Hybridity & Liability of Novelty

In this new piece co-authored with Michael Smets, we explain that ventures may face not only a liability of newness but also a liability of novelty. The legitimacy threshold for ventures that are institutionally novel is higher than for those that are merely organizationally new. This is because they face both additional descriptive and evaluative liabilities. A new organizational form can be both “not understood” & “not accepted”.

Inclusive digital platform innovation in the face of COVID-19

Numerous digital platforms have emerged as a go-to response to the Covid-19 crisis – building on conventional platform characteristics, but using alternative, more inclusive organisational models.

Platforms face opportunities of market, motivation & momentum to address spatial, social & scale/speed challenges.

By offering the innovations that people most need right now, more inclusive platform alternatives may now have an opportunity to step up and secure a more significant role in the platform economy of the future.

The article is co-authored with Nicolas Friederici and Philip Meier.

Organization, Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation

Enjoyed teaching a seminar that conjoins research on organization, social entrepreneurship and innovation (OSEI) with methodologies to study these topics empirically. Sessions were divided into two parts. The first part engaged with research topic specifics such as organizing in and for society, leading social change, social innovation, social entrepreneurship, new forms of organizing and grand challenges, and scaling social change. It commenced with an overview into the theme followed by short student presentations of research articles and in-depth discussions about articles to unpack their implications, interrelationships and conceptual and practical consequences. The second part prepared students for their own work by focusing on research methodologies such as approaching cases, doing field research, and writing up research reports. The course thus bridged high quality global research and local empirical cases.

Some objectives:

  • to familiarize students with some of the core concepts and theoretical underpinnings around organization, social entrepreneurship, and social innovation
  • to help students gain a stronger understanding of, and think critically about, this domain, including its research requirements and methods for publishing scholarly research
  • to use a format through which students can further develop the analytical, discursive and writing skills needed as a scholar
  • to offer a forum for developing, refining, and presenting own research ideas


Course schedule:




1 14.10.2019 Introduction
2 28.10.2019 Organizing in & for Society – Case Selection
3 11.11.2019 Leading Social Change – Methodological Considerations
4 25.11.2019 Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship – Field Research
5 09.12.2019 New Forms of Organizing & Grand Challenges – Research Dynamics
6 06.01.2020 Scaling Social Change – Writing up Research Reports
7 20.01.2020 Re-view & out-look

Article nominated for VHB Best Paper Award 2020

Our article that engages with themes such as elastic hybridity, complexity, paradox, resilience & purpose is nominated for the VHB Best Paper Award 2020. The VHB is the German Academic Association for Business Research.

List of nominated papers: https://vhbonline.org/wissenschaftsfoerderung/vhb-preise/nominierungen-2020/nominierungen-best-paper-award-2020

Press release in German: https://www.wu.ac.at/presse/presseaussendungen/presseaussendung-details/detail/zielkonflikte-im-unternehmen-einigkeit-durch-mehrdeutigkeit

Press release in English: https://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/research/research-showcase/when-organisational-purposes-conflict-leading-deliberate-vagueness

About the article: We explain that existing approaches to managing hybridity focus on solutions that are organizational, structural and static. These approaches manage institutional tensions on behalf of employees. Yet, where competing values are incompatible and central to both the organization and the fundamental beliefs of its employees, it is impractical for an organization to prescribe how individuals manage them.

We outline polysemy and polyphony as mechanisms that dynamically engage conflicting logics through an organizational-individual interplay. Borrowing from paradox theory, they explain how hybrids can empower individuals to fluidly separate and integrate logics when neither structural compartmentalizing nor organizational blending are feasible because management cannot prescribe a specific balance of logics. The result is a state of elastic hybridity, constituted through the recursive, multi-level relationship between polysemy and polyphony. Elastic hybrids maintain unity in diversity. Like the bank, they are capable of institutionally bending without organizationally breaking and thus enable individuals to practice more of their personal convictions at work while still experiencing a sense of shared organizational purpose.

Unity in Diversity in Organizations & Society

A new article co-authored with colleagues Michael Smets and AMJ coverTim Morris has been published at the Academy of Management Journal. It is entitled ‘God at Work’: Engaging central and incompatible institutional logics through elastic hybridity and examines how the first Islamic Bank in Germany maintains unity in diversity by forming what we call an elastic hybrid that remains resilient despite contradictory beliefs and values that persist over time. We show how the bank is capable of institutionally bending without organizationally breaking enabling individuals to practice more of their personal convictions at work while still experiencing a sense of shared organizational purpose.

Implications for politics

Implications for politics can be read in-between the lines: Populist advocate for homogeneity as it reduces complexity. It puts us into boxes and separates us. Populists stand for this approach. Effectively, they compartmentalize societies. In contrast, heterogeneity is much more challenging, but also more rewarding. Heterogeneity is not just blending: we do not become all the same, but we cope with this diversity – with unity in diversity. Our societies become elastic, accommodating, and enriched by plurality. I believe, this is one of the fundamental social and societal challenges of our time: do we embrace the complexity of humankind or do we attempt to reduce it?

Some coverage in English: 1, 2 & German: 3, 4, 5

Sustainable Development Goals & Academia

I gave an interview (in German) on researching new forms of organizing such as social entrepreneurial ventures, incubators & discourse spaces and how these tackle grand challenges. The interview also includes some reflections on the Zahnräder Network:

17 Ziele in der Wissen­schaft: Neue Räume für neues Denken

Armut, Hunger, Klima­wandel – ohne Frage große Heraus­for­de­rungen unserer Zeit. Wie innovative Organi­sa­ti­ons­formen diese Themen angehen, dazu forscht Dr. Ali Aslan Gümüsay an der Univer­sität Hamburg. Seit 2018 leitet er das von der Deutschen Forschungs­ge­sell­schaft geför­derte Netzwerk „Grand Challenges & New Forms of Organizing“. Er ist Mitgründer des Zahnräder Netzwerks und lebt mit seiner Familie in Hamburg. Ein Gespräch über große Heraus­for­de­rungen, wissen­schaft­liche Leiden­schaft und persön­liches Engagement.ali-guemuesay_img_1430


Sharing Economy, Grand Challenges & Refugees

sharingNew piece on the sharing economy, grand challenges, social movement, platforms, and refugees fresh out at Academy of Management Discoveries. My commentary on the article by Martin Kornberger, Stephan Leixnering, Renate Meyer & Markus Höllerer.

The sharing economy is frequently linked to companies such as Airbnb and Uber that enable “collaborative consumption” (Botsman & Rogers, 2010), that is people make their personal belongings (e.g., vehicles, homes) or services (e.g., workforce) available to virtual strangers through community-based online services (Hamari, Sjöklint, & Ukkonen, 2016; Mair & Reischauer, 2017). Platform companies are not sharing their resources, but share other people’s resources. In these cases, resources that were private like a home or car become goods or services. A novel reservoire of goods and labor is marketized and employed in the capitalist system through digital technologies. Sharing is an increase in the utilized capacity of resources.

However, these types of sharing have a bitter-sweet aftertaste, because they effectively sell – not share – temporarily resources through platform economies without a shared sense of caring. By combining two organizational types, platform and social movement, to a novel form of organzing, the authors potentially present a means to allow the sharing of resources without the surplus value being taken by few companies. Value and values are aligned into a value(s) pursuit (Gümüsay, 2017) and sharing becomes both a transaction and interaction as well as an economic and moral activity.