Moving from an exception to a rule: Analyzing mechanisms in emergence-based institutionalization

Jeannette A. Colyvas, Spiro Maroulis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


We analyze the conditions under which a practice moves from rare and unacceptable to preponderant and legitimate through bottom-up, relational processes. To better understand the mechanisms and contingencies of such "emergencebased institutionalization," we combine computational agent-based modeling with insights from a setting where a seemingly deviant local practice became institutionalized: the case of the emergence of proprietary disclosure in the academic life sciences. Our approach results in both theoretical and methodological contributions. From a theoretical perspective, we develop propositions related to microlevel processes that lead to the institutionalization of new rules or those that leave existing arrangements unchanged. Our analysis suggests that traditional social explanations, such as organizational reproduction and copying successful peers, are less likely to drive emergence-based institutionalization than cognitive factors that direct individuals to anticipate and preempt the actions of others. From a methodological perspective, we provide an example of how case analysis and computational modeling can be combined to study the varying and contingent roles that normative, social, and cognitive factors play in persistence and change in institutionalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)601-621
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015


  • Computer simulations
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Institutional theory
  • Organizational evolution and change
  • Organizational learning
  • Technology transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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