• 02 Feb 2015 12:02 PM | Deleted user

    In the current globalized competitive arena, breakthrough innovations, defined as new products or services that create entirely new markets or radically change existing ones (like the Ipad), are a crucial (potential) source of competitive advantage for firms. They also are a fundamental mechanism to restore sustainable growth in advanced economies, which were severely hit by the global crisis.

    Despite the many benefits touted by scholars, consultants, and managers, the accumulated evidence indicates that breakthrough innovations are rare and difficult to achieve. Established firms confront severe obstacles when engaging in the development of breakthrough innovations (Christensen, 1997; Henderson, 1993). In fact, the few available studies suggest that the typical internal organization of incumbents which is designed to assure efficiency in daily operations, is at odds with the pursuit of breakthrough innovation (O'Connor and De Martino, 2006). Consequently, in modern innovation eco-systems, start-ups are often considered the most natural engine of breakthrough innovation (Schneider and Veugelers, 2011), as they are loci of creativity and do not suffer from organizational inertia. Nonetheless, start-ups also encounter serious obstacles in rallying human talent and financial resources for developing breakthrough innovations, and assembling the complementary assets necessary for exploiting them (e.g., Carayannopoulos, 2009). As an alternative option, incumbents may leverage the creativity and flexibility of start-ups to radically innovate by acquiring them, allying with them or even promoting their creation (e.g. Von Krogh et al. 2012). However, alliance and acquisition strategies carry their own risks. Evidence shows that few acquisitions of start-ups are successful, and that post-acquisition integration of the acquired operations often leads to the deterioration of the performance of acquired inventors. Similarly, alliances between large incumbents and start-ups involve high transaction costs and substantial moral hazard and adverse selection problems, when their aim is to develop breakthrough innovations.

    The aim of this special issue “Organizing for breakthrough innovation: Taking inspiration from the organization of science” is to examine what organizational arrangements are most conducive to breakthrough innovation. We are especially interested in investigating to what extent and under what conditions principles and guidelines applied in the organization of scientific projects which led to major scientific discoveries (Stephan, 2012) may inform the innovation activity of firms with the purpose of increasing the likelihood of achieving breakthrough innovations. These organizing principles include:

    • the use of small but multi-disciplinary teams of scientists who are granted autonomy in the definition of specific research objectives and in the way they are pursued, compete with each other, and are embedded in a munificent organizational environment, typical of large scientific institutions, which provides them with complementary technological resources, advanced scientific infrastructure, and patient non-competitive funding;
    • the strong leadership of principal investigators, which however is continuously challenged by younger researchers;
    • the adoption of human resource management practices relating to aspects such as recruitment, communication of ideas and socialization among scientists, and provision of suitable incentives, including those aimed at leveraging the intrinsic motivations of scientists to advance scientific knowledge;
    • the design of advanced information technology for storing, analysing, and sharing knowledge, which facilitates coordination of autonomous and geographically dispersed research teams;
    • and finally, an open approach to IPRs, which is intended to favor knowledge sharing and the capturing of new research opportunities.

    It is thus of great academic and practical relevance to open a new line of inquiry on organizing for breakthrough innovation with the aim of assessing whether and under what conditions organizing principles such as those listed above that have proven successful for the organization of science, can be transposed to a corporate environment, and what are the necessary adaptations.

    Guest Editors

    Massimo G. Colombo, Department of Management, Economics, and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano (

    Cristina Rossi-Lamastra, Department of Management, Economics, and Industrial Engineering, Politecnico di Milano (

    Paula E. Stephan, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University and National Bureau of Economic Research (

    Georg von Krogh, Chair of Strategic Management and Innovation, ETH Zurich (

    Research questions

    Research questions to be addressed by the special issue could be, but are not limited to, the following:

    • How much autonomy needs to be given to R&D employees in creating breakthrough innovations? How can effective incentives be designed for them? Which balance should they give to extrinsic and intrinsic motivations? Under what conditions can the human resource management practices typical of big scientific projects be successfully adopted by large incumbent firms?
    • What coordination mechanisms and models and approaches to assess achievements towards breakthrough innovations are most effective in firms? How do they differ from those that are found in big scientific projects?
    • What approaches to the design and implementation of information technology in big scientific projects can be effectively transposed to firms seeking to support entirely new knowledge creation and radical innovation?
    • What leadership styles are most successful in fostering breakthrough innovation in a firm context?
    • Under what conditions does an open approach to intellectual property rights (IPR) promote radical innovation?
    • Does the recruitment of employees who have previous experience in scientific research, and thus have a mind-set and routines oriented to breakthrough discoveries, favour breakthrough innovation? At which level and in which positions of the corporate hierarchy should firms locate2
    • these employees? What are the drawbacks of these injections? Can temporary leaves of R&D personnel in scientific institutions be a valid alternative option?
    • Does geographical distance and institutional heterogeneity between globally dispersed firms involved in exploratory R&D alliances hinder the successful unfolding of the collaboration? Can lessons from big science projects composed of globally dispersed teams and organizations help overcome such barriers?
    • Can private-public collaborations between firms and universities (and public research organizations) manage to pursue an ambidextrous win-win strategy aimed at both breakthrough scientific discoveries and breakthrough innovations?
    • What lessons can start-ups and small innovative firms draw from networks of collaborations between small scientific teams?
    • Are spin-offs from state-of-the-art scientific projects more genetically oriented towards breakthrough innovation than regular corporate- and university-based spin-offs? What are lessons from scientific projects for corporate venturing that aim to foster radical innovation?
    • Under what conditions can corporate spin-offs combine the advantages of scale and autonomy, thereby contributing to the development of radical new products and services? Which organizational and governance mechanisms allow parent corporations to best benefit from these ventures’ innovation activity?

    Submissions to the special issue should be sent electronically through the JPIM ScholarOne system ( before May 31, 2015. Authors need to clearly indicate in their submission information and letter that their manuscript is for the Special Issue on Organizing for Breakthrough Innovation. All submissions will be subject to the standard double blind review process followed by JPIM. All manuscripts must be original, unpublished works that are not concurrently under review for publication elsewhere. All submissions should conform to the JPIM manuscript submission guidelines available at:

    The publication of the special issue is expected in 2017. Questions about this special issue may be directed to any of the guest editors at their email addresses provided above.


    Carayannopoulos S. (2009) How technology-based new firms leverage newness and smallness to commercialize disruptive technologies. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(2), 419–438.

    Christensen, C.M. (1997) The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

    Henderson R. (1993) Underinvestment and incompetence as responses to radical innovation: Evidence from the photolithographic alignment equipment industry. RAND Journal of Economics, 24(2), 248-270.

    O'Connor G.C., De MartinoR. (2006) Organizing for radical innovation: an exploratory study of the structural aspects of RI management systems in large established firms. Journal of Product Innovation Management. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 23(6), 475–497.

    Schneider C., Veugelers R. (2010) On young highly innovative companies: why they matter and how (not) to policy support them. Industrial and Corporate Changes, 19(4), 19 (4): 969-1007.

    Stephan, P. E. (2012). How economics shapes science. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.

    von Krogh G., Battistini B., Pachidou F., Baschera P. (2012) The changing face of corporate venturing in biotechnology. Nature Biotechnology, 30, 911-915.

  • 30 Dec 2014 5:00 PM | Deleted user
    It is a great pleasure to announce that the Organizational Design Community ( has published volume 3, issue number 3, 2014, of the Journal of Organization Design ( Please enjoy the papers appearing in our last issue of the year. There are several great pieces in this issue, which include three research articles, one translational article, and one case study. We are very excited about this new publication and hope you find the content interesting.


  • 24 Oct 2014 6:32 PM | Deleted user

    Organizations exist because they are a better means of allocating resources than a pure market system. Business entrepreneurs learned more than a century ago that it is preferable to hold resources in the form of a firm than it is to obtain them repeatedly from markets. Doing so allows for more control and predictability, and it gives entrepreneurs time to obtain returns on their investments. Holding resources in organizations allows entrepreneurs to take collective action, and over the years business empires have been built in railroads, steel, automobiles, banks, social media, and information search engines. Today, organizations are used in other sectors as well because they are the most effective means of taking collective action.

    The essence of organizing is the ability of individuals, groups, and larger collectives to process information in order to make decisions about identifying and assembling resources. Organizations that cannot process information effectively cannot learn and adapt. The field of organization design was born when entrepreneurs, managers, military commanders, and other strategists focused their attention on how to arrange resources inside their organizations. This seminar will examine how and why organizational designs have evolved over time, and it will describe how the process of designing organizations has expanded as knowledge about organizations and management has accumulated. A particular emphasis will be placed on theories and perspectives that lead to practical designs.

    You are asked to read all of the readings before coming to the seminar so that you are prepared to participate actively in the discussions. In addition, please skim through every issue of the Journal of Organization Design ( to see the various types of articles that have been published and the kinds of topics that are covered.

    Target audience

    The seminar is designed primarily for doctoral students, but post-docs and other early stage researcher may also benefit from attending. We assume students have a basic knowledge of organization theory obtained during their (Research ) Master studies or equivalent. Please let us know if you do not have this basic knowledge of organization theory, and we will provide you with a reading list to prepare for the seminar.

    Programme Coordinator & Faculty
    • Børge Obel, Aarhus University (Programme Coordinator)
    • Charles Snow, Penn State University
    • Dorthe Døjbak Håkonsson, Aarhus University

    Upon successful completion of the seminar, the participants will be given a certificate and granted 4 ECTS.

    Application Process

    Interested doctoral students should register online (and add the required documents) no later than January 5, 2015. Besides doctoral students, other researchers may participate. The number of participants will be limited to create a stimulating environment. The selection among the applicants will be conducted by the Institute’s Faculty. They will review the following documents which should necessarily complement each application form:

    • the applicant’s curriculum vitae demonstrating his/her capabilities of doing research;
    • a letter of recommendation of his/her local faculty supporting the application;
    • a two-page description of his/her doctoral research, indicating the general objectives.

    Time & Location

    The seminar will be held at the Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. The programme will start on March 16, 2015 and is scheduled to end March 19, 2015.

    For additional details and registration, please visit EIASM EDEN.

  • 10 Sep 2014 10:54 AM | Deleted user

    On 20 and 21 June 2015, the Strategic Management Subject Area at the University of Vienna will host its biannual conference on Strategy, Organizational Design, and Innovation – an academic conference devoted to discussing fundamental research at the intersections of decision-making, organization theory, and new business developments. The conference will commence on Saturday, 20 June, in the late morning, and it will end on Sunday, 21 June, in the late afternoon. Confirmed keynote speakers and track moderators include:

    • Adam Brandenburger (J.P. Valles Professor, Stern School of Business, New York University)
    • Michael Lenox Samuel (L. Slover Research Professor of Business, Darden School of Business, University of Virginia)
    • Zur Shapira (William Berkley Professor of Management, Stern School of Business, New York University, Editor-in-Chief, Organization Science)

    Further panellists (tbc) are Phanish Puranam (INSEAD) and Thorbjørn Knudsen (SDU), among others. In this call we solicit submissions of (unpublished) papers from researchers at all levels. While we appreciate all types of contributions that fall under the broader conference theme, we are particularly interested in research that addresses questions of basic interest in the field, such as (combinations of) the following:

    • The emergence and sustainability of firm-level heterogeneity
    • Mechanisms of value creation, value appropriation, and their interdependence
    • Agent rationality and agent behaviour in complex strategic decision-making contexts
    • New or innovative organization designs; organization design in non-traditional contexts (e.g. governments, NGOs, business ecosystems, open communities, supplier networks, etc.)
    • The interaction of technical design and organizational structure (e.g. the presence or absence of “mirroring”)
    • The use of formal models (closed form or computational) in the analysis of organizational design
    • The use of new methodologies (laboratory and field experiments, SecondLife, etc.) in management research
    • The mechanistic underpinnings and social challenges of innovation-related phenomena (e.g. green technology, alternative energy, etc.)

    We ask contributors to submit their papers electronically to

    The deadline for submissions is 1 February 2015. Authors will be informed of the acceptance of their papers by 1 March 2015. The Strategic Management Subject Area in Vienna will sponsor hotel accommodation for presenting authors (one per paper) for up to two nights in Vienna.

    For further information and updates on the conference, please consult: or email us directly.

  • 29 Aug 2014 10:52 AM | Deleted user

    It is a great pleasure to announce that the Organizational Design Community has published volume 3, issue number 2, 2014, of the Journal of Organization Design. This issue features our memorial project in honor of Jay R. Galbraith and his many valuable contributions to the field of organization design. We are very excited about this new publication and hope you find the content interesting.


  • 08 Jul 2014 9:30 AM | Deleted user

    We (Lemon Consulting) invite to a learning event in our “Innovation in Organization Development and Leadership Series”: Charles C. Snow: “Designing Organizations for Collaborative Innovation”, Jan 19-20, 2015, Vienna. Charles Snow is Professor for Management at Penn State University and Co-Founder of the Journal of Organization Design.

    The workshop will focus on bridging the gap between the theory and practice of organization design. We will start with an introduction into current perspectives on organization design and their relation to organization development and management theory. Special emphasis then will be given to new forms of organizing that are increasingly being used to organize for collaborative innovation. Such designs take advantage of community values and processes, and they present the special challenge of creating organizational forms that extend beyond the single company and do not rely on hierarchical mechanisms for control and coordination. Guided by inputs from theory and research, the workshop will include discussions and reflections among the participants.

    Date: January 19-20, 2015

    Day 1: 10.00-19.00, dinner until 20.30; Day 2: 9.00–15.30

    Location: Bruno Kreisky Forum, Armbrustergasse 15, 1190, Vienna

    Organizers: Lemon Consulting (AT), Hantschk, Klocker & Partner (AT, CH), Chronos Info (CRO)

    EARLY BOOKING until Sept 7, 2014;


  • 15 Apr 2014 2:30 PM | Deleted user

    ODC has learned that Jay Galbraith, one of our founding members, passed away last week. That same week, the Journal of Organization Design published a special issue on big data and organization design with the lead article written by Jay. The special issue was the culmination of the World Summit on Big Data and Organization Design, held in Paris in May 2013. Jay was one of the keynote speakers in Paris. Also, the third edition of his book Designing Organizations was published just a few weeks ago.

    Jay’s name is synonymous with organization design theory and practice. His concept of information processing as the basis of organization design and capability has been the inspiration for many researchers in organization design. Jay developed his widely recognized Star Model (TM) for analyzing organizations in the 1960s, and it is a framework that any company can use to make its strategic design choices. His work has received more than 10,000 Google citations, and he was a consultant to many of the world’s leading companies. Numerous organizations have benefitted from his insights and writings – particularly about how to master the difficult task of getting a global matrix structure to work.

    Jay loved his research and consulting work, and he was active until the end. His contributions to the field of organization design are immense, and he will be greatly missed in our community.

    Børge Obel & Charles Snow

  • 10 Apr 2014 4:30 PM | Deleted user

    The special issue stems from papers presented at the World Summit on Big Data and Organization Design, which was held at the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris) on May 16-17, 2013. Initiated by the Organizational Design Community (ODC) and co-sponsored by IBM, the Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture (ICOA) at Aarhus university (Denmark), and the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, the conference featured 11 keynote and distinguished speakers and included 130 participants from 26 countries. The speakers and participants represented academia, business, and government. Seventy-four papers co-authored by the 130 participants were accepted by the Organizing Committee. The articles in this special issue offer a selection of the issues and opportunities posed by big data and their implications for organizations. This special issues include three research articles, two point of view articles, and one case study. We are very excited about this new publication and hope you find the content interesting.


  • 06 Jan 2014 3:00 PM | Deleted user

    Big Data can help streamline a company’s production or improve our welfare services. But we cannot make the most of Big Data until we have learned to harness the vast amount of information. This is the conclusion of a new international White Paper based on input from 130 researchers, business professionals and governmental officials. The paper has been sent to the European Commission. The initiators hope that their call-to-action will give rise to new research and funding activities.

    When you use your credit card you produce data about what you have bought, where and when. Google uses your online searches to forecast when and where the next flu epidemic will occur. Big Data is created constantly and everywhere, and by exploiting this knowledge about our whereabouts and behaviour, private and public organisations can optimise their production and services.

    But according to Professor Børge Obel, who is centre director of Aarhus University's Interdisciplinary Centre for Organizational Architecture (ICOA), we must learn to process and handle all of these intangible data before we can profit properly.

    "Big Data holds countless opportunities as well as liabilities. We need more research on relevant issues in order to learn to exploit Big Data properly with the right legislation and regulation," says Børge Obel, who is one of the initiators of a new comprehensive report, Unleashing the Potential of Big Data. The White Paper was developed by the research centre ICOA at Aarhus University in collaboration with Université Panthéon-Sorbonne, IBM and the Organizational Design Community.

    The White Paper is the product of the World Summit on Big data and Organization Design, which was held at the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne in Paris in May 2013. The participants were representatives of the business community, government representatives and the world’s leading researchers on Big Data.


  • 12 Dec 2013 3:00 PM | Deleted user

    It is a great pleasure to announce that the Organizational Design Community ( has published volume 2, issue number 3, 2013, of the Journal of Organization Design ( Please enjoy the papers appearing in our last issue of the year. There are several great pieces in this issue, including a special topic on Making Organization Design Knowledge Actionable with a case study of and commentaries on Ascension Health. In addition there is a translational article and one point of view article. We are very excited about this new publication and hope you find the content interesting.


Organizational Design Community
Co/Department of Management

Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Fuglesangs Alle 4
DK-8210 Aarhus V

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