The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Organizational Rankings

film-price-2930591_1920[We’re pleased to welcome authors Violina P. Rindova of the University of Southern California, Luis L. Martins, Santosh B. Srinivas of the University of Texas at Austin, and David Chandler of the University of Colorado Denver. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management entitled “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Organizational Rankings: A Multidisciplinary Review of the Literature and Directions for Future,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss their motivations and findings:]


What motivated you to pursue this research?

In recent years, pressures on organizations for greater accountability, to a wider range of stakeholders, have increased. One of the most salient examples of this new culture of accountability is organizational rankings, such as rankings of best business schools, and best places to work. However, while rankings have grown in prevalence and popularity, and in spite of growing attention from scholars, there is much that we still do not know about how they are produced and, subsequently, consumed. This is particularly so in management research, where there is great interest in related constructs, such as reputation and status, but where a major review of the literature to identify exactly where we stand, and in what directions we need to conduct future research, remains notable by its absence. This paper is intended to fill this gap in the literature.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

Our review is unique in that it takes a multi-disciplinary view of rankings. Rankings have been researched in many disciplines that do not often talk to each other, leading to a fragmentary understanding of the phenomenon. Our analysis of published work in the fields of management, sociology (including social, political, and cultural anthropology), education, and law reveals that research into rankings can be characterized by three perspectives: (i) rankings as forms of information intermediation, whereby they make information about organizations available, accessible, and comprehensible to stakeholders; (ii) comparative orderings, in that they confer reputation and/or status to organizations, thereby affecting resource exchanges; and (iii) means for surveillance and control, in that they serve a political purpose and impose a discipline on organizations. For each of these perspectives we identify core contributions, as well as additional questions that extend the current body of research. In addition to identifying potential avenues for future research within the existing three dominant perspectives, we also identify a new perspective: rankings entrepreneurship. This additional perspective has been largely overlooked to date, but promises exciting new avenues for investigating the motivations and characteristics of the actors who produce rankings, how they position and market their rankings, and how they influence stakeholders to grant their rankings legitimacy. Our comprehensive review of the literature on rankings across multiple disciplines provides researchers with a good starting point to quickly get a sense for the received knowledge on the topic, and our suggestions for future research provide guidance on where additional research could address important unanswered questions about rankings.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

As a supplement to our paper, we present the detailed listing of all the relevant papers we identified in an online appendix. This appendix collects and orders these papers in a coherent table, as well as presents the complete reference list, which we were unable to fit into our published paper. We hope the comprehensive nature of our review will be informative to our colleagues, as well as encourage future research into this ever-important area of organization theory. The online appendix, along with our published article, should be very useful to doctoral students preparing for comprehensive exams and for scholars interested in entering this field of inquiry.

What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?

Our examination of the literature across multiple disciplines identified some core theoretical foundations that can be used to build coherence within this area of research, but also a large proliferation of work that does not build well on existing research. We believe that our collective understanding of the phenomenon will be advanced in a more systematic fashion if researchers entering the field are cognizant of the multitude of lenses through which the phenomena of rankings can be understood, and clearly build on existing theoretical foundations. Importantly, despite the very large number of papers and books on the topic, there is tremendous room for new research on rankings. In particular, we believe that the entrepreneurial processes behind the production of rankings holds great potential for future research that can inform not just research but also the general public on some tricky realities behind the production and distribution of rankings and their role in markets in societies. As we note in our article, there are many questions on the motives, resources, and practices of rankings entrepreneurs that remain to be answered. Also, research on how organizations can come up with strategic responses to overcome the perverse influence that rankings can often wield over organizations would produce important guidelines for managers and organizations dealing with rankings.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from the Journal of Management and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Top 10 photo attributed to Fotomek. (CC)

Centralized Organization and Distributed Trust

bitcoin-2729807_1920[We’re pleased to welcome author Marc-David L. Seidel of the University of British Columbia. Seidel recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Questioning Centralized Organizations in a Time of Distributed Trust,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below,  Seidel reflects on the inspiration of his research:]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointTechnology has always fascinated me. This fascination led to many interesting opportunities including working for the creator of the first Campus-Wide Information System (CUInfo) and the first online counseling service (Dear Uncle Ezra) well before HTML and the web existed. I learned the true potential of networked communication at this point, and was always trying to figure out ways to get non-technical people interested – yet frequently failed miserably.

In graduate school, while I was procrastinating on my dissertation on the airline industry, I started reading about proposals of the HTML specification and I started to feel outdated technologically. It struck me that this new protocol may finally help bring the potential of the internet to non-technical people. So I decided to learn how to develop an HTML webpage to “get back up to speed.” This ultimately led to me creating the first online airline portal (Airlines of the Web) in 1994 prior to the consumer commercialization of the internet. As others entered the online travel space, a distributed community formed. This was highly collaborative at the start. As the consumer internet started to commercialize, I was fascinated by the interaction of those interested in online enabled communication and those interested in online profit. That experience of seeing how communities formed online around a common interest, led me a bit later to co-creating the first crowdsourced telecom consumer information rates and fees database (ABTolls) with a mission of helping people get the best consumer information possible. All of those experiences, combined with my strong academic interest in organizational theory, led to my interest in Community Forms (C-Forms) of organization. It has been fascinating to watch the evolution of organizations as technology has enabled inexpensive direct peer to peer communication.

Similar to when I first learned of HTML in the early 1990’s, when I first learned of blockchain I got a very similar feeling including the need to “get back up to speed” and have immersed myself in the growing communities of people working on the technology. Through learning about the technology, and distributed trust more broadly, I have recognized that many of our assumptions about formal organization are being fundamentally challenged by shifts to distributed forms of trust – where individuals previously unknown to each other can enter into direct peer to peer trusted interactions with no need for a central organization to vouch for either of them.

Removing the need for central organizations in many domains is a drastic shift to many underlying assumptions of the theories in our field. So my goal with this piece is to introduce the basic concepts of distributed trust to the non-technically inclined in our field, and to highlight how we need to address the future which is coming quickly. Implicit assumptions about the legitimacy and power of central network positions no longer ring true. Many core aspects of our field are being called into question at a fundamental level. I hope reading the Generative Curiosity piece helps other scholars to start to recognize what is coming, and how their own individual research domains will be impacted. As the technology develops, insights from organizational theory can help to shape our joint future so that the societal impact of this shift is designed in such a way to ensure a better more equitable future for all.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from Journal of Management Inquiry and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Bitcoin image attributed to geralt. (CC)

SAGE @ AOM 2016!

Tomorrow kicks off the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in sunny Anaheim, California! This year’s theme is Making Organizations Meaningful. In introducing the theme, Mary Ann Glynn, Academy of Management Vice President and Program Chair, had this to say:

The meaningfulness of an organization is its expression of purpose, values or worth.  It involves a sense of significance that goes beyond material success or profitability; rather, it highlights how organizations can play a larger and more positive role in the world.  It is an approach embraced by the next generation of workers, the millennials (in their mid-to-late 30s), who often focus on making a positive difference in the world and a contribution to society — with organizations, not in spite of them.

Interest in meaningfulness has grown, fueled in part by developments in cognitive perspectives on strategic competition, cultural approaches to organizational resources, positive outlooks on realizing human potential at work, institutional insights on leadership dynamics, both heroic and sensational, new modes of communication that are social, digitalized and immediate, and the real-world failures of the dominant economic model to assure progress in material well-being for so many.

Making organizations meaningful matters, and it matters in a multitude of ways that are both immediate and far-reaching, ranging from environmental sustainability to social equality, and extending across multiple levels of analysis.  Meaningfulness at micro levels alerts us to engaging employees in work so as to maximize human potential and, at macro levels, it turns attention to organizational identity, culture, reputation, legitimacy and character.  By looking across levels, we can discover mechanisms that potentially amplify or even mute meaningfulness, as well as the contrast of meaninglessness.

Are you going to be attending AOM this year? If so, make sure to stop by SAGE booths 412, 414, 416 & 418! You can speak to SAGE employees about your publishing questions and learn more about SAGE’s management books and journals, including top-tier journals like Journal of Management, Administrative Science Quarterly, ILR Reviewand more!

Stay tuned for more information about SAGE at AOM 2016!

Interested in more information about this year’s conference? Click here to view the 2016 program. 

Gareth Morgan On Re-Imagining Images of Organization

Images of OrganizationAs part of the newly published July 2016 issue of Journal of Management Inquiry, in the article entitled “Re-Imagining Images of Organization: A Conversation with Gareth Morgan,” authors Cliff Oswick of City University London and David Grant of UNSW Business School converse with Gareth Morgan about the metaphors he presented in his popular book, Images of Organization (1986). Gareth talks about how the metaphors have changed and how they continue to be relevant to  our understanding organizations.  

The abstract for the paper:

In this article, we review the metaphors presented by Morgan in Images of Organizationand highlight how they simultaneously act as “relatively static reflections” (i.e., they provide a history of organization theory) and “relatively dynamic projections” (i.e., stimulating the formulation of further organizational Current Issue Coverimages). We also discuss the potential for new organizational metaphors and consider two specific metaphors (i.e., the “global brain” and “organization as media”). We also challenge the established punctuated metaphorical process (i.e., a transfer from a metaphorical source domain to an organizational target domain), propose a dynamic perspective of interchange (i.e., source domain to target domain to source domain and so on), and develop the notion of multidirectionality (i.e., two-way projections between target and source domains).

You can read “Re-Imagining Images of Organization: A Conversation with Gareth Morgan” from the Journal of Management Inquiry free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to know all about the latest research from Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

Read the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies’ May Issue!

The May 2016 special issue of Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies is now available 8280699806_d5bdff2252_zto read for free for the next 30 days! The special issue features articles on issues and decisions in international management. From the introduction for the special issue:

This special issue addresses the subject of issues and decisions in international management, primarily in emerging markets and in some cases developed markets. It does so from a number of perspectives, and from three levels of analysis including the individual manager or employee, the firm, and the national economy.

…One particular insight emerges from having multiplearticles, many of which focus on a particular level of analysis. It is that regardless of the level of focus, all levels clearly become involved in the issues and decisions being considered. This is especially evident in the articles involving Russia, but on closer analysis can be seen in all seven of the articles in the special issue. Whatever level is the central focus, all issues and decisions affect firm policies and strategies, individual productivity and satisfaction, and the overall prosperity of the national economies involved.


Adding to the richness of this special issue, and contributing to the overall topic of issues and decisions in emerging markets, is the range of countries covered. The breadth stems from a single country view of Chinese firms’ market entry strategies to coverage of the broader internationalization strategies of firms from Russia, India, and China.

Articles published in the special issue include “Subsidiaries of Multinational Corporations: A Framework for Analyzing Employee Allegiances” by Snejina Michailova, Zaidah Mustaffa, and Wilhelm Barner-Rasmussen, and “Institutional Erosion and Its Effects on Russia’s Corporate Leadership” by  Ruth C. May, Gregory R. Rayter, and Donna E. Ledgerwood.

In the article, “Organizing for Innovation Ambidexterity in Emerging Markets: Taking Advantage of Supplier Involvement and Foreigness,” authors Denise Dunlap, Ronaldo Parente, Jose-Mauricio Geleilate, and Tucker J. Marion examine two types of innovation ambidexterity in the emerging market of Brazil. The abstract for the paper:

Firms struggle to be ambidextrous in the sense of being able to successfully manage both new and incremental innovation activities simultaneously. Applying the knowledge-based view, we examine the important moderating influences of supplier involvement and foreignness on the relationship between innovation ambidexterity and performance. We test our hypotheses at the business-unit level of analysis in the emerging market of Brazil. We examine two types of innovation ambidexterity: the balanced dimension and the combined dimension. We found that firms possessing greater supplier involvement reap higher performance benefits from the combined dimension of innovation ambidexterity. Last, foreign subsidiaries also achieved higher levels of performance than domestic firms from the combined dimension of innovation ambidexterity.

The May 2016 special issue of  Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies will be free to access for the next 30 days–click here to access the table of contentsWant to know all about the latest from Journal of Leadership & Organizational StudiesClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*World map image attributed to Nicolas Raymond (CC)

Book Review: Jacob N. Shapiro: The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations

thJacob N. Shapiro : The Terrorist’s Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013. 335 pp. $29.95/£19.95, hardcover.

Anita M. McGahan of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto recently took the time to review Shapiro’s book in the OnlineFirst section of Administrative Science Quarterly.

In this well-organized book, Shapiro invites us to turn away from ASQ_v59n4_Dec2014_cover.inddsensationalized media descriptions and toward more analytical, accurate, and effective approaches for understanding what terrorism is and how it works. At the core of his argument is the idea that groups such as al-Qa’ida, the Irish Republican Army, and even pre-revolutionary Russian leftists are organizations that must exert control over field operations while preserving secrecy so as to avoid detection by governmental and other authorities.

The purpose of the book is to demonstrate analytically that this tradeoff between field control and secrecy is pervasive among terrorist organizations. For the public, this message should be reassuring, argues Shapiro, as the costs of secrecy are normally high enough to prevent the effective operation of organizations such as al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan in the years prior to the 9/11 attacks on the United States; Shapiro refers to the organization behind 9/11 as “the exception that proves the rule,” by which he means that terrorist groups can no longer operate with the security and secrecy of pre-9/11 al-Qa’ida in Afghanistan and therefore cannot execute attacks on the same scale (p. 15).

Click here to read the rest of the review from Administrative Science Quarterly. Want to know about all the latest reviews and research from Administrative Science Quarterly? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!

The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science Celebrates 50 Years!

fireworks-3-872452-mThe Journal of Applied Behavioral Science is celebrating its 50th Anniversary! Since 1965, The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science has continually broken ground in its exploration of group dynamics, organization development, and social change. The journal has provided scholars the best in research, theory, and methodology, while also informing professionals and clients of issues in group and organizational dynamics.

Editor William A. Pasmore wrote in his introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Special Issue:

Every issue of Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences (JABS) is special, and all special issues are, of course, very special. That makes this 50th year anniversary JABS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointspecial issue very, very special indeed. For the past half century, JABS has been the voice of scholars with a concern for the practical significance of their work and for practitioners who have the courage to put their ideas through the test of rigorous research. Born of the need to have an outlet for groundbreaking work in the areas of organizational and societal transformation, the National Training Laboratories (NTL) commissioned the Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences to be the voice of its members and others who participated in this quest. Since then, JABS has retained its fundamental purpose and focus, although its tenor has evolved and continues to do so.

In honor of this momentous milestone, you can read the the Fiftieth Anniversary Special Issue of The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science free for the next 30 days! Click here to view the Table of Contents. Want to know about all the research and news like this from The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!