Organizational Hybridity: Perspectives, Processes, Promises: Volume 69
Table of contents(15 chapters)
As complex, intractable social problems continue to intensify, organizations increasingly respond with novel approaches that bridge multiple institutional spheres and combine forms, identities, and logics that would conventionally not go together, creating hybridity. Scholarly research on this phenomenon has expanded in tandem, raising questions about how the concept of organizational hybridity can maintain analytical clarity while accommodating a diverse range of empirical manifestations. Reviewing and integrating extant literature, the authors argue that to achieve both analytical rigor and real-world relevance, research must account for variation in how hybridity is organizationally configured, temporally situated, and institutionally embedded. The authors develop a framework that captures this heterogeneity and discuss three key implications for hybridity research: drawing on multiple theoretical lenses, examining varied empirical contexts, and adopting multi-level and dynamic perspectives.
Section A: Multiple Theoretical Lenses
This chapter identifies assumptions, conceptual issues and challenges in the literature on hybrid organizations that draws on the institutional logics perspective. The authors build on the existing literature reviews as well as on an analysis of the 10 most cited and 10 most recently published articles at the intersection of hybrid organizations and institutional logics. The authors further draw from the literature on theory construction and theory development and growth to strengthen our analysis of this body of work and reflect upon future theoretical developments. From this analysis, the authors highlight four challenges to current research on organizational hybridity with an institutional logics lens and develop four suggestions to inspire future research. In doing so, they aim at seeding a more nuanced use of the institutional logics perspective and thereby foster the development of innovative and cumulative theory and empirical research on organizational hybridity.
As hybrid organizations become increasingly common, the authors observe that some hybrid forms are becoming institutionalized and legitimated. The authors explore the implications of the institutionalization of hybridity, addressing both the internal tensions that plague many hybrids and the external tensions stemming from evaluator assessments and stakeholder uncertainty. The authors propose that institutionalization can dampen internal tensions associated with hybridity and also facilitate legitimation and acceptance by external audiences. The authors present identity as a useful theoretical lens through which to examine these questions, as identities are born from, but also have the potential to modify, existing institutional arrangements. The authors present directions for future research at the juncture of identity, hybridity, and institutionalization, suggesting potential avenues of inquiry in this productive stream of research.
Our editorial argues that categories theory can be advanced by embracing heuristics research, and the insight that audiences often evaluate items based on multiple valued criteria. Thus, rather than building on extant theory – which suggests that categories embody specific evaluative criteria, or that audiences operate according to a set “theory of value” – the authors argue that hybrids research would benefit from attending to the underlying processes that actors use to weigh and balance the diverse considerations that guide their decisions. The authors define and discuss three commonly used heuristics (satisficing, lexicographic preferences, and elimination by aspects), and show how these might lead audiences to support different types of hybrid entities.
Scholars increasingly depict hybridity as pervasive across organizations. The authors offer insight about how paradox theory informs and expands this approach to hybridity. To do so, the authors do a deeper dive into paradox theory, comparing and contrasting a dynamic equilibrium approach with a permanent dialectics approach. Integrating these two approaches offers paradox theory insights that can enrich and expand hybridity scholarship. The authors offer suggestions for how paradox theory can help develop a future research agenda for organizational hybridity.
Section B: Varied Empirical Contexts
Business sustainability urges firms to simultaneously address economic, ecological, and social concerns. It innately combines different potentially competing organizational elements. Therefore, sustainability represents a suitable context for the study and practice of hybridity. Based on an understanding of hybridity as a continuum, in this chapter, the author distinguish between four different forms of hybridity for business sustainability, depending on the degree of integration and autonomy of sustainability initiatives in business organizations. With ceremonial hybridity, businesses only leave the impression to pursue business and sustainability goals but focus their practices on conventional business priorities. Contingent hybridity denotes an approach where ecological and social concerns are only pursued to the extent that they align with business goals. With peripheral hybridity, firms pursue sustainability initiatives in their own right but do not integrate them with core business activities. Full hybridity puts both business as well as sustainability at the core of the organization without emphasizing one over the other. These different forms of hybridity in business sustainability are illustrated with examples from various business organizations. By characterizing different degrees of hybridity in business sustainability, the argument and the examples highlight how organizational hybridity and business sustainability can fruitfully inform one another. The author develop research opportunities for using business sustainability as a context for studying different degrees as well as the dynamics of hybrid organizing and for using different degrees of hybridity for achieving a better understanding of different pathways toward substantive business contributions to sustainable development.
We consider how the commercialization of social ventures may result from their founders’ personal experiences of commercial organizing. Building on theories of individual imprinting, we theorize that the commercialization of social ventures is influenced by two types of commercial experience: parental imprinting from the commercial work experience of a founder’s parents, and work imprinting from a founder’s professional experience within for-profit organizations. We find support for our theory based on analysis of a novel dataset of over 2,000 nascent social ventures and their founders. We further find that the marginal effects of additional work imprinting from a founder’s commercial experience decline with the longevity of this experience. We discuss implications of our findings for literatures on social ventures, imprinting, and hybrid organizations.
New Hybrid Forms and Their Liability of Novelty
Much recent work on hybrids has focused on the strategies and practices these organizations develop to manage the institutional contradictions associated with straddling competing logics. Less attention has been paid to what we call the liability of novelty, defined as the heightened institutional challenges new hybrid forms face both internally and externally. These, we argue, go beyond the liability of newness commonly associated with new venture formation. In this chapter, we use the case of Incubate, a Muslim social incubator in Germany. This case is particularly instructive insofar as Incubate is a hybrid in both substance and mode of organizing: Its mission integrated domains of religion, commerce, and community, and its mode of organizing straddled the digital–analog divide. Neither Incubate’s members, nor its external stakeholders could rely on existing institutional templates to make sense of it. It was not only organizationally new, but also institutionally novel. As a consequence, it experienced what we distinguish as descriptive and evaluative challenges. It was both “not understood” and “not accepted.” This chapter outlines four practices to address these challenges: codifying, crafting, conforming, and configuring, and categorizes them along internal versus external as well as forming versus transforming dimensions.
Social enterprises have long been considered ideal settings for studying hybrid organizing due to their combination of social and economic goals and activities. In this chapter, the authors argue that the current research focus on hybrid organizing foregrounds the paradox, conflicting logics, and multiple identities associated with the pursuit of multiple goals but underappreciates the relationship between hybrid organizing and its institutional context. Recognizing that the primary objective of social enterprises is to tackle social problems, the authors introduce the social problem domain as an analytically useful and theoretically interesting meso-level to examine the role of context for hybrid organizing and to advance conversations on hybridity in organizational theory. Social problem domains offer insights into the political, cultural, and material differences in how various societies deal with social problems, which in turn affects hybrid organizing. The authors provide empirical insights derived from an analysis of social enterprises across three countries and social problem domains. The authors show how the institutional arrangements of social enterprises differ considerably across contexts, and how these arrangements affect how social enterprises become more or less similar compared to traditional ways of organizing in these problem domains. Based on these findings, the authors outline a research agenda on social enterprises that focuses on examining the nature, antecedents, and outcomes of hybrid organizing around social problems across multiple levels of analysis. With this chapter, the authors move the focus of social enterprise research in organizational theory from studying how these organizations cope with multiple logics and goals toward studying how they engage in markets for public purpose.
Section C: Multilevel and Dynamic Approaches
A key challenge for hybrid organizations is managing to recombine the different institutional logics they incorporate while navigating complex, fast-changing environments. To examine how hybrids address this issue, the authors analyze the evolution of the Italian fiscal police – the Guardia di Finanza – from its foundation in 1862. Building on this unique case of a fiscal law enforcement agency that incorporates public fiscal and military logics, the authors propose that hybrid organizations can integrate the different logics they incorporate on the basis of four mechanisms. The mechanisms of upward and downward vertical integration trigger the integration of different logics throughout the entire organization. Integrated horizontal task extension and integrated horizontal competency extension enable an organization to manage a broader range of tasks while it develops the competencies that environmental complexity demands. These four mechanisms interact and, when properly managed, reinforce each other. With this chapter, the authors contribute to research on the processual nature of organizational hybridity and to broader research on the role of structures and competencies in dealing with environmental complexity.
This chapter explores how hybrid organizations navigate the challenges (and opportunities) associated with advancing unconventional logic combinations. It draws from a study of the 180-year history of sheltered workshops in the United States. Sheltered workshops are hybrids that combine social and commercial logics to provide gainful employment to individuals with disabilities. This chapter theorizes a connection between the governance system – that is, country-based social norms and regulatory settlements – framing hybrids and the agency that allows them the discretion required to advance unconventional combinations. It introduces the term hybrid agency to describe this connection and identifies four types: upstream, midstream, downstream, and crosscurrent. Upstream agency draws from the entrepreneurial vision of charismatic founders. It allows hybrids the discretion to advance unconventional logic combinations in unsupportive times, but it also requires them to observe certain dominant cultural norms. Midstream agency draws from hybrids’ adaptation and advocacy skills and resources in periods of historical change. It allows access to resources and legitimacy for unconventional combinations. Downstream agency draws from organizational slack possible in supportive times. Slack eases tensions and tradeoffs between conflicting logics but may also fuel mission drift. Finally, crosscurrent agency also draws from hybrids’ adaptation and advocacy skills and resources. It provides hybrids with the opportunity to grapple with challenges in periods of contestation.
In this chapter, the authors consider the relationships between institutional settlements at the field level and the instantiation of logics at the organizational level. The authors present the case of Supervised Consumption Sites (also known as Safe Injection Sites) in Alberta, Canada where a settlement of logics supported by one government was disrupted with the election of a new provincial government in 2015, and then disrupted again after the election of yet another government four years later. The authors use this case to show how different institutional settlements can support or threaten particular types of organizations, and they also show how the instantiation of different settlements in organizations (organizational hybridity) can impact the ways in which organizations present themselves. By analyzing the public justifications provided by key members of Supervised Consumption Sites, they draw attention to connections between institutional settlements at the field level and organizational attempts to manage multiple logics.
Hybrid organizations face particular challenges and opportunities due to combining different logics within one organizational structure. While research on hybrid organizing has advanced considerably our understanding of how these organizations can cope with such tensions, institutional theory suggests that organizational legitimacy and success will also depend on processes that take place at the field level. We connect these two perspectives to examine how field hybridity influences organizational legitimacy. Specifically, we consider both a field’s maturity and its degree of hybridity as two important variables that determine the effects that field hybridity has on organizational legitimacy. Drawing from extant research and leveraging our empirical work in the fields of microfinance, social entrepreneurship and impact investing to provide illustrative examples, we propose a framework that considers both positive and negative effects of field hybridity on organizational legitimacy. We contribute to the literature on hybrid organizing in two ways. First, we show that hybrid organizations face different challenges and opportunities depending on the stage of development and degree of hybridity of the field they operate in. Second, we suggest that the effects of field hybridity on organizational legitimacy can be understood as trade-offs that organizations need to understand and approach strategically to leverage opportunities and mitigate challenges.
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- Research in the Sociology of Organizations
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