Inertia in response to non-paradigmatic change: The case of meta-organizations
We add a new perspective to research on organizational response to non-paradigmatic change by studying an irregular yet increasingly important form of organizing: meta-organizations (MOs), i.e., associations whose members are organizations, rather than individuals. We use extensive revelatory field data from three longitudinal case studies of German industry associations and their reactions to the emergence of online trade to show that MOs, similar to other organizations, respond with inertia when they are confronted with discontinuous breakthroughs. However, our data also demonstrate that MO inertia is idiosyncratic in that it stems from distinct MO characteristics, particularly a culture of consensus and an elitist identity, which in turn reinforce MOs’ lack of champions, limited environmental intimacy, and protracted decision-making. We also find that inertial forces in MOs are partially offset by various enablers of change that are either anchored in a given MO's constitution or embedded in its routines. We contribute to existing research on discontinuous change and theory of MOs by inducing a formal model of MO inertia and its underlying mechanisms. Our mid-range theory has important implications for the administration of MOs, in particular during periods of environmental turbulence.
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