? Competing Models for Preserving Corporate Archives

Neill Forbes (University of Coventry, UK), “New connections for the BT Archives?

Inte Fintland & Torkel Thime (Arkivverket, Norway), “The Potential and Possible Problems in Combining Private and Public Archival Material.”

Jarmo Luoma-Aho (Central Archive for Finnish Business Records): “The state subsidy system for private archives and the Central Archives for Finnish Business Records.”

Coffee: 14.45-15.00

15.00-16.30:  Business Archives and the Control of the Past

Diego Coraiola (University of Victoria) & Wim van Lent: “Creating the Ultimate History: Archives, Memory and Control at the Dutch East India Company.”

Hans Hulling (Karlstads Universitet, Sweden), “Histories in the Principality of Uddeholm: Corporation, Trade Union and local Community narrating History at times of Transformation and Crisis, ca 1870-1990.”

Andrew Popp (University of Gothenburg/University of Liverpool) and Susanna Fellman (University of Gothenburg), “A Stakeholder Perspective on Corporate Archives.”


16.30-17.30: Panel Discussion and Closing of Day 1

Friday 25th November:

9.00-9.45 Key Note 2:

9.45-10.00 Coffee:

10.00-11.30 Session III: Voice vs Silence in the Corporate Archive:

Mats Jönsson (University of Gothenburg): “History, Archives and the Pursuit of Competitive Advantage: Upside and Downside: Causes and Effects of the Digital Compilation by a Commercial Film Archive.”

Andrew Smith (University of Liverpool, UK) & Maki Umemura (Cardiff Business School, UK), “Why We Need a Transparency Revolution in Business History.”

Roy Suddaby (University of Victoria), TBA

11.30 closing of seminar, lunch.



Michael Aldous on Using Business History in Teaching

23 09 2016

From the BHC Exchange Blog:

In 2015, the Business History Conference appointed Michael Aldous (Queen’s University, Belfast) to serve as the inaugural Teaching and Research Resources Web Editor. He has now written an introductory essay to launch a new section of the Teaching and Resources portion of the BHC website, one that will “promote the excellent teaching resources, whilst providing context, particularly for those not immersed in Business History, and offering insights and inspiration regarding their use.” In his essay, “Rethinking Business History in the Classroom,” Aldous writes, “I would like to invite members of the BHC community to contribute short pieces that discuss the many and varied ways in which business history [is] being used across disciplines in classrooms, and through these entries foster a wider discussion on these opportunities.”


Read more here.

Business Historical Research Showcased in The Economist

21 09 2016

We live in an age in which academics are increasingly expected by their paymasters to demonstrate research impact (i.e., that their ivory-tower scribblings are having an impact on practical people and society more generally). For some academic communities, such as the monetary economists who speak to central banks or medical researchers who save lives, demonstrating influence is rather straightforward. For others, it is a bit harder to measure impact, although having one’s research summarised in The Economist is pretty convincing evidence that one’s research is regarded as relevant to managers.

That’s why I was delighted to see that current issue of The Economic has a Special Report on “Superstar” Companies that is filled with historical information and historical analogiesm and crucially, explicitly cites the research of members of the business-history research community, including, of course, the late Al Chandler but also Naomi Lamoureaux.  The explicit citations of the research of business historians can be found in the article titled What goes around: America’s corporate world alternates between competition and consolidation.

I happened to read this article yesterday, right before I visited a business historian and research collaborator at Copenhagen Business School. I showed her the article and we were both pleased to see the researcher of BHC members being highlighted in this fashion.

CETA and the “Battle of Battle of Wolfsburg”

19 09 2016


The fate of the proposed trade deal between Canada and the EU will depend on the outcome of a political fight in Germany that has dubbed the Battle of Wolfsburg. The German city of Wolfsburg is primarily associated with one of that country’s most famous exports, the Volkswagen. Right now, though, all eyes are focused on the city because it is hosting a conference at which 250 delegates from the Social Democratic party will vote on whether to approve the trade deal between the EU and Canada. The SPD is split on the issue of CETA: the left-wing of the party is generally opposed and sees the agreement as essentially the same as the proposed trade deal between the EU and the US, an agreement that is widely opposed by centre-left people in Europe. (For BBC coverage of the massive protests against CETA, see here). The more moderate faction of the SPD favours the trade agreement with Canada and is seeking the approval of the convention for it.  If the German parliament fails to ratify the deal, the agreement is unlikely to take effect.

Canada’s very capable minister of International Trade,  Chrystia Freeland understands the importance of the Volksburg conference and will attend. It appears that the Canadian government’s strategy for convincing European social democrats of the value of the agreement is to stress that Canada is different from the US and shares the values of the EU nations. She has just released a joint statement with European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, in which CETA is described as a “progressive agreement” filled with social-protection clauses. It will be very interesting to see whether this argument is persuasive.

Two Important New Papers by Dan Wadhwani

15 09 2016

Edward Elgar has just published a new collection of essays entitled A Research Agenda for Entrepreneurship and Context. The book’s editors are Friederike Welter, the Director of Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) Bonn and Bill Gartner, Professor of Entrepreneurship and the Art of Innovation, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark and Professor of Entrepreneurship, California Lutheran University.

I’ve had a chance to leaf through the book, which contains some really interesting papers.  (Full table of contents below). The papers that caught my eye and which I have read are by  Dan Wadhwani and deal with what historical research methods and historical knowledge can offer to entrepreneurship research. “Entrepreneurship in historical context: using history to develop theory and understand process” and “Historical methods for contextualizing entrepreneurship research.”  It is encouraging to me to historical methods being incorporated into the literature on entrepreneurship research methods.


Table of Contents

1. The context of contextualizing contexts
Friederike Welter, William B. Gartner and Mike Wright

2. Understanding entrepreneurial cognitions through the lenses of context
Malin Brännback and Alan L. Carsrud

3. ‘After’ context
Chris Steyaert

4. Let them eat bricolage? Toward a contextualized notion of inequality of entrepreneurial opportunity
Ted Baker and E. Erin Powell

5. The temporal dimension of context
Stephen Lippmann and Howard E. Aldrich

6. Entrepreneurship in historical context: using history to develop theory and understand process
R. Daniel Wadhwani

7. A relational conceptualization of context and the real-time emergence of entrepreneurship processes
Denise Fletcher and Paul Selden

8. Theorizing entrepreneurship in context
Erik Stam

9. Methodological approaches towards context-sensitive entrepreneurship research
Simone Chlosta

10. Advancing understanding of entrepreneurial embeddedness: forms of capital, social contexts and time
Sarah Drakopoulou Dodd, Tobias Pret and Eleanor Shaw

11. Historical methods for contextualizing entrepreneurship research
R. Daniel Wadhwani

12. Narrating context
William B. Gartner

13. Advancing our research agenda for entrepreneurship and contexts
Friederike Welter and William B. Gartner