Professor of Entrepreneurship
Organizational fields undergo upheavals. Shifting industry boundaries, new network forms, emerging sectors, and volatile ecosystems have become the stuff of everyday organizational life. Curiously, profound changes of this sort receive scant attention in organization theory and research. Researchers acknowledge field-wide flux, emergence, convergence and collapse, but sidestep direct investigations of the causes and dynamic processes, leaving these efforts to political scientists and institutional economists.The authors attribute this neglect to their field's philosophical, theoretical, and methodological fealty to the precepts of equilibrium and linearity. They argue that ingrained assumptions and habituated methodologies dissuade organizational scientists from grappling with problems to which these ideas and tools do not apply. Nevertheless, equilibrium and linearity are assumptions of social theory, not facts of social life.Drawing on four empirical studies of organizational fields in flux, the authors suggest new intellectual perspectives and methodological heuristics that may facilitate investigation of fields that are far from equilibrium. They urge their colleagues to transcend the general linear model, and embrace ideas like field structuration, complex adaptive systems, self-organizing networks, and autocatalytic feedback.They recommend conducting natural histories of organizational fields, and paying especially close attention to turning points when fields are away from equilibrium and discontinuous changes are afoot.