The Religious Institutional Logic

Happy to announce that the article “The Potential for Plurality and Prevalence of the Religious Institutional Logic” has been published at Business & Society.

Religion is a significant social force on organizational practice yet has beenBAS1 relatively underexamined in organization theory. In this article, I assert that the institutional logics perspective is especially conducive to examine the macrolevel role of religion for organizations. The notion of the religious logic offers conceptual means to explain the significance of religion, its interrelationship with other institutional orders, and embeddedness into and impact across interinstitutional systems. I argue for intrainstitutional logic plurality and show that specifically the intrareligious logic plurality has been rather disregarded with a relative focus on Christianity and a geographical focus on “the West.” Next, I propose the concept of interinstitutional logic prevalence and show that the religious logic in particular may act as a metalogic due to its potential for uniqueness, ultimacy, and ubiquity. Through illustrations from Islamic Finance and Entrepreneurship, I exemplify implications of logic plurality and prevalence for organizations and societies.bas


Unpacking entrepreneurial opportunities

The paper “Unpacking entrepreneurial opportunities: an institutional logics perspective” has just been published in Innovation: Organization & Management. The article can be found here.

Abstract: Taking into account the institutional context, I refine and broadenRIMP the concept of entrepreneurial opportunities by introducing micro-level evaluative criteria based on underlying macro-level institutional logics. The existing focus on so-called lucrative opportunities, which is implicitly based on a market logic, narrows the overall actual set of potential opportunities, and neglects what I call the opportunity–entrepreneur desirability nexus. Enterprising individuals evaluate and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities based on various and frequently combined underlying institutional logics. The extensive institutional theory literature on managing diverse and sometimes contradictory institutional demands, for instance in the pursuit of hybrid ventures, thus offers theoretical insights that are appropriate and expedient for the analysis and theoretical advancement of the entrepreneurial opportunity notion.

Foreword: Entrepreneurship & Management in an Islamic Context

The book “Entrepreneurship and Management in an Islamic Context” is now available. I was asked to write the Foreword, which I am happy to share here:

I am honored and humbled to write this Foreword for a handbook that presents a comprehensive overview in an emerging area of research offering manifold insights for theory and practice. The oeuvre in front of you reaches across space from Ghana, Jordon, Lebanon to the UAE; across time from early Islam to the present; across categories such as ethnicity, gender, nationalities and age; and across topics from Islamic Entrepreneurship, Finance, Leadership to Management. It also tackles both text and context: from sacred scripture up to profane practice.

While religion matters in entrepreneurship and management practice, its theory and theorization is dominated by a sacralized secular hegemony. Yet, religion is a social fact that matters in and around organizations; and the social sciences explain – not prescribe – reality. Islam specifically is the second largest religion in the world with a growing number of adherents. Religion in general and Islam in particular thus warrants much more critical engagement and analysis through management scholars. Such scholarly pursuits connect work with worship to examine what I call ‘wor(k)ship’, whereby religious people wish to do well while adhering to their faith, rather than compartmentalizing their lives into different spheres.

The false dichotomy between the public and private, the professional and the personal underlies a deep desire to structure and categorize, to identify and delineate boundaries in a complex modernity. These socially constructed boundaries enable and constrain us concurrently. They are double-edged swords. The predominant scholarly pursuit for parsimonious explanations as well as the increase of scholarly specialization has lead to jurisdictions within our very own professional communities and the partitioning of the objects of inquiry. This handbook, in contrast, offers an interdisciplinary approach that bridges rather than reinforces artificial boundaries.

Even more so, I believe that, unfortunately, the theoretical partitioning has permeated the very phenomena to an extent that theory does not simply explain, but rather forms reality. Academics may wish to restrain the world through theory and thus fall trap to the attempt to create a world according to their sometimes too simplistic imagination, rather than depicting the richness of reality. The handbook at hand offers a counterpoint. This may also help bridging what is sometimes called in the Christian faith the Sunday-Monday divide and whose equivalent may be the Friday-Saturday or Thursday-Friday divide for Muslims. The handbook thus offers practitioners a mirror to their religiously shaped intent, rather than to their learnt and potentially unintended practices.

I am grateful to the editors Veland Ramadani, Léo-Paul Dana, Shqipe Gërguri-Rashiti and Vanessa Ratten and the many contributors that they have taken upon themselves to push our knowledge frontier forward – in a realm that (still) faces many challenges. Religion is an integral part of our social and societal spheres, i.e., our soci(et)al context; yet largely absent from our literatures. This work is a significant step to counter that neglect by zooming in on the Islamic context. It remains for me to say to the reader that I wish this to be an illuminating, thought and practice challenging and changing read.

Entrepreneurship from an Islamic Perspective

Article published in Journal of Business Ethics (2015), 130(1): pp. 199-208.


Research about the role of religion in entrepreneurship and more broadly management is sparse. In this conceptual article we complement existing entrepreneurship theory by examining entrepreneurship from an Islamic perspective (EIP).

Islamic Entrepreneurship

EIP is based on three interconnected pillars: the entrepreneurial, socio-economic/ethical and religio-spiritual. We outline how Islam shapes entrepreneurship at the micro-, meso- and macro-level, indicate how Islam may be considered an entrepreneurial religion in the sense that it enables and encourages entrepreneurial activity, review research streams interlinking Islam with entrepreneurship and management and outline promising research approaches.

Further information here.

Update: An interview here.

Das islamische Wirtschaftsrecht

Das Buch “Das islamische Wirtschaftsrecht” herausgegeben von Islamisches WirtschaftsrechtAbdurrahim Kozalı, Ibrahim Salama & Souheil Thabti, ist erschienen.

Es basiert auf einer gleichnamigen Tagung, die an der Universität Osnabrück stattfand. Ich durfte ein Kapitel zu Unternehmertum aus einer islamischen Perspektive beisteuern. Eine Zusammenfassung des Vortrages & damit auch Kapitels schrieb Souheil Thabti für die Gesellschaft für Arabisches & Islamisches Recht in einer Mitteilung:

“Mit dem Vortrag des Doktoranden Herrn Gümüsay (Universität Oxford), der über das Unternehmertum im islamischen Verständnis (EIP, Entrepreneurship from an Islamic Perspective) und seine Auswirkung auf die Arbeitsweise in Unternehmen referierte, endete der erste Konferenztag. Seine Untersuchungen zielen darauf ab herauszufinden, wie ein Unternehmen wirtschaftet, das von einem religiösen Muslim geführt wird, wie ein religiöser Geschäftsführer entscheidet und wie sich Shareholder verhalten.

Im Fokus seiner Betrachtung standen drei miteinander in Zusammenhang stehende Säulen, auf denen EIP basiere: Die erste Säule bestehe im Streben nach Möglichkeiten, Wert zu schaffen, die zweite sei eine sozio-ökonomische bzw. ethische, die auf die gesellschaftlichen Interessen und Bedürfnisse abstelle, und schließlich stelle die dritte Säule die religiös-spirituelle Grundlage dar. Gümüsay zufolge stehen diese Säulen in einem Zusammenspiel und beeinflussen sich gegenseitig. EIP sollte nicht bloß als soziales oder ethisches Unternehmertum verstanden werden, weil letzteres nicht auf religiösen Textquellen basiere und keinen konkreten religiösen Vorgaben folge.

Auch stellte er klar, dass EIP nicht Muslimen allein vorbehalten sei, sondern auch Nicht-muslimen offenstehe. Ein Unternehmen, das sich islamischen Vorgaben verschreibe, müsse in seiner Unternehmensstruktur Personal (Geschäftsleitung, Mitarbeiter, etc.) muslimischen Glaubens aufweisen, um als islamisch bezeichnet werden zu können. Ungeachtet dessen stelle der Islam an sich keine ökonomischen Theorien auf, weshalb es verfehlt sei, von Islamic Entrepreneurship oder Islamic Finance zu sprechen. Vielmehr biete der Islam einen Rahmen, innerhalb dessen Ökonomen selber Theorien und Modelle aufstellen könnten. Man solle daher von einer Ökonomie bzw. einem Unternehmertum aus islamischer Perspektive sprechen, die/das auf islamischen Werten gründe und sich am Rahmen dieser orientiere.

Die Tatsache, dass auch Menschen mit religiösem Bezug Unternehmen leiteten oder in Unternehmen arbeiteten, zeige die Wichtigkeit der Einbeziehung der Religion als Element in die Unternehmensforschung. Dabei wirke sich EIP auf der Mikro-Ebene (Einzelunternehmen), Meso-Ebene (die zwischen Mikro- und Makro-Ebene vermittele, z. B. Organisationen) und Makro-Ebene (Markt, Staat) aus. Er kommt zu dem Ergebnis, dass in diesem Bereich noch viel interdisziplinär geforscht und Religion als ein den Menschen prägendes Element mehr in die wissenschaftliche Unternehmensforschung einbezogen werden sollte.”

Weitere Zusammenfassungen hier.

Foreign Policy

A brief interview I gave to Diplomatic Courier as a chosen Top 99 under 33 Foreign Policy Leader:

Describe the impact on foreign policy you have made in your current/past positions.

Through talks, writings and diplcourierconsulting on topics such as innovation, (social) entrepreneurship, and strategy, I hope I have provided tools to tackle and reconceptualize global societal problems towards value-based (foreign) policies. Most recently, I have co-edited a book in German called 7 Virtues Reloaded. Members of the Think Tank 30 of the Club of Rome have applied wisdom, moderation, courage, justice, hope, faith, and love to current societal topics such as the educational system, data abuse, energy sustainability, or social and cultural struggles of meaning. We reflect on the present to change the world of tomorrow with virtues from the past.

What personal contribution to foreign policy are you most proud of?

Transferring knowledge and creating linkages across borders and boundaries. I have co-founded the social incubator Zahnräder Network based on my research on academic entrepreneurship in the UK, and then applied it to the German Muslim context. Zahnräder encourages and enables social entrepreneurship, has been supported, for example, by the British Council, Youth for Europe, and Ashoka Changemakers, and won the Social Entrepreneurship Academy Public Choice Award in 2012.

What is your vision of foreign policy in the 21st Century?

I think our understanding of both terms–“foreign” and “policy” will change due to much more fluid boundaries, which are leading to a complex web of engaged stakeholders. Foreign policy in the 21st century must be value-driven, concentrating on solving societal problems rather than focusing on narrow national interests.

What challenges need to be overcome to create better foreign policy? What leadership traits are needed for this?

Two challenges–and magnificent opportunities at the same time–are the incorporation of diverse actors and the employment of new technologies to facilitate manifold cross-border engagement. As geographical and policy borders become blurred, FP leaders need more diverse professional backgrounds to succeed in their complex and diverse new roles.

My reaction on the Saïd Business School website: “I feel very honoured to have been selected and hope that my research and work contributes to sustainable social change. Oxford, and Saïd Business School in particular provide a magnificent ecosystem in which to generate ideas that shape society.”

Productive Innovation

Blogpost first published at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship Website.

Making science useful
Academia is far too oftenswf removed from practice. Thousands of books and articles are written about innovation and practitioners feel inclined to ask: so what? Johanna Mair, Professor of Organization, Management and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance and Academic Editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review and Christian Seelos, a visiting scholar at the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society who previously directed the IESE Platform for Strategy and Sustainability, feel and understand this frustration. In a session on the balancing act of innovation and scale at the Skoll World Forum they engage with the audience as a step towards bridging these diverging worlds: by intervening more productively in the world in a scholarly way.

From innovation as an ideology to innovation as a process
Much scholarly attention concentrates on the creation of social ventures neglecting established organizations and the question of how to innovate continuously. Mair and Seelos stress that innovation needs to be seen as a process, not an ideology: “Innovation is not the holy grail.” We often overrate the value of innovation, undervalue the importance of failed innovation and underappreciate the difficulty of innovation. Innovation is a complex process and a long and continuous development from idea over evaluation to experimentation. Along the way organizations face many pitfalls. Ideas often never get started; or end too early. Reasons are, for example, a strong target focus, power struggles, fearing punishment and potential failures, a homogenous workforce and too much distance of managers from the frontline.

Productive innovation
Andrew, a Skoll World Forum attendee, comments: “The ideas are there, but opportunities are not.” Many heads nod. The remark hits one of the core problems that Mair and Seelos convey: Organisations need innovation routines and processes. Ideas are normally not enacted by individuals. They require groups and both formal and informal engagement. Innovation consists of idea generation, evaluation, experimentation and enactment. Within this difficult and complex process, organisations should artistically balance innovation and scale by exploiting past and targeting future innovations given the availability of resources – in a process of productive innovation.

Academic Entrepreneurship

Presented a paper co-authored with Thomas Bohné at this year’s Academy of Management Conference in Boston.

// The Interaction between Academic Entrepreneurs & Potential Academic Entrepreneurs

“In this article, we explore the interaction between academic entrepreneurs (AEs) and potential academic entrepreneurs (PAEs) within academia. We focus on why and how these two groups interact and investigate intra-organizational facilitators and barriers of this interaction. The findings from our case study of the University of Oxford show that AEs are providing PAEs with encouragement and credibility and access to an entrepreneurial network. However, we also find resentment of entrepreneurship within academia and that distrust among academics complicate interactions, as academics are less open about their entrepreneurial interests and activities. In addition, we find that the technology transfer office (TTO) is both enabling and disabling the interaction. The TTO is perceived by PAEs and AEs as supportive of entrepreneurship, but also as having only limited knowledge and often being subject to a conflict of interest.”


A few thoughts on Twitter

I have been on twitter for two months and a few days. Who would have thought that constraining people exchanging thoughts to 140 characters would become such a successful business model? Twitter was founded less than six years ago. And what comes next? Up to 14 seconds’ videos or 140 pixel pictures?

// information, knowledge, wisdom

In a time of increasing information where knowledge competes with information, we need mechanisms to strive for knowledge and wisdom. Or to speak with Eliot: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” Twitter constraints the number of characters but neither the number of posts nor the number of people we follow –  nor, of course, the time spent on Twitter. We may still end up in a net of over-information. Yes, tweeted information is now edited and concise, but it often becomes merely subdivided and two tweets substitute one other message somewhere hidden amongst other tweets.

// being an architect. 

What is fascinating is that we became to some extent the architect of our own information channels. We choose who to follow. This brings some freedom of information as well as flexibility to create our own information. Each of us has his customized newspaper and news channel. The media, the fourth power, in the hand of the people? Not quite, yet social media is powerful.

This new power brings responsibility which a society needs to reflect upon on a macro level: Are we well equipped to be the engineers of our own information streams? How do we educate ourselves to be prepared for the challenge to act as our own architects and the architects of our own surroundings? And what do these information structures make of us? Who creates these structures? And why?

// the strange

On a micro level, we need to constantly review our own thoughts as well as the structures we create around ourselves which shape these thoughts. We should look out for the non-obvious, the strange. So my advice: follow the strange from time to time, be shocked by what is out there outside our own comfort zone, in order to reflect on this comfortable turf we create around ourselves and in which explanation appears sometimes so simple. Let’s shake up our information syllabus and break out of  our very own information channels.

Social Incubator for Social Entrepreneurship

// New core team

This month the new core team, a fascinating group of people from various socio-cultural, regional and academic backgrounds, will continue what its predecessor has started. Zahnräder is almost two years old and over sixty people actively engage in the network’s organisation in various working and functional groups. Its mission can be conceptualized as a social incubator providing human, social, financial and cultural capital to social entrepreneurs. It is an enabling and encouraging platform acting as an uncle-doctor (or aunt) substitution system. More here.

// Energy -> movement -> social innovation

Zahnräder transforms individual energy into collective movement. Together, the Räder – wheels or gears – create change in and for society. The Zahnräder Network attempts to encourage as well as enable efficient and effective interaction by equipping its participants with knowledge to fish rather than the fish itself. And it provides a place – on- and offline – for structured interaction to contribute to a socially sustainable, innovative and multifaceted society.