Dissonance as a Source of Change at the New York Philharmonic, 1842–1928

Michael Gerard Mauskapf, William C Ocasio, Edward J Zajac

Research output: Working paper


In this paper, we investigate when and how actors navigate multiple logics to enact organizational change. Engaging recent research on institutional complexity, we reappropriate the concept of dissonance—the state that results from the situated experience of contradictions between logics—to understand the transformation of the New York Philharmonic between 1842 and 1928. Our analysis draws on extensive archival data to identify how dissonance emerged and endured during a lengthy period of instability and change. We argue that whether dissonance motivates opposing organizational factions to accept, negotiate, or reject change is contingent on two factors: the structural contradiction between logics, and the incongruent interpretations of a relevant events and their meaning. Our findings suggest that, while dissonance often incites change, more severe cases can prevent change efforts from succeeding. We conclude by discussing when the nonprofit form serves as an effective tool to mitigate dissonance, sustain complexity, and structure diverse interests in pursuit of shared goals.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages55
StatePublished - 2011


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