Sundance, Utah, September 27-29, 2007

New! Papers related to this conference will be published in an upcoming 

2009 special issue of Research in the Sociology of Organizations [see here]

Organizers: David Whetten, Teppo Felin & Brayden King


Pioneers in the field of organizational studies were motivated by comparative questions, like, how is one type of organization similar to/different from another? How are organizations similar to/different from other types of collectives and social forms, e.g., social movements? As the field of organizational studies has matured, interest in comparative analysis has waned. As a consequence we have no widely accepted means for making even the most rudimentary comparisons between different kinds of organizations. For example, contemporary organizational scholarship can not provide a coherent answer to questions regarding how one might translate corporate data on the predictors of employee motivation into a hospital or military setting, or to what extent conclusions regarding the relationship between financial performance and socially responsible business practices based on studies of small, young, private firms hold for large, old, public firms. Most scholars in our field would challenge the notion that practices observed in laboratory studies should form the basis for principles of effective management, but we are incapable of delineating a theoretically-sound justification for “organizations are different.”  Hence, there is a need for increased attention to “comparative organizational studies.”

The purpose of this conference is to gather a number of leading senior and junior scholars in organization theory to discuss the possibilities of generating a comparative approach to organizations.  This two-day conference brings together scholars to consider the question, what would a comparative organizational perspective look like?  In posing this question, we hope to instigate a new conversation that would cross disciplinary boundaries and encourage the formation of a new research agenda.