Individual choice or institutional practice

Steven Tello (College of Management, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA)
Scott Latham (College of Management, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA)
Valerie Kijewski (College of Management, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Massachusetts, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 7 September 2010



This paper aims to examine the degree to which individual technology transfer officers' heuristics and biases, as well as peer technology transfer institutions' practices, influence the technology commercialization decision‐making process.


A qualitative method was used to gather data from technology transfer officers (TTO) regarding how they make commercialization decisions. Responses were examined in the context of rational choice theory and institutional theory in an attempt to discern whether common decision‐making practices are shared among officers from different institutions.


The subjects shared relatively few common organizational and professional decision‐making practices. The sample was relatively evenly divided by TTO with an individual heuristic bias and those with a rational approach to decision making. Individual heuristics influenced all subjects to varying degrees.

Research limitations/implications

The TTO plays a central role in the technology commercialization process yet the paper found little evidence that professional practice and standards were integrated into decision‐making processes. Further research examining why this is the case, and examining if there is a relationship to outcome success, is warranted.

Practical implications

Managers need to better understand and monitor how decisions are made within individual offices. Technology transfer directors should conduct a process audit to determine the extent decision‐making processes are internally or externally defined, and then implement best practice where appropriate.


Very few studies examine how TTO make commercialization decisions, and fewer examine this phenomenon in the context of both a rational choice and institutional theory framework.



Tello, S., Latham, S. and Kijewski, V. (2010), "Individual choice or institutional practice", Management Decision, Vol. 48 No. 8, pp. 1261-1281.

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