Working papers, November 5, 2020

  1. Aleksi Niittymies, Tampere University (with Kalle Pajunen)
    Title: Capturing Temporal Embeddedness in International Business Research: Three Historical Approaches
    Abstract: An understanding has been increasingly gaining momentum that international operations of companies emerge over time under the influence of historical events and expectations of the future. While recent methodological studies have underlined that further understanding of temporal embeddedness of international business activities could significantly advance the field, the potential of historical research methods in inspecting the temporal nature of international operations has been largely overlooked. In order to remedy this lacuna, this article demonstrates the potential of historical research approaches in advancing the current understanding of the emergence of a firm’s international operations over time in interaction with the historical influences. In particular, we consider the applications of (1) realist history approach, (2) interpretive history approach, and (3) poststructuralist history approach for international business research and empirically depict the explanatory power of the approaches in making sense of temporal embeddedness through a case of international failure and exit.
  1. Stephanie Decker, University of Bristol (with Elena Giovannoni and Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki)
    Title: Building Identity: Architextual Resources in the Identity Formation of the Bauhaus
    Abstract: The Bauhaus School of Design (1919-1933) provides us with a micro-historical case study of identity formation, an area that has not been widely explored. We analyse the engagement between organizational identity and architecture as they both take form. We highlight the importance of architecture as an identity resource for the new school, and develop a framework that highlights four distinct ways in which spatial and material resources can support (or obstruct) identity formation: instrumental, by providing a space for organising; aesthetic, by visually pleasing organisational members; symbolic, by offering meaningful representation of organisational ideas; and finally temporal, by being enduring over time. We refer to the combination of these four potential elements as architextual, as they create a frame of narratives and discourses across material resources, people, practices and ideas that are inherent in the ideation, construction and interpretation of material artefacts. In our case narrative we show how these architextual identity resources not only helped the Bauhaus to overcome threats to its existence as a new organisation, but also in turn spurred on the creation of further architextual identity resources, thus helping to form and refine the school’s identity. Finally, we show that architextual identity resources exist alongside other more commonly used resources such as discursive invocations of identity, but highlight that in particular the symbolic and temporal nature of architextual identity resources means that they remained pivotal and facilitated the emergence of a strong legacy when the Bauhaus was disbanded as an organisation after 14 years, while its influence as one of the leading design movements of the twentieth century endured.
  1. Santi Furnari, The Business School, City, University of London
    Title: Unobtrusive action: Activating latent biographical contradictions in centralized organizations
    Abstract: Research on the micro-foundations of institutions has paid scarce attention to how institutions shape micro-politics -i.e., the micro-processes by which people exercise power to influence organizational decisions. Conversely, research on organizational decision-making has shown that micro-politics is key to explain organizational decisions but has neglected how micro-politics is embedded in broader institutions. To address these gaps, in this paper I study the micro-political processes by which people can influence change decisions in a centralized organization and how these processes relate to the institutions in which people are socialized. I conducted a historical case study of a strategic change decision in the City of Chicago, an organization centrally governed by the dominant institutions of machine politics. Drawing on detailed micro-interaction data from two primary archives, triangulated with interviews and historical data, I develop a process model that makes three contributions. First, I show that dominant institutions can counter-intuitively facilitate change by making incumbents, who are socialized in such institutions, overconfident of their control of the status-quo. Second, I show that change agents can politically capitalize on incumbents’ overconfidence of control by building an alternative coalition via “unobtrusive action”, a configuration of micro-political practices aimed at preventing potential opposition while simultaneously shaping the perceptions of potential opponents to turn them into allies. Third, I show that a key part of unobtrusive action is the activation of latent contradictions in incumbents’ biographies, illustrating how biographical contradictions constitute an important political micro-foundation of institutions.
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