Thomas B Lawrence

Thomas B Lawrence
University of Oxford | OX · Saïd Business School

PhD University of Alberta

About

103
Publications
140,489
Reads
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18,166
Citations
Introduction
My research explores several themes: institutions, organizations, agency, power, language, and social innovation.
Additional affiliations
September 2014 - present
University of Oxford
Position
  • Professor of Strategy
September 2002 - September 2014
Simon Fraser University
Position
  • W. J. VanDusen Professor
July 1992 - August 2002
University of Victoria
Position
  • Professor (Associate)

Publications

Publications (103)
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter, we aim to provide a summary and synthesis of research on what we refer to as 'institutional work' - the purposive action of individuals and organizations aimed at creating, maintaining and disrupting institutions. Thus far, research on institutional work has been largely unconnected as such - literatures on institutional entreprene...
Article
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The feminist notion of an ethic of care provides a powerful alternative to justice as a central orienting value for the development of moral theory, but it has been largely overlooked in the literature on care in organizations. We explore how an ethic of care could be enacted in organizations, arguing that it would involve narrative practices embed...
Article
Full-text available
The study of institutional work has emerged as a dynamic research domain within organization studies. In this essay, we situate the papers published in the Special Issue. We first review the evolution of institutional work as a scholarly conversation within organization studies. We then introduce the papers in the Special Issue, focusing in particu...
Article
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The places in which organizational life occurs can have profound impacts on actors, actions, and outcomes but are largely ignored in organizational research. Drawing on ideas from social geography, we explore the roles that places play in institutional work. The context for our study is the domain of housing for the hard-to-house, within which we c...
Book
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Across the social sciences, scholars are showing how people “work” on facets of social life that were once thought to be beyond human intervention. Facets of social life once considered to be embedded in human nature, dictated by God, or shaped by macro‐level social forces beyond human control, are now widely understood as socially constructed – ma...
Article
The experience of temporariness is increasingly prevalent across the world, both for transient populations such as refugees and in work life characterized by precarious employment relationships. In this article, we examine how local institutional work can shape people’s experience of indeterminate temporariness and mitigate its pernicious effects....
Article
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In recent years, research on morality in organizational life has begun to examine how organizational conduct comes to be socially constructed as having failed to comply with a community’s accepted morals. Researchers in this stream of research, however, have paid little attention to identifying and theorizing the key actors involved in these social...
Chapter
Self work represents the purposeful, reflexive efforts of individuals, collective actors, and networks of individual and collective actors to shape their own selves and those of others. This chapter begins by examining the history of the self as a social-symbolic object, and how that history has shaped self work. The availability and meaning of a s...
Chapter
Organization work represents the purposeful, reflexive efforts of individuals, collective actors, and networks of actors to shape organizations as social-symbolic objects. This chapter begins the exploration of organization work by examining the history of the organization as a social-symbolic object, and how that history has shaped organization wo...
Chapter
This chapter explores the methodological challenges and choices associated with the study of social-symbolic work. To do so, we focus on a set of issues that we believe are key to successful research on social-symbolic work: developing productive research questions, identifying appropriate research contexts, collecting data on social-symbolic work...
Chapter
This chapter develops the arguments that underpin the rest of the book, and introduces the three forms of social-symbolic work explored in greater detail in subsequent chapters. It begins by exploring the possibility of social-symbolic work that is rooted in the historical changes associated with the transitions to modernity and postmodernity. It t...
Chapter
Institutional work involves actors purposefully engaging with their institutional contexts in order to create, modify, or disrupt institutions. In this chapter, we review the history of institutions as social-symbolic objects. We then conceptualize institutional work as a form of social-symbolic work, focusing on identifying the key dimensions of i...
Chapter
This book has introduced the social-symbolic work perspective, which revolves around the relationship between social-symbolic work and social-symbolic objects. To explore this relationship, it examined three broad forms of social-symbolic work—self work, organization work, institutional work—and prominent streams of management and organizational re...
Chapter
Although the study of institutional work developed relatively recently it has inspired a significant body of research investigating how agents purposefully engage with their institutional context in order to create, modify, or disrupting institutions. The focus of that research has, however, remained relatively narrow—oriented around practices and...
Chapter
Recently, there have emerged in management and organizational research streams of research that are based on a view of organizations compatible with a social-symbolic work perspective and which focus on forms of organization work as defined in this book. This chapter reviews three literatures on organization work in management and organizational re...
Chapter
This chapter builds on the discussions in previous chapters that focused on specific forms of social-symbolic work to explore two main sets of theoretical opportunities that arise from the social-symbolic work perspective. First, opportunities arise to explore how different forms of social-symbolic work are combined in concrete situations—how actor...
Chapter
This chapter develops the arguments that underpin the rest of the book and introduces the three forms of social-symbolic work explored in greater detail in subsequent chapters. It begins by exploring how the possibility of social-symbolic work is rooted in the historical changes associated with the transitions to modernity and postmodernity. It the...
Chapter
The study of self work is one of the oldest and most developed areas of management and organizational research that focuses on social-symbolic work. This chapter reviews three literatures on self work in management and organization research. For each, it introduces the type of self work, reviews its development in management and organizational rese...
Chapter
Full-text available
The intersection of materiality and institutions represents a profoundly underexamined facet of social life. To begin to understand this intersection, imagine being homeless: Among the throngs of commuters packed onto the subway, you are lying on a seat beside the door, a seat barely wide enough for one and a half riders to sit down. Lying isn't re...
Article
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The organizations and institutions with which we interact in our everyday lives are heavily implicated in the rising levels of global inequality. We develop understanding of the ways in which a preference in social structures for the free market over other forms of economic organization has made inequality almost inevitable. This has been accompani...
Article
The organizations and institutions with which we interact in our everyday lives are heavily implicated in the rising levels of global inequality. We develop understanding of the ways in which a preference in social structures for the free market over other forms of economic organization has made inequality almost inevitable. This has been accompani...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter, we have two aims: to review the first decade of research on institutional work, and to explore how the institutional work perspective can have a greater impact on institutions "that matter". We structure our review around the "what", "who" and "how" of institutional work to highlight key developments and identify problematic gaps....
Article
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Around the world, potentially effective responses to serious social problems are left untried because those responses are politically, culturally or morally problematic in affected communities. I describe the process through which communities import such practices as "high-stakes institutional translation". Drawing on a study of North America's fir...
Chapter
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The closing plenary of the 2015 Alberta Institutions Conference offered an opportunity to reflect on the current status of the institutional perspective and the direction it may take in the future. Our four panelists, Mary Ann Glynn, Tom Lawrence, Renate Meyer, and William Ocasio, reflected on how institutionalists can matter. In a first conversati...
Article
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In this article, we address two important gaps in the study of organizational responses to institutional complexity. First, we examine how organizations respond to institutional complexity associated with newly emerging logics that lack well-defined sets of practices; although previous research has examined logics new to a field, those logics have...
Article
This paper adopts a social networks lens to develop a process model explaining how the strength and content of intraorganizational ties may influence work meaningfulness. Ties of different strengths are expected to influence work meaningfulness through the mechanisms of individuation and unification. The theory explains the importance of maintainin...
Article
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Emotion is a critical but relatively unexplored dimension of sensemaking in organizations. Existing models of sensemaking tend to ignore the role of emotion or portray it as an impediment. To address this problem, we explore the role that felt emotion plays in three stages of individual sensemaking in organizations. First, we examine emotion’s role...
Article
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Recent literature on indigenous entrepreneurship has called for the exploration of the relationship between indigenous culture and entrepreneurship as well as the relationship between indigenous identity and entrepreneurship. In this study, we explore how being an entrepreneur effects the identities of Canadian indigenous people. To do so, we inter...
Article
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Introduction: Definitions and New Directions in Educating Social Entrepreneurs and Innovators • Thomas Lawrence¹, • Nelson Phillips² and • Paul Tracey³ • ¹Simon Fraser University • ²Imperial College London • ³Cambridge University • Entrepreneurship Education • Innovation in management education When we first had the idea of this special issue,...
Article
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Over the past decade, the study of management and organization theory has experienced a significant ‘turn to work’. This turn to work has not, however, been a return to the study of the forms of work that have been the traditional focus of organizational scholars. Instead, the turn to work involves a widespread scholarly engagement with new forms o...
Article
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We examine the roles of episodic and systemic forms of power in radical organizational change. Drawing on a study of three attempted transformations in professional service firms from traditional professional partnerships into managed professional businesses – one relatively complete and two incomplete – we identify two key mechanisms that link epi...
Article
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Innovation is a critical issue for nonprofit organizations and the ability to innovate over time represents an important, unresolved challenge. In this article, we examine continuous innovation in nonprofits from a political perspective. We explore the role of power in shaping how and whether nonprofits are able to continuously innovate. More speci...
Article
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Abstract In the past decade, technological advancements have led to changes in the economy with important implications for the strategic management of new ventures. In this paper, we argue that the dynamics of competition, success, and failure for new ventures have been significantly altered by the convergence,of electronic technologies and the gro...
Article
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Reports of widespread misconduct in organizations have become sadly commonplace. Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, accounting fraud in large corporations, and physical and sexual harassment in the military implicate not only the individuals involved, but the organizations and fields in which they happened. In this paper we describe such situatio...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, we discuss an alternative focus for institutional studies of organization - the study of institutional work. Research on institutional work examines the practices of individual and collective actors aimed at creating, maintaining, and disrupting institutions. Our focus in this paper is on the distinctiveness of institutional work as...
Article
Full-text available
The study of institutional work has emerged as a dynamic research domain within organization studies. In this essay, we situate the papers published in the Special Issue. We first review the evolution of institutional work as a scholarly conversation within organization studies. We then introduce the papers in the Special Issue, focusing in particu...
Article
Full-text available
Institutional theory has energized a large and vibrant academic community, but it is largely unknown to managers and inconsequential with respect to the management of organizations. This is despite what the authors believe is an immense potential practical contribution. In this article, the authors suggest that institutional theory needs a gap year...
Article
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Environmental velocity has emerged as an important concept but remains theoretically underdeveloped, particularly with respect to its multidimensionality. In response, we develop a framework that examines the variations in velocity across multiple dimensions of the environment (homology) and the causal linkages between those velocities (coupling)....
Article
Full-text available
The study of institutional work has emerged as a dynamic research domain within organization studies. In this essay, we situate the papers published in the Special Issue. We first review the evolution of institutional work as a scholarly conversation within organization studies. We then introduce the papers in the Special Issue, focusing in particu...
Article
Full-text available
As we write this chapter, in the autumn of 2008, the US financial sector is in crisis – major investment banks have gone bankrupt, others have lost most of their market value, and the US Congress is considering a bailout of some 700 million US dollars (The Economist, 2008). The situation represents a clear case of the extraordinary potential for br...
Article
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We draw on an in-depth longitudinal analysis of conflict over harvesting practices and decision authority in the British Columbia coastal forest industry to understand the role of institutional work in the transformation of organizational fields. We examine the work of actors to create, maintain, and disrupt the practices that are considered legiti...
Book
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The ‘institutional’ approach to organizational research has shown how enduring features of social life - such as marriage and bureaucracy - act as mechanisms of social control. Such approaches have traditionally focused attention on the relationships between organizations and the fields in which they operate, providing strong accounts of the proces...
Chapter
Full-text available
The relationship between power and institutions is an intimate one. Institutions exist to the extent that they are powerful - the extent to which they affect the behaviors, beliefs and opportunities of individuals, groups, organizations and societies. Institutions are enduring patterns of social practice (Hughes, 1936), but they are more than that:...
Chapter
Full-text available
The relationship between power and institutions is an intimate one. Institutions exist to the extent that they are powerful - the extent to which they affect the behaviors, beliefs and opportunities of individuals, groups, organizations and societies. Institutions are enduring patterns of social practice (Hughes, 1936), but they are more than that:...
Article
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Although organizational control and power are often designed to diminish workplace deviance, they also have the capacity to incite it. This is because enactments of power that confront organizational members in their daily work lives can create frustration that is expressed in acts of deviance. In this article, the authors examine why power provoke...
Article
In this article, we examine the impact of virtual embeddedness—the establishment of interorganizational connections through the use of electronic technologies—on the likelihood of new venture survival. We explore the effects of recent technological and social changes on traditional conceptions of the liabilities of newness. We argue that virtual em...
Article
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Drawing on a longitudinal study of sensegiving in organizations, we investigate the conditions associated with sensegiving by stakeholders and by leaders. For each group, we identify conditions that trigger sensegiving and conditions that enable it. Integrat- ing these analyses across organizational actors, we show that, generally: (1) the percepti...
Article
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Managing change does not mean dealing with chaos. In fact, continuous change is a predictable cycle with four phases, each requiring certain resources and a specific type of champion
Article
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This article presents a response to Jaco Lok and Hugh Wilmott's comments on a 2004 paper by Professors N. Phillips, T.B. Lawrence, and C. Hardy on the discursive approach to institutional theory. The authors believe that the exploration of discourse analysis as a new avenue for future institutional research was a useful and feasible project. They a...
Article
The strategic combination of arm's-length, socially embedded, and virtually embedded ties will become all the more crucial for the competitive advantage of companies, with the increasing confidence of the global economy on information technologies and interorganizational networks. The arm's-length ties, which represent purely economic relationships...
Article
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Multi-sector collaboration is an important means of achieving strategic, cross-sectoral change. However, it also presents significant managerial challenges. In this paper, we examine these challenges in the case of a multi-sector collaboration formed to address treatment issues in the Canadian HIV/AIDS domain. Based on this case, we develop a frame...
Article
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Territorial feelings and behaviors are important, pervasive, and yet largely overlooked aspects of organizational life. Organizational members can and do become territorial over physical spaces, ideas, roles, relationships, and other potential possessions in organizations. We examine how territorial behaviors are used to construct, communicate, mai...
Article
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Max Weber’s influence upon the study of organizations has been profound, perhaps unrivaled. But his contemporary relevance is less certain. This special issue celebrates the achievements of Weber and, at the same time, reflects on his current influence. Contributors vary in their assessment and suggestions.
Article
Traditionally, a company's links to its customers, suppliers and other external parties have been based upon either arm's-length transactions or socially embedded ties. Electronic technologies have enabled a third and more flexible option, dubbed "virtually embedded ties"
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We argue that power and politics provide the social energy that transforms the insights of individuals and groups into the institutions of an organization. Moreover, we propose that different forms of power in organizations are connected to specific learning processes - intuition is linked with discipline, interpretation with influence, integration...
Article
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We explore the relationship between discourse and interorganizational collaboration, arguing that interorganizational collaboration can be understood as the product of sets of conversations that draw on existing discourses. Specifically, we argue that effective collaboration, which we define as cooperative, interorganizational action that produces...
Article
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Companies focus on creating processes and structures that allow them to learn, but recent research shows that they must also effectively manage how they forget. Through the examples of the Central Bank of Argentina, Ford Motor Co., Gucci Group and others, the authors illustrate the crucial importance of organizational forgetting.
Article
The Internet and other communication and information technologies have not only increased the efficiency and effectiveness of existing forms of interorganizational connection, but have also made possible the emergence of a new form – “virtually embedded ties”. Such ties have two essential features: first, they utilize electronic communication and i...
Article
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In a qualitative study of the emerging field of HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy in Canada, we found that institutional entrepreneurship involved three sets of critical activities: (1) the occupation of "subject positions" that have wide legitimacy and bridge diverse stakeholders, (2) the theorization of new practices through discursive and political me...
Article
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We argue that the processes underlying institutionalization have not been investigated adequately and that discourse analysis provides a coherent framework for such investigation. Accordingly, we develop a discursive model of institutionalization that highlights the relationships among texts, discourse, institutions, and action. Based on this discu...
Article
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In this paper, we draw on a case study of the development of commercial whale-watching on Canada’s west coast to explore the role of macro-cultural discourse and local actors in the structuration of new institutional fields. We argue that the development of the commercial whale-watching industry in the area was made possible by broad macrocultural...
Article
The article discusses a study that investigates how the technological and social changes associated with an information economy can be exploited by new ventures and consequently affect their likelihood of survival. The article uses the factors of liabilities of newness and first-mover advantage to construct the framework for the analysis of new ven...
Article
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In this article, the concept of membership is examined from an institutional perspective, focusing on the dynamics of membership in professional fields. It is argued that membership in professional fields is a product of interaction rituals that structure the boundaries of fields, work to distribute power differentially within fields, and consequen...
Article
Part-time professional employees represent an increasingly important social category that challenges traditional assumptions about the relationships between space, time, and professional work. In this article, we examine both the historical emergence of part-time professional work and the dynamics of its integration into contemporary organizations....
Article
In this article, we explore the social construction of workplace envy through an analysis of its portrayal in a fictional narrative. Based on our examination of three excerpts from Richard Russo's novel Straight Man, we argue that envy is socially constructed in prominent and revealing episodes within broader organizational narratives. We further s...
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Inter-organizational collaboration has been linked to a range of important outcomes for collaborating organizations. The strategy literature emphasizes the way in which collaboration between organizations results in the sharing of critical resources and facilitates knowledge transfer. The learning literature argues that collaboration not only trans...
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In this article, the authors argue for more theoretical discussion and empirical research into the organizational and managerial dynamics of commercial cultural production. Their concern grows out of their observation that management research is neglecting cultural production as a serious object of investigation despite its economic, social, and po...
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We argue that collaboration can act as a source of change in institutional fields through the generation of “proto-institutions”: new practices, rules, and technologies that transcend a particular collaborative relationship and may become new institutions if they diffuse sufficiently. A four-year study of the collaborative activities of a small non...
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Nearly one in ten professionals now works part-time. But all too often, part-time work creates as many problems as it solves. At best, many part-timers work more hours than they intended. At worst, they see their importance to their organizations dwindle. Two generations have wrestled with such arrangements, and today some part-time professionals h...
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In this article we reexamine the relationship between time and processes of institutionalization. We argue that pace and stability, two temporal dimensions of institutionalization, depend on the mechanism used by agents to support the institutionalization process. Drawing from the power literature, we develop four types of mechanisms-influence, for...
Article
While many aspects of the collaborative process have been discussed in the management literature, the connection between collaboration and the dynamics of institutional fields has remained largely unconsidered. Yet, collaboration is an important arena for inter–organizational interaction and, therefore, a potentially important context for the proce...
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The ability of organizations to strategically influence their environments has become a central concern in organizational research. In this article, I develop the concept of “institutional strategy” to describe patterns of organizational action that are directed toward managing the institutional structures within which firms compete for resources,...
Article
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In this article, the authors develop a discourse analytic framework for examining the antecedents, dynamics, and outcomes of interorganizational collaboration. They argue that a framework based on a discursive understanding of collaboration can provide a coherent basis for understanding the dynamics of collaboration, the relation of collaboration t...