The evolution of collective strategies among organizations

William P. Barnett, Gary A. Mischke, William Ocasio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Many organizations are made up of other organizations that have decided to act collectively - as with research and development consortia, industrial alliances, trade associations, and formal political coalitions. These collective organizations can be characterized by their differing strategies: some are general in scope, while others specialize on a more narrow purpose. What explains the prevalence of generalism and specialism among collective organizations? We develop an ecological model in which collective organizations compete over member organizations. Assuming that an organization joins a collective when its objectives match that of the collective, our model predicts a generalism bias in the ecology of founding and growth among collective organizations. This outcome is predicted to be path dependent, however, emerging over time according to relatively minor differences in initial conditions. These predictions are supported in an analysis of founding and growth rates among US R&D consortia, and the model helps to account for the numbers, sizes, and strategic diversity of these consortia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-354
Number of pages30
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Collective organization
  • Collective strategy
  • Community ecology
  • Organizational cooperation
  • Organizational ecology
  • Research and development consortia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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