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Eastern Academy of Management 2018 Annual Meeting

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Improvising Institutional Change: How IBM accidently changed the computer industry

This paper explores institutional change that occurs from incumbents within an organizational field. Research in Institutional change has primarily focused on a process whereby exogenous shocks create opportunities for institutional entrepreneurs to intentionally transform the institutional arrangements of an organizational field. Through a historical case study that examines the emergence of the personal computer, this paper identifies another path towards institutional change—an incumbent within an organizational field improvising its practices that inadvertently leads to institutional change. Different than institutional entrepreneurship which implies intentional action towards change, this study suggests that institutional change can also occur accidentally through improvisation.

Michael Lewis
Assumption College
United States


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