Organization and Management Theory OMT

CfP EGOS Sub-theme 41: Mapping the Configurational Diversity of Organizing Forms

  • 1.  CfP EGOS Sub-theme 41: Mapping the Configurational Diversity of Organizing Forms

    Posted 13 days ago

    EGOS Sub-theme 41: Mapping the Configurational Diversity of Organizing Forms and Paths




    Bart Cambré

    Antwerp Management School & University of Antwerp, Belgium


    Joanna T. Campbell

    University of Cincinnati, USA


    Peer C. Fiss

    University of Southern California, USA


    Short Version:

    Organizations appear in an astonishing diversity of forms and paths, many of which are marked by permanent and momentary states of imperfection and suboptimality. Yet, most theories in organization studies tend to focus on ideal states and desirable outcome, inadvertently suppressing our opportunities to make sense of this diversity in organizing. Similarly, most empirical analyses either focus broadly on the "average" organization or narrowly on unusual and exceptional case, challenging our ability to empirical study and map diversity across a population of cases. The goal of this sub-theme is to explore new avenues for mapping this diversity of organizing forms and paths. We invite theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions that enrich our understanding of the diverse range of organizational forms and paths. Contributions using a set-analytic such as Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and related methods are especially welcome. The sub-theme will merge paper presentations and group discussions with latest insights in configurational theory and methods, and especially imperfect suboptimal states in organizational forms and paths.

    Keywords: Organizational Configurations; New Organizational forms; Organizational paths; Hybrid organizations; Ambidexterity; Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA); Set-analytic Methods


    Deadline: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 23:59:59 CET.


    Extended Version:


    The organizational world is replete with diverse forms of organizing, ranging from bureaucracies, markets, and clans (e.g., Crozier, 1963; Ouchi, 1980) to adhocracies and network, open-source, platform and crowd-sourced organizations (e.g., Daft & Lewin, 1993; Gawer, 2014; Mintzberg & McHugh, 1985; Von Krogh & Von Hippel, 2006) to ambidextrous, paradoxical and hybrid organizations (e.g., Gibson & Birkinshaw, 2004; Raynard, 2016; Smith & Besharov, 2019). Beyond this diversity, there are various subtypes of organizing within each of these broad categories of organizational forms. Bureaucracies can be coercive or enabling (Adler & Borys, 1996), ambidextrous organizations can separate their activities in space or time or by context (Raisch & Birkinshaw, 2008), and the multiplicity of logics in hybrid organizations can take a variety of forms (Besharov & Smith, 2014). In addition, as routine and performativity theorists remind us (e.g., Feldman & Pentland, 2003; Glaser, 2017), each of these types can take a plethora of instantiations as they are enacted in everyday life, with experimentation, slippage in transmission, and assemblage resulting in further variation being the norm, not the exception.


    Mapping this dazzling variety of organizational activities requires approaches that allow for a diversity of forms and paths and provide space for imperfection, deviance, and suboptimality. Even so, our conceptual tools are not always up to this task. Current theorizing in organization studies tends to focus on ideal states and desirable outcomes such as high performance, innovation, or job satisfaction while neglecting imperfections and suboptimal configurations that may nevertheless be important events and states in organizational pathways (e.g., McKinley, 1993; Meyer & Zucker, 1989).


    A similar picture emerges regarding empirics, as many of our dominant methods are not geared towards allowing for such diversity. On the one hand, correlational methods and their underlying logic of regression to the mean tend to bias analysis against variety and shift attention away from understanding a diversity of forms. Outliers and deviant cases-while often theoretically and substantively interesting-tend to be suppressed and assigned to the error term, made less influential, or manually deleted from the sample to avoid their influence on the results (Fiss, Park, El Sawy, 2020). On the other hand, while traditional case studies allow us to select cases because of specific imperfections, and thus offer means to closely engage with the unusual and exceptional case, such case studies are likewise challenged when the goal is to map diversity across a population of cases.


    In the current subtheme, we account, and provide space, for imperfection and variation in organizational forms and paths by considering alternative ways of mapping the diversity of organizational solutions to the problems we face. Our goal is to not only focus on the high-performance forms of organizing, but to broaden the focus to allow for suboptimal forms of getting by, with blemishes, muddling through, satisficing as well as optimizing, and so forth. We are also interested in suboptimal states in organizational paths as possibly important components and moments in organizational activities.


    Our focus is both theoretical and methodological. In theoretical terms, what novel theoretical frameworks and concepts allow us to better understand the diversity of organizing (e.g., Puranam, Alexy, & Reitzig, 2014)? Methodologically, what comparative methods allow for an empirical mapping of this diversity that allows for variation and multiple pathways to an outcome (e.g., Misangyi et al., 2017)? How can both theoretical and methodological advances be merged into a coherent perspective on the diversity of organizing?


    We invite papers that enhance our theorizing of, and ability to map, the diversity of organizing forms and paths and welcome contributions from multiple theoretical fields of organizational studies. We encourage theoretical, empirical, and methodological contributions. We especially welcome papers deploying comparative set-analytic methods such as crisp and fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and related configurational approaches, but also work using other empirical approaches for mapping the diversity of organizational forms, be they qualitative or quantitative.


    Possible research questions include (but are not limited to) the following ones:


    • How do our current theories need to be adapted to better incorporate a diversity of organizational paths to a desired outcome?
    • What role do suboptimal states play in organizational paths, and what is the role of imperfections in change patterns of organizational configurations?
    • How might institutional complexity inform our understanding of the diversity of organizational forms?
    • How can landscape metaphors from complexity theory help us better theorize the diversity of organizational forms?
    • What methodological alternatives, especially using set-analytics, allow for a mapping of the organizational world?
    • What is the role of imperfection and suboptimality in driving diverse forms of innovation and the striving to do better?
    • How do we better theorize organizational hybridity and fuzzy organizational boundaries? What makes such organizational forms (in)effective?
    • What are the forces that shape, enable, and constrain diversity in organizational fields and populations?
    • When does diversity of forms and pathways expand or contract?
    • If imperfection and suboptimality appear to be inescapable, how can we leverage them in our understanding of organizing?


    We hope to see you in Vienna for the 2022 EGOS Colloquium. You can find more information on the EGOS website, including submission instructions.

    Bart, Joanna, and Peer


    Bart Cambré is Vice Dean of Antwerp Management School and professor of Business Research Methods at Antwerp Management School, the University of Antwerp and MCI (Austria). He currently holds the chair on Business Research Methods at Antwerp Management School. His current research involves organizational networks, and research methods with a focus on the configurational approach and evaluation studies. As a team, the convenors of this sub-theme have organized several conferences and workshops on QCA and set-analytic methods.


    Joanna T. Campbell is an Associate Professor of Management at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati and a Research Affiliate at the University of Notre Dame. Joanna's research interests include top executive characteristics and roles in organizational outcomes, corporate governance, stakeholder strategy, and configurational theorizing and methods of analysis. She has published multiple papers on QCA and related configurational methods. She serves as a Representative-at-Large for the Research Methods Community of the Strategic Management Society.


    Peer C. Fiss is the Jill and Frank Fertitta Chair and Professor of Management & Organization and Sociology at the University of Southern California (USA). His research interests include organization theory, framing, and social categorization. He has also been working for almost two decades on the use of set-analytic methods in the social sciences, and specifically on the use of fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (QCA). His recent rebook with Charles Ragin on set-analytics is entitled "Intersectional Inequality: Race, Class, Test Scores, and Poverty" (Chicago University Press, 2017)




    Peer C. Fiss

    Jill and Frank Fertitta Chair in Business Administration

    Professor of Management & Organization, and Sociology

    USC-Marshall School of Business

    Hoffman Hall 431 (mailing address)

    Hoffman Hall 521 (physical address)

    701 Exposition Blvd

    Los Angeles, CA 90089-1424, USA




    Peer Fiss
    University of Southern California
    Los Angeles CA
    (213) 821-1471