New article on grand challenges

We live in troubled times. For long, humanity has sustained itself from the world’s resources. Recently, however, excessive production and consumption has threatened the “planetary boundaries” that sustain our existence, resulting in catastrophes such as biodiversity loss and the current climate crisis that we are in. At the same time, populism, extremism, and the polarization of societies is on the rise and social cohesion is under threat, with digital technologies allowing orchestrated misinformation campaigns to aggravate and challenge peace, democracy and social stability. In the context of these and other major societal concerns, it is apposite to ask what is the role of institutional theory in general, and in this case institutional logics in particular, in furthering our understanding of these so-called ‘grand challenges’.

This is what Laura, John and myself try to do in this article.

Grand challenges are fundamental societal concerns, and as such affect all of us in one way or another. We believe in the explanatory power and potential of the institutional logics perspective to further contribute to our understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our time. For this, we advocate for further reflection on four analytical dimensions: macro-level positioning, contextuality, temporality, and value plurality.

First, the notion of macro-level positioning links organizing principles to macro-level orders and embeds them in the interinstitutional system. It also embraces the environment as a key concern and logic. Second, contextuality moves away from a rather Northern-centric focus and takes into account the plurality of logics and their interaction across interinstitutional systems. Third, temporality is about the consideration of changing logics and logic constellations over time. Finally, value plurality brings back attention to the value-ladenness of logics themselves and offers a means to question concepts such as ‘the market’ and the market logic.

Integrating these four dimensions, we contend, will contribute towards a transformative institutional logics perspective in the sense that they offer key implications for our engagement with grand challenges. It will further open up opportunities for institutional scholars to make substantive contributions to society’s most pressing concerns.

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

Algorithms at work

Just read a new, critical & constructive piece by Kellogg, Valentine & Christin on algorithms at work.

Let me offer a very brief summary:

I. Affordances of algorithmic systems: 1. Comprehensive 2. Instantaneous 3. Interactive 4. Opaque.

II. Algorithmic control: Direct workers (1. Restrict 2. Recommend), Evaluate workers (3. Record 4. Rate), Discipline workers (5. Replace 6. Reward).

III. Worker experience: 1. Manipulation 2. Disempowerment, 3. Surveillance 4. Discrimination 5. Precarity 6. Stress.

IV. Forms of algoactivism to resist control: 1. individual action 2. collective platform organizing 3. discursive framing around algorithmic fairness, accountability & transparency 3. legal mobilization on employee privacy, discrimination, worker classification & data ownership.

V. New forms of work & occupation: Algorithmic 1. Curation 2. Brokerage 3. Articulation.annals

The abstract: The widespread implementation of algorithmic technologies in organizations prompts questions about how algorithms may reshape organizational control. We use Edwards’ (1979) perspective of “contested terrain,” wherein managers implement production technologies to maximize the value of labor and workers resist, to synthesize the interdisciplinary research on algorithms at work. We find that algorithmic control in the workplace operates through six main mechanisms, which we call the “6 Rs”—employers can use algorithms to direct workers by restricting and recommending, evaluate workers through recording and rating, and discipline workers by replacing and rewarding. We also highlight several key insights regarding algorithmic control. First, labor process theory helps to highlight potential problems with the largely positive view of algorithms at work. Second, the technical capabilities of algorithmic systems facilitate a form of rational control that is distinct from the technical and bureaucratic control used by employers for the past century. Third, employers’ use of algorithms is sparking the development of new algorithmic occupations. Finally, workers are individually and collectively resisting algorithmic control through a set of emerging tactics we call algoactivism. These insights sketch the contested terrain of algorithmic control and map critical areas for future research.

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:

Press release in German:

Press release in English:

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.

DFG Network “Digital Strategizing”

The German Research Foundation (DFG) has approved funding for a new scientific network on strategizing in a digital economy. Digital technologies increasingly affect the process of strategy-making – they impact how actors craft, understand, and execute strategies. Despite the impact of the ‘digital’ on strategy-making, strategy research on this topic is still in its infancy. The goal of this research network is to build a community of scholars interested in the topic of digitalization of strategy-making, to develop a joint research agenda, and to stimulate high-quality research on this topic.

The network is organized by Thomas Gegenhuber (principal investigator), Maximilian Heimstädt, Georg Reischauer, and Violetta Splitter. As a member of this scientific network I enjoyed our first meeting at WU Vienna in November 2019. More to come.