Seminar  |  23.04.2014 | 12:00  –  13:30

Brown Bag-Seminar: Interpretative Schema, Adaptation and the Emergence of New Organizations

Marc Gruber (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Entrepreneurship and Technology Commercialization)

Founders’ interpretive schemes affect emerging organizations in fundamental ways, because they provide  the cognitive lens through which founders define the purposes and critical features of their organizations. By conducting an in-depth, qualitative study of the emergence process of 25 technology ventures, we extend prior work in several ways. First, we show how founders diverge in the scope of their interpretive schemes, as some make sense of their firms in a narrow way (focused on one organizational path), whereas others view their firms through either a broad lens (variety generating, experimentation with multiple paths) or vague lens (variety generating, exploration of multiple paths). Second, we find that differences in the scope of founders’ interpretive schemes have important ramifications for both the organizational emergence process (because the founders’ schemes become embodied in their organizations’ structures) and its outcomes (because new organizations first need to find “fertile ground” that allows them to become viable entities). In particular, our results show that ventures established on the basis of broad and vague interpretive schemes will possess greater ability to change and adapt over time – which is of importance because most firms in our sample had to engage in fundamental re-orientation within three years after founding – and that the former can make greater progress on their journey to viable organizations than the narrow or vague types. These results help to advance theory on organizational emergence, and provide key insights to recent discussions about the role of experimentation in entrepreneurship.