Field mobilization and how little we know… #PhD

Really really wish I’d gotten better hold of the institutional theory leg of this stool (chair?) that is my thesis earlier in the process. Am good enough on the policy stuff (MSA, PE, ACF etc etc), and the empirics, and even the sociotech transitions stuff. But I wasn’t deep, wide and overview-y enough on institutional theory early enough (not for lack of trying – it’s just … well…   (and yes, to my critical management theory friends out there, I know that inst theory is a panglossian functionalist colonialist exercise. I probably come down on the Willmott side of the Willmott-Lok debate, fwiw.).

Anyway, better late (and it is late) than never. Just mostly finished this great article:

Grodal, S. and O’Mahony, S. 2017. How does a Grand Challenge become Displaced? Explaining the Duality of Field Mobilization. Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 60, 4, pp.1801-1827.

And there are some corker bits in an article about how the big dreams of nano-tech were cut down to size by short-term needs of funders/boosters.
The existing literature does not always recognize the political realities of field dynamics that can unfold after fields mobilize and attempt to make progress on grand challenges.
(Grodal and O’Mahony, 2017:1802)

Without examining how participants’ rhetoric and underlying interests evolve as they take action and dynamically try to influence progress towards a field goal, we cannot explain what affects progress on grand challenges.
(Grodal and O’Mahony, 2017:1802)

While much research has focused on how field participants use rhetorical strategies to mobilize consensus on a common field-level goal (Wry, Lounsbury, & Glynn, 2011), it is the later stages, during which action is required, that can be more complicated.
(Grodal and O’Mahony, 2017:1803)

What is missing is an understanding of what happens after mobilization, when diverse field participants take action to address field-level goals in dynamic environments.
(Grodal and O’Mahony, 2017:1803)

There is a LOT else here, too late to really chew on as I finish this thesis. But I become ever more convinced that the only way we can do better on the multiple problems with sociotechnical transitions (both academically and in the real world) is by a much richer appreciation of institutional theory, institutional work and other tools.

Even then we will be screwed, but at least we will be a better-informed screwed…. Which is comforting.


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