Cocreating Rigorous and Relevant Knowledge. Academy of Management Journal, In Press
The communities of research and practice are embedded in different knowledge systems; one that favors rigor, while the other favors relevance. Many management scholars suggest that cocreating knowledge from these two knowledge systems is difficult and rare. However, this critique is often based on an event-based account of cocreation, so that the cocreation activities occur over a distinct period of time with a clear beginning and end. These event-based accounts bring the challenges of cocreation into focus. In this research, we take a process ontology, which places the dynamics in greater focus and recognizes that cocreation is continuous. We observed two projects in which researchers and managers collaborated to generate knowledge related to business sustainability and conducted 67 interviews with 47 people who had participated in similar projects. We found that by making the process explicit, participants were better able to cocreate knowledge. We identified two devices that helped make the process explicit: (1) making temporal connections between events and (2) recognizing the incompleteness of the objects. Our study contributes to prior research on cocreation by showing that cocreation occurs not just within events, but also between events, which serves to imbricate rigor and relevance over time.
A Configural Framework of Practice Change for B Corporations. Journal of Business Venturing, 33(2): 207-224
with 'Alim Beveridge and Nardia Haigh
There is increasing scholarly attention toward understanding how enterprises seeking prosocial impact organize their practices. However, this research has primarily explained changes in iso- lated practices and has not fully explored the mechanisms for such changes. This omission is relevant for social entrepreneurship scholars who seek to better understand how practices op- erate not simply internally but can effect a positive impact. We address this omission by drawing from a unique longitudinal dataset – assessment scores of enterprises seeking to be certified and recertified as B Corporations (B Corps). We also conducted 24 interviews with B Corp leaders, B Lab staff, and venture fund managers. We found that B Corps shifted their practice configurations as they underwent assessment and reassessment for certification. We also found that exogenous factors such as size and sector, and endogenous factors such as the nature of practices explained shifts in practice configurations. Our contribution is twofold. First, we test deductive claims that social enterprises re-organize for impact. We show that enterprises update their practice con- figurations over time. Second, we propose an inductively derived theoretical framework with three building blocks: affordability, interpretability, and social referents to explain the shifts in practice configurations.
Partners for good: How business and NGOs engage the commercial social paradox. Organization Studies, 38(3-4), 341-364
with Pratima Bansal
Businesses and NGOs are collaborating more frequently to address social issues with commercial solutions, yet not all collaborations work well. We wanted to know why some collaborations struggle where others succeed. We studied five projects in India in which businesses bought goods and services from NGOs that employed disadvantaged people. Two of these five projects met the expectations of both parties, whereas the other three did not. By drawing on the paradox literature, we argue that the project’s success indicates that the business and NGO engaged the commercial-social paradox. We found that in the projects that worked well, the two parties held fluid categories, i.e. they saw differences between business and NGO as contextual and aimed to find creative workarounds to emergent problems. In the projects that did not work well, businesses and NGOs imposed categorical imperatives, i.e. they saw sharp differences that they intensified by imposing standardized and familiar solutions on their partner. We contribute to the literature on paradox to show how cognition and action create generative or limited outcomes. We also weigh in on the ontological foundations of paradox, arguing that actors that assume that paradoxes are a social construction are more likely to engage paradoxes than actors that assume paradoxes are a social reality.
Unsustainability of sustainability: Cognitive Frames and Tensions in Bottom of the Pyramid Projects. Journal of Business Ethics, 148(2), 291-307
with Anand Jaiswal
Existing research posits that decision makers use specific cognitive frames to manage tensions in sustainability. However, we know less about how the cognitive frames of individuals at different levels in organization interact and what these interactions imply for managing sustainability tensions, such as in Bottom of Pyramid (BOP) projects. To address this omission, we ask do organizational and project leaders differ in their understanding of tensions in a BOP project, and if so, how? We answer this question by drawing on a five-year study of a BOP project of a global pharmaceutical company in India. In line with the existing research, we found three kinds of frames – paradoxical, business case, and business – held differently across organizational levels and over time. We also found that the shift in frames of both project and organizational leaders was mediated by the decision-making horizon. The initial divergence across organizational levels seen in paradoxical and business frames was mediated by long-term decision-making horizon. However, there was an eventual convergence toward business frames associated with the shift from long to shorter-term decision-making horizons, and one that led to the project’s closure. We contribute by proposing a dynamic model of cognitive frames in sustainability, where the research has either alluded to top down or bottom up understanding.
See my CV for a full list of publications.