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.

Boundaries and Knowledge in a Sufi Dhikr Circle


Received today the hard copy of this Special Issue with the overarching theme “Practical Wisdom for Management from the Islamic Tradition”. Have contributed a paper on “Boundaries and knowledge in a Sufi Dhikr Circle“:


The purpose of this paper is to infer, from the mystical Islamic tradition, practical wisdom for management development on knowledge transfer and storage as well as organizational boundaries.


Knowledge transfer and storage in the Sufi Dhikr Circle is a relational and collective endeavor. The Circle has fluid boundaries between the organization and the outside, as well as between intra-organizational parts. Knowledge and boundary processes reflect that the human being is a complex actor of “body, mind and heart” with multiple senses.

Practical implications 

Management development theory and practice may benefit through reflecting on the practices of the Sufi Dhikr Circle with regard to its group-collective, sense-comprehensive and actor-complex approach to knowledge storage and transfer, as well as the spatial, temporal and content fluidity both of intra-organizational boundaries in the Circle and vis-à-vis its environment. Conceptualizing the human as a complex actor with various senses may improve knowledge storage and transfer processes, as well as fluid de facto boundaries.

Originality & value

The observation of “different practice” which is shaped less by business discourse enables a critical reflection of “common practice” potentially leading to a new “best practice”. Reflecting on the practices of the Sufi Dhikr Circle and its conceptualization of human beings may contribute to the management development literature and practice on knowledge and boundary processes. Contemplating on what is different may help us to better comprehend what is common.

In a former version of the article, I briefly compared my ethnographic experience in a Sufi Dhikr Circle, a mystical Islamic organization, with Wacquant’s experience as a participant-observer of boxing. More here. Also presented an earlier version of the article in Morocco. More here.

Perspektive Unternehmensberatung 2013

Das Buch Perspektive Unternehmensberatung 2013, an dem ich bei einem Kapitel mitgewirkt habe, ist vor einigen Wochen erschienen. Es bietet Tipps speziell für die Bewerbung in Unternehmensberatungen – kann aber natürlich auch generell für Bewerbungen genutzt werden.


Das Kapitel von David Liebig und mir zu „Frameworks zur Bearbeitung von Cases“ auf den Seiten 100-116 behandelt u.a. folgende Frameworks:

Interne Problemstellung
- Wertschöpfungskettenanalyse
– BCG-Matrix

Externe Problemstellung
- Porter’s Five Forces
– PESTEL-Analyse

Interne & Externe Problemstellung
– 4-C-Konzept
– 4-P-Konzept
– SWOT-Analyse
– Logikbaum

In den Jahren zuvor hatte ich Erfahrungsberichte geschrieben, die hier zu finden sind.

E-fellows Stipendiaten können das Buch hier kostenlos herunterladen.

Zahnräder Network

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

// Social Incubator for Social Entrepreneurship

Zahnräder is a Social Incubator for Social Entrepreneurship. Members in our network have a strong desire to shape society, to have a social impact. Zahnräder is a platform for Social Innovation providing human, social, financial and cultural capital. Zahnräder acts as an “uncle (or aunt) doctor substitute support system” by encouraging and enabling changemakers making change happen.

Ability Usability
Internal Human Capital Cultural Capital, Motivation
External Social Capital Financial Capital, Credibility

// Conferences

At our conferences up to 100 participants come together – all of them as producers and no one just as a consumer. It is all about sharing: sharing knowledge, sharing your network, sharing what drives you, your goals, your ambitions, your vision. Participants speak about their projects, receive feedback, knowledge. Some join projects they encounter some recommend it to their friends. Together, we do not just “add up”, we multiply effort and subsequently impact.

// Support

We are grateful to have so many organisations like Youth for Europe, British Council, AKE Bildungswerk, Islamic Relief, VdM and the Sawasya Foundation supporting us. And we just won the Social Entrepreneurship Academy Act for Impact public choice award and 5000 €. Thank you all.

// Ashoka Changemakers Partnership

We have also just announced a partnership with Ashoka Changemakers. Through the digital community space, we hope to provide a professional online platform for Muslims with their diverse and invaluable projects which shape society; a place for sustainable change and social innovation where members can learn from each other, encourage each other, connect, seek funding opportunities and market their projects to the world.

// Structure

Currently, over 70 people are involved in the organization of Zahnräder. Being part of the organisation team is about changing yourself whilst changing society. Communication is primarily online via skype, basecamp and email. We are organized in a matrix-like organization with functional groups on the horizontal and working groups on the vertical axis. Functional groups are inter alia finance, communication, HR and IT. Working groups are the conference team, ZahnräderX local teams and the think tank.

// Quo vadis?

Zahnräder emerged in Oxford in spring 2010 and is only a bit over two years old. It subsequently evolved through the commitment of so many dedicated people. We managed by now to shift from a starting phase to a growth phase. The idea is to be sustainable internally and provide sustainable services externally. We will continue to passionately strive for positive change in society to make this place, our place, a better place.

Firm Knowledge & Fluid Boundaries

// Practical Wisdom for Management from the Islamic Tradition

The European Academy for Business in Society (EABIS) in partnership with Yale organised a couple of conferences on practical wisdom for management from religious, spiritual and philosophical traditions. I attended the conference at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, on practical wisdom for management from the Islamic tradition.

The conference was filled with fascinating insights into current research projects. Prof. Rafik Beekun, for example, presented on “Muhammad as CEO” and Prof. Muqtedar Khan on “Islamic Mystical Concepts for Governance and Management of Multicultural Institutions in the Age of Globalization”. More here.

// Ego, body & soul

I presented on knowledge and boundaries in a Sufi Dhikr Circle. The purpose was to infer “wisdom” from the Islamic tradition on knowledge transfer and organizational boundaries for organizational theory and practice.

As a participant observer I sought a deep immersion into a Sufi Dhikr Circle to conceptualize how firstly the organisation transfers and stores knowledge and secondly how boundaries through de-facto membership, identity and sense-making are enacted. The Circle had a socialized establishment of knowledge through collective, relational and personal knowledge transfer processes employing comprehensively all senses. And the fluidity of intra- and inter organizational boundaries allowed for flexibility as well as wider and stronger identification. The presentation can be found here.

// From “different practice” to “common practice” to “best practice”

I believe there to be considerable wisdom for management from traditions which are not much shaped by the mainstream organizational discourse. It provides insights into one organization which is not considered “best practice” but rather conceptualized as “different practice”. The observation of “different practice” consequently enables a critical reflection of “common practice” potentially leading to a new “best practice”.

The Boston Consulting Group – a green experience

// Damals – a long time ago

Some years ago before I started at BCG full-time, I was Visiting Associate in Munich focusing on sustainability and on how to capture the green advantage for consumer companies. The report I was involved in was published a couple of months later.

Für Perspektive Unternehmensberatung schrieb ich damals einen Erfahrungsbericht. Angenehmes Lesen:

// Davor – Drei Gespräche

24 Stunden. So lange dauerte es, bis ich eine Antwort auf mein Anschreiben mit Lebenslauf und Online-Fragebogen erhielt. Einen Monat später flog ich nach München zum Auswahltag. Drei Interviews lagen vor mir in einem der größten Büros der Boston Consulting Group weltweit. Das erste Gespräch hatte ich mit einem Projektleiter. Darauf folgte ein Interview auf Englisch mit einem französischen Consultant, das letzte war wieder auf Deutsch. Etwa 20 Minuten sprachen wir über mich und die Welt, in der restlichen Zeit behandelten wir jeweils einen Case. Zum Beispiel sollte ich abschätzen, wie hoch der Umsatz eines bestimmten neuartigen Produkts sein könnte. Abends kam schon die Zusage per Anruf.

// Dabei – Excel, PowerPoint und Fußball

Mit einer Führung durchs Haus inklusive kurzer Schulung in der IT begann mein erster Tag als Visiting Associate (VA), wie die Praktikanten bei BCG heißen. Den Laptop, das Handy und die UMTS-Karte in der Tasche, ging es gegen Mittag zu meinem Team. Einen Monat zuvor hatte ich bereits in einem Zwei-Tages-Seminar eine Einführung ins Beraterleben erhalten. Im Grunde aber sollte es ein Learning-on-the-Job sein. Man denkt, handelt, fragt, lernt, denkt weiter, handelt weiter, bis man erneut Hilfe braucht. Das können Stunden oder Tages- oder Wochenintervalle sein. Im Grunde ist es wie im Zen-Kloster. Stellt man dann nur noch die schwierigeren Fragen – und braucht man damit die anderen nicht mehr stellen – wird man so ungefähr alle zwei Jahre befördert. Doch natürlich weiß der Zen-Meister respektive Projektleiter, ob man etwas wirklich verstanden hat oder nur verheimlicht.

Am zweiten Wochenende ging es für mich gleich nach Zürich auf das internationale Fußballturnier von BCG. Da steht man dann mit einem Projektleiter aus Tokio, einem Berater aus Mumbai oder einem Partner aus Frankfurt am Main auf dem Platz. Sogar der CEO von BCG trat kurz auf. Gegen seine Mannschaft verlor unser Team dann auch. Warum wohl?

Zurück in München, erhielt ich meine Visitenkarten. In den acht Wochen sah ich neben dem Münchener Büro auch das Hamburger, Berliner und Düsseldorfer Büro. Jedes Büro hat neben der BCG-typischen Lockerheit auch seine Eigenarten, was sich irgendwie gut mit dem europäischen Motto „Einheit in Vielfalt“ beschreiben lässt. In das Berliner Büro habe ich an einem Freitag hineingeschnuppert. In Hamburg hatte ich mein Abschlussgespräch. In Düsseldorf fand das VA-Dinner statt. Einige Wochen später – genau eine Woche vor Abschluss meines Praktikums – trafen wir dann in Mainz zum VA-Summit zusammen und erfuhren, was man bei BCG sonst so machen kann. BCG organisiert z. B. das Schulprojekt business@school, bei dem Schulklassen u. a. unternehmerisches Denken erlernen.

Tagsüber und manchmal auch bis in die Nacht hinein befasste sich unser Team mit einer Studie. Das Team bestand aus einem Projektleiter, einer Beraterin und einem Berater. Der Projektleiter hatte vor allem eine Art Rahmenfunktion. Er gab einerseits die grobe Linie vor, andererseits arbeitete er am Feinschliff. Die beiden Kollegen und ich agierten ansonsten selbstständig, indem wir teils gemeinsam, teils einzeln Analysen tätigten und die Ergebnisse auswerteten, um diese dann abzustimmen und zu diskutieren.

Meine Hauptaufgabe war es, die Erstellung einer großen Umfrage in neun Ländern zu unterstützen, die Daten auszuwerten und in verschiedene Dokumente einzuarbeiten. Hierzu nutzte ich hauptsächlich die Statistik- und Analyse-Software SPSS, Excel und natürlich PowerPoint für die Präsentation. Das Konsumentenverhalten einer bestimmten Branche wurde analysiert, um zu erkennen, wie Konsumenten denken und handeln. Wir betrachteten und bewerteten aber auch Unternehmen und ihre Tätigkeiten, sodass wir ein umfassendes Bild von Konsument, Produzent und Gesellschaft entwerfen konnten. Mit diesem konnte BCG schon während meiner Zeit als VA, aber insbesondere nach Abschluss der Studie Unternehmen gezielt ansprechen und Verbesserungspotenziale offenlegen. Zwischendurch erstellten wir auch auf Kunden zugeschnittene Dokumente, die sich auf den für das jeweilige Unternehmen infrage kommenden Sektor in den für das Unternehmen interessanten Ländern inklusive den Mitbewerbern fokussierte. So ist es zum Beispiel für Kunden spannend zu sehen, wie die Zahlungsbereitschaft oder Qualitätswahrnehmung von Konsumenten für einzelne Produktkategorien in den jeweiligen Ländern ist.

Abends ging es in die VA-Wohnung. Manchmal schickten wir noch vorher ein paar Daten heraus, die in Slides gegossen werden mussten. So kam es vor, dass ich auf dem Rückweg nach Hause mit der Grafikabteilung in Südafrika telefonierte, erläuterte, was für Slides wir bräuchten, damit wir dann am nächsten Morgen darauf aufbauen konnten. Natürlich gibt es auch in einigen Büros in Deutschland Grafikabteilungen, die sich um die Aufbereitung von Folien kümmern. Auch auf eine Research-Abteilung konnten wir zurückgreifen. Das Intranet war ebenfalls eine gute Quelle, um Informationen zu recherchieren. Die angesprochene Studie war also Basisarbeit, die einerseits Kompetenz aufbaute und andererseits Beratungsbedarf bei Unternehmen offenlegte. Sie war darüber hinaus einfach interessant, zeigte sie mir doch auf, wie Menschen in den unterschiedlichen Ländern „ticken“.

// Danach – Bäume pflanzen

Nach acht Wochen hieß es dann Abschied nehmen. Ich erhielt ein Päckchen per Post und erfuhr, dass ein Baum für mich gepflanzt worden war. Und auch das kommende Fast Forward Meeting – ein Wochenende, zu dem alle eingeladen werden, die nach ihrem Praktikum ein Jobangebot erhalten haben, steht im Zeichen der grünen Natur. Wir Fast Forwardler werden dabei zu Fast Forwaldlern.

Der Artikel findet sich auch bei e-fellows hier. Einen Artikel über meine Zeit als Summer Trainee bei OC&C wurde ein Jahr zuvor ebenfalls in Perspektive Unternehmensberatung veröffentlicht. Der Text ist hier.

networking as a changemaker

I attended a seminar last weekend and spoke together with my wife about „Networking as a Changemaker“. A few thoughts on this in the October blogpost (four hours too early – off to Oxford tomorrow):

// The Micro-side

Networking is a multiplication formula which only works if it is pursued correctly. If you meet someone what do you think? What is your approach for a meeting? Quite a few books are written on this topic but I would like to suggest two points to ponder upon – easily to remember and thereby easily employable.

The first is two have the following three questions in mind: Me? You? We? Or: who am I? Who are you? Who are we? This helps to understand the setting and act accordingly.

And the second set of three questions: What can I do for you or your network? What can you do for my network? And only then lastly: what can you do for me? I believe in this culture of helping others. If this is really about the I – well, it seems that helping others makes me happy. But it also seems to be the right thing.

Btw1: This seems to me to be essentially a very ethical question about our approach to life. How do I treat others? Why do I connect to others? Do I simply focus on my interests or is there more to it than trying to maximize my gains. What am I waking up for? Why do I (inter-)act?

// The Macro-side

Institutionalized networking should encourage and enable networking. It should provide a frame or plattform for the micro-side. According to Podolny and Page (1998), a networked organization is based on trust and reciprocity while a hierarchical organization employs authority. It is “ask” versus “make”.

For Goffee and Jones (1996) a networked culture is based on high sociability and high solidarity. Sociability measures the “sincere friendliness among members of a community”, whereas solidarity measures “a community’s ability to pursue shared objectives quickly and effectively”. If you intend to increase sociability, you should promote the sharing of ideas, interests and emotions by recruiting compatible people, augment social interaction, reduce formality, limit hierarchical differences and act like a friend, setting the example for kindness. If you aim to increase solidarity, you should develop members’ awareness of competitors, establish a sense of urgency, stimulate the will to win and encourage commitment to corporate goals.

Btw2: Again, what an organization does to us and we to it, is a deeply philosophical question about how we approach the institutionalized “us”. Does the macro-side provide the right encouragement and enable the right interaction – done rightly? Organizations may end up measuring and incentivizing the bad? What if the essential is hidden from us? What, how and why do we in our groups, organizations and states encourage and enable certain ways of (inter-)action?

Changemakers are actually bettermakers. They try to do better through change as well as conservation. Bettermakers need the right approach to (inter-)action on the micro-side and an encouraging and enabling macro-side. Let us start yesterday.

networks for social sustainability

I have just published an article on about networks and social sustainability. Networks are described as institutionalized platforms which encourage and enable exchange, interaction and all kinds of transfer. These networks can help us striving for social sustainability.

// An “uncle doctor substitute support system”

The socio-economic or ethnic background should not matter in a meritocratic society. But it does. There simply is a huge discrepancy between what is and what should. This is not socially sustainable. Social sustainability is one of the three pillars of sustainability – next to economic and environmental sustainability. It is all about people, planet and profit – though I don’t think profit captures it. But value does not start with a “p”, does it? But let us focus on people in this blogpost.

Networks have to substitute the missing uncle doctor. People from lower social or educational classes simply have a lower density and access to uncle doctors. Uncle doctor (or aunt doctor) hereby stand for a wise person, who can provide advice and help in all kinds of areas. Networks can act as an “uncle doctor substitute support system”.

// Us & between us

We essentially have us and what is between us: We could call us actors or agents and the between us a system or structure. Or in terms of network theory we have nods, connections and relations. Nodes are stations, connections are rails and the relations are trains travelling on rails between certain stations. We are nods connected to each other with certain kinds of relations.

These networks could and should strive for social sustainability. They key is to allow for changemakers and allow changemakers making change happen. Simplified we have two ingredients. Ingredient one: the person, actor, agent or nod: this entity needs to ask himself two questions: How can I help you? And: how can you help my network? Ingredient two: the system, structure or connections and relations. These need to encourage and enable interaction and exchange. Both together create a willingness and an ability to change.

// How to fish?

How does this look practically? As often: it depends. There are many ways to facilitate this. The goal is the creation of ability on the one hand and the usability on the other hand. The Zahnräder Network attempts to encourage as well as enable efficient and effective interaction by equiping its participants with knowledge to fish rather than the fish itself. And it provides a place – on- and offline – for structured interaction. More on Zahnräder in my blogpost for August.

// Shaping society

Ability and usability can be paired and focused on participating in and for a pluralistic and socially sustainable society. Networks can substitute the uncle doctor and contribute to social sustainability. In this society, no one must have the response – but everyone should feel responsable.

Zahnräder Network

// Goals

Zahnräder is an organization from Muslims for society. It is an enabling and encouraging platform which provides human, social and financial capital as well as motivation and credibility. The idea is to facilitate, to teach how to fish, not to give fish. Knowledge of all types is transferred – from tacit to explicit, individual to social, declarative, procedural, causal, conditional, relational to pragmatic knowledge. Similarly networks are built and a tertius iungens orientation (Obstfeld, 2005) of trying to connect people from your network with each other encouraged.

I generally ask people when they meet another person to think about two things:

  1. How can I help this person?
  2. How can this person help people in my network?

This is a mentality shift of always attempting to help everyone around you which I experienced in Oxford from so many of my colleagues. It is a wonderful and helpful way of approaching others. And it benefits Zahnräder, too.

Ability Usability
Internal Human Capital Cultural Capital, Motivation
External Social Capital Financial Capital, Credibility

Zahnräder transforms individual energy into collective movement. Together, the Räder – wheels or gears – create change in and for society. We are functioning thereby as a complement, not a substitute to existing organizations – enabling & encouraging changemakers.

// Structure

Currently, over 60 people are involved in the organization of Zahnräder. Communication is primarily online via skype, basecamp and email. We are organized in a matrix-like organization with functional groups on the horizontal and working groups on the vertical axis. Functional groups are inter alia finance, communication and IT. Working groups are the conference team and ZahnräderX local teams.

// The national conference

The national conference is currently the heart of Zahnräder. Over 100 participants come together – all of them as producers and no one just as a consumer. It is all about sharing: sharing knowledge, sharing your network, sharing what drives you, your goals, your ambitions, your vision. Participants speak about their projects, receive feedback, knowledge. Some join projects they encounter some recommend it to their friends.

// Quo vadis?

We managed to shift from a starting phase to a growth phase. We intend to have over 120 Zahnräder involved in the organization primarily by extending our functional and working groups. The idea is to be sustainable internally and provide sustainable services externally. From October onwards, we are aiming to have a Human Resource and from December onwards an Internal Communication functional group. Also, we plan to establish a Zahnräder think tank.