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Doctoral Dissertations

Current projects at the Chair for Inter-firm cooperation

The Role of Domestic Print Media Organisations in the Transition Process of Institutional Arrangements in Contemporary China

  • Silvan Meier

  • The economic reforms that were launched in the late 1970s have liberalised the Chinesemedia sector only partially, which caused conflicting institutional arrangements. Whereas innovations in the managerial scope and the organisational frameworks of media corporations have been promoted, strict political censorship is still being enforced. Empirics suggest, however, that the accumulation of contradictions within an institutional setting may initiate a process of incremental change. It is the aim of this research project to critically investigate institutional implications of the organizational transformation of print media corporations in China. As organisations and their institutional environment are mutually constitutive, it is assumed that adaptions of the organisational structure of institutionalised media corporations may incrementally influence the environment in which they are embedded. The theory of “Institutional Entrepreneurship” provides the overarching theoretical background for the study. It is presumed that an increased accessibility of resources (e.g. social, human or intellectual capital) may enable embedded actors to opt for institutional change and the realignment of institutional arrangements. The study addresses the following questions: (1) In what way have shifting policies changed the organisational structure of the institutionalised media in China?(2) What institutional imperatives have evolved from the organisational changes? (3) What role do media organisations, conceived as institutional entrepreneurs, play in the realignment of institutional arrangements? In coherence with the theoretical framework, emphasis is put on the micro dynamics of institutional change. Therefore, the role of the media as institutional actors will be assessed from an organisational micro-level perspective, whereas the analysis ofa critical case is at the heart of the research.

  • Duration: 3 years (since 10/2013)
  • Contact: GEAS

Technological Paths through Organisational Paths? The Effects of Social Capital in the Competition of Strategic Industry Alliances in the Market for Smartphone Operating Systems

  • Frithjof Stöppler

  • This research project studies the potential formation of technological paths on the basis of a possible “lock-in” of firms in strategic industry alliances. The main focus of analysis lies on the effects that social capital has on organizational processes of cooperation between the member firms of such alliances. Social capital is interpreted here as a process that may unfold, binding forces through the bridging of structural holes at an early stage and later through the development of internal cohesion and closure. An empirical study will be conducted in the market for smartphone operating systems and concentrate on the examination of two alliances rivalling for standardization. The findings of this study serve theory building and will subsequently be integrated into an empirically-grounded, agent-based simulation model. This simulation model will analyse alliance dynamics, the effects of social capital and potential path processes, as well as sharpening and substantiating the developed theory.

  • Duration: 3 years (since 04/2008)
  • Contact: Pfadkolleg


Completed Projects

Practice Transfer across Institutional Distance

  • Johann Fortwengel

  • Empirical studies find that the transfer of organizational practices to foreign subsidiaries is very difficult and often fails. International business literature commonly refers to the institutional distance concept to explain this. The notion of institutional distance is not very theorized, however, and international business scholars thus struggle to explain why and how exactly it matters in the process of practice transfer. Referring to the theory of path dependence, the PhD project intends to address this research gap. It argues that institutions can become path dependent, thereby posing serious limits to form and structure of practice transfer. The application of the theory of path dependence to the field of international business will be based on an empirical study of the extent to which German industrial companies attempt to transfer their apprenticeship practices to their subsidiaries in the United States. It will follow a comparative case study design. This project is particularly interested in the underlying mechanisms of this process of practice transfer across institutional distance. As such, it hopes to contribute to our understanding of the interdependence of organizational practices and institutional paths. Also, it hopes to shed light on the extent to which German companies can engage in institutional entrepreneurship by introducing new forms of governance and novel practices to the American vocational training landscape, thereby addressing the issue of the dynamic relationship between organizations as actors and their environment.

  • Duration: 04/2011-07/2014

Organizational path dependence through interorganizational complementarity: Path dependent partnering decisions in the software industry

  • Thomas Schmidt

  • Innovators cooperate with strategic partners who own co-specialized assets. In this way interorganizational relationships emerge that allow to better appropriate the value from innovation. But why is it sometimes difficult to de-lock these forms of interorganizational complementarity when new markets demand new resource bundles? This research question will be investigated by applying a multi-level case study of the partnering strategy of a software vendor. The software vendor is very successful with a particular product and partnering strategy in a particular customer segment, but not able to enter new markets with this strategy. The study will gain a better understanding of how interorganizational arrangements emerge out of contingent situations, how a certain kind of strategy might be reinforced by the interorganizational complementarity of resources, and why this might lead to a limited strategic scope of action. The theory of path dependence will be enhanced by the insight that firms might not only become path dependent due to their internal organizational history, but also due to cross-organizational processes.

  • Duration: 04/2011-06/2014

CooperativeTechnology Development - A Multilevel Analysis of Absorptive Capacity Practices

  • Robert Wagner

  • In times ofrapid technological change and in a dynamic competitive environment, companies are trying to gain a comparative advantage through innovation in order to remain competitive. One way to gain access to the knowledge needed for innovation is by collaborating with companies or research institutions in the form of cooperative technology development. Toward this end, the concept of absorptive capacity is relevant. It tries to explain why companies differ with regard to accessing potentially relevant knowledge for innovation successfully and why some companies can apply this knowledge more efficiently than others. Although previous research offers insights on theoretical contexts of absorptive capacity, the actual application of upcoming practices received little attention so far. In addition, the originally as a multi-level construct conceived absorptive capacity, was – in order to keep it simple – often reduced to the organizational level and the concept, in particular the associated absorption practices, have been hardly explored in interorganizational contexts. To obtain deeper insights into the absorptive capacity and gain a better understanding about the applied absorption practices, it will be investigated, which internal and external absorption practices can be identified in the course of cooperative technology development at the strategic and operational levels of an organization. To answer this question, an intensive case study was conducted in order to systematically investigate and analyze Absorptive Capacity practices within three collaborations as embedded cases of an application laboratory for innovative x-ray technologies.

  • Duration: 11/2009-12/2012
  • Publication (German): Wagner, R. (2013): Kooperative Technologieentwicklung. Eine Mehrebenenanalyse von Absorptive Capacity Praktiken. Köln.


Network Citizenship Behavior – Characteristics, Conditions and Consequences Using the Example of Project Networks

  • Timo Braun

  • Business partnerships and networks depend on the commitment of the partners involved and their willingness to work for common goals. This also means that employees on the one hand and organizations on the other have to contribute to the cooperation beyond the contractually agreed minimum requirements to ensure the success of the collaboration – even if they are not directly rewarded for it. Within a single organization, these modes of behavior are known as “Organizational Citizenship Behavior” (OCB). The research on this topic, however, has so far been restricted to organizational boundaries, thus not doing justice to the increasing importance of inter-firm cooperations. The topic of this doctoral dissertation is thus to examine the transferability of OCB to an inter-firm network.

  • Duration: 09/2009-02/2013
  • Publication (German): Braun, T. (2013): Kooperatives Verhalten in interorganisationalen Projekten. Eine konzeptionelle und empirische Weiterentwicklung des OCB-Ansatzes. Köln.


Regional fields of electromobility: Origins and formation processes

  • Friedemann Koll

  • At the intersection of economic geography and organization theory the question is raised, how “electromobility” is established as a new issue of economic and research policy at the regional level. As part of an exploratory case study approach, a process tracing analysis and a cross-case comparison is conducted in two regional “institutionalization projects”. Following path dependence theory, the formation process of these newly emerging “regional fields” is divided into the phases of preformation, critical juncture and beginning field formation.

  • Duration: 10/2008-10/2012
  • Publication (German): Koll, F. (2013): Regionale Felder der Elektromobilität: Entstehungsbedingungen und Formationsprozesse. Frankfurt.


Gradual Path-Breaking Organizational Change in Russian Healthcare? From Centralization to Multicenter Cooperation in the Field of Children Oncohematology

  • Florian Stache

  • The theory of path dependence has recently become prominent in the field of organizational studies. Although the existing theory of organizational path dependence implies the potential of organizational paths to be broken, the nature of such path-breaking change remains under-researched until today. This work draws on insights from an empirical case within the Russian healthcare system to further develop an extension of this theory towards the possibility of path-breaking organizational change. In this case, change from centralization to multicenter cooperation within a specific field of care is considered organizationally path-breaking. Results of the empirical study suggest that such change might be of a gradual nature comprising three steps. Modeled as a rather discrete event, learning from other action spaces through networks of increasingly structured relationships may help as a first element to construct a new alternative as viable within the path dependent organizational context. Second, counterintuitive to the previous understanding of self-reinforcing mechanisms leading to stability, such mechanisms are shown to have the potential to give such a new organizational development momentum for a process of diffusion. Within a last stage, superiority of the increasingly dominant new organizational alternative is constructed as a result.

  • Duration: 04/2008-02/2013
  • Publication: Stache, F. (2012): Gradual Path-Breaking Organizational Change in Russian Healthcare? From Centralization to Multicenter Cooperation in the Field of Children Oncohematology. Berlin: Freie Universität. Dissertation (forthcoming).


Interorganizational Path Dependence in Inter-firm Cooperations in the Distribution of Success of Knowledge-based Product Innovations – The Example of the Opto-electronic Industry in Berlin and Brandenburg.

  • Markus Burger

  • Cooperations are entered in order to achieve a cooperation success that could not be achieved by the cooperation partners alone – it’s the classic “1 + 1 = 3”. However, it is generally left open how to distribute this “extra”. One partner could gain everything, the surplus could be shared, etc. The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to examine to what extent path dependencies explain the distribution routines eventually found. In the context of structuration theory, a path model is developed. In the opto-electronic industry in Berlin and Brandenburg, intensive case studies of cooperations in knowledge-based product innovations are conducted to verify and extend the previously developed model.

  • Duration: 04/2008-02/2012
  • Publication (German): Burger, M. (2013): Selbstverstärkende Dynamiken in Netzwerken - Interorganisationale Pfadabhängigkeit von Allokationspraktiken. Wiesbaden.


On Institutions, Paths, and Routes Set in Stone: The Demise of the Unesco-World Heritage Program in Dresden

  • Olivier Berthod

  • This project brings together institutional and path dependence theories to analyze a puzzling conflict. In 1994 the city of Dresden triggered the project of a four-lane bridge across the Elbe. In 2004 this area was listed as a Unesco-World Heritage Site. Other traverse options were then put to the fore for years (e.g. a tunnel, other bridges). But the bridge construction started nonetheless and became subject to criticism from diverse actors and most prominently from the Unesco-World Heritage Center. On June 25, 2009, because a consensus could not be reached, the site was deleted from the seminal World Heritage list. This case allows the inspection of persistences in projects considered sub-optimal by powerful actors in the field, and of the social mechanisms supporting this phenomenon. Historical case analysis methods are used to cover 15 years of project duration.

  • Duration: 04/2008-05/2011
  • Publication: Berthod, Olivier (2011): On Institutions, Paths, and Routes set in Stone: The Construction of a Bridge as a Case of Path Instantiation. FU Berlin, digital dissertation.


Network Dynamics within Clusters

  • Frank Lerch

  • Within the developing photonics cluster in Berlin-Brandenburg, present processes and structures are influenced to a large extent by earlier developments within the region, especially the long optics tradition, but also the downturn and the division of the field following World War II, as well as the reunification of the two German states and both parts of Berlin. In other words “history matters”. This dissertation gives a comprehensive account of the development of the regional cluster in optical technologies in Berlin-Brandenburg and emphasizes the importance of developing networks within a cluster. Towards this end, structural network analysis is conducted to provide insights into the changes of the networks within the cluster over time. In addition, the study uses qualitative methods, including semi-structured interviews as well as participant observation.

  • Duration: 10/2003-02/2009
  • Publication (German): Lerch, Frank (2009): Netzwerkdynamiken im Cluster: Optische Technologien in der Region Berlin-Brandenburg. FU Berlin, digital dissertation.


Horizontal Collaboration in the German Hospital Market – Potentials, Processes and Practices

  • Benjamin I. Behar

  • The German hospital market is under considerable pressure to improve its profitability while also being characterized by a highly dynamic environment. In this doctoral thesis, horizontal collaborations among hospitals are examined as a solution to overcome this challenge. For this purpose, transaction cost theory and the concept of dynamic capabilities are combined. An extensive quantitative study sheds light on the collaborative practices of clinics.

  • Duration: 01/2007-02/2009
  • Publication (German): Behar, B.I. (2009): Verbundstrukturen im deutschen Krankenhausmarkt. Potenziale, Prozesse und Praxis. Wiesbaden: Gabler.


Decision Paths in Techno-Organizational Change. University Reform and IT Implementation.

  • Jan Jacobs

  • Path dependence is related to organizational (in)capacity for change. Based on an empirical study of the very recent information technology reform at the Freie Universität Berlin, this dissertation investigates which positive feedback mechanisms are in effect inside the organization, how they restrict change, and how they can be managed.

  • Duration: 10/2005-02/2009
  • Publication (German): Jacobs, J. (2009): Pfadkonkurrenz und Pfadinterferenz im organisationalen Wandel. FU Berlin, digital dissertation.


Managing the Complex Relationship between Cooperation and Competition in the Automobile Industry – A Comparison of German and Japanese OEM-Supplier Networks

  • Miriam Wilhelm

  • In the automobile industry, the rising pressure to improve quality and reduce prices has led to an unprecedented need to develop new cooperative strategies with suppliers. On the other hand, OEMs are trying to reduce the resulting risk of dependency by sometimes purposefully enhancing competition in their networks. The aim of this project is to apply a socio-cognitive perspective on the complex relationship between cooperation and competition. As Japanese OEMs have always seemed to be more successful in managing this paradox, a comparison between German and Japanese supplier management is undertaken.

  • Duration: 10/2003-11/2008
  • Publication (German): Wilhelm, M. (2009): Kooperation und Wettbewerb in Automobilzuliefernetzwerken: Erkenntnisse zum Management eines Spannungsverhältnisses aus Deutschland und Japan. Marburg: Metropolis.


Overcoming Path Dependence: Adoption of GNU/Linux in Large Municipal Administrations

  • Leonhard Dobusch

  • Markets for desktop software are a favourite example of path dependence and its constituting phenomena such as "increasing returns" and "lock-in". This leads to the question of how and why large organizations, nevertheless, are pioneers in migrating their desktop software environments and, thereby, act as Schumpeterian innovators. Answers to this question are searched for with the help of multi-level case-studies of the municipalities of Munich, Vienna, Berlin and Frankfurt/M.

  • Duration: 10/2005-05/2008
  • Publication (German): Dobusch, L. (2008): Windows versus Linux: Markt - Organisation - Pfad. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.


Strategic Responses to Institutional Processes: Path-Dependent Relocation Strategies in the German Clothing Industry?

  • Elke Schüßler

  • Faced with global competition, organisations frequently choose to relocate some of their activities to low-cost regions. The German clothing industry was a pioneer in this process, whereby many organisations followed the path of production relocation and neglected other necessary strategic innovations. By following a longitudinal multi-case design, this project analyses how a dominant pattern of action may arise in the interplay between micro-organisational decisions and macro-institutional developments, and how this may lead to organisational and strategic path dependence.

  • Duration: 04/2005-05/2008
  • Publication (German): Schüßler, E. (2009): Strategische Prozesse und Persistenzen: Pfadabhängige Organisation der Wertschöpfung in der Bekleidungsindustrie. Stuttgart, Kohlhammer.


Identities in and of Interorganizational Networks – Systemic Perspectives

  • Markus Rometsch

  • Issues of organizational identity and its consequences for management have received increasing academic attention in the last years and, in the meantime, can be claimed as well established fields of research. On the other hand, identity research concerning interorganizational networks is still in its infancy. In this dissertation the constitution of identities in and of interorganizational networks will be approached from the perspectives of structuration theory and new systems theory. While the dissertation is mainly theoretical in character, two mini-case studies will complement the conceptual considerations. At the end, implications for an (identity-)management of interorganizational networks are derived.

  • Duration: 11/2001-07/2007
  • Publicaton (German): Rometsch, M. (2008): Organisations- und Netzwerkidentität. Wiesbaden: Gabler.


The Stabilization Process in Manufacturer-Supplier Relationships of the Automotive Industry

  • Niels Kuschinsky

  • So far, a transfer of the path dependence concept to organizations and inter-organizational relationships has only been conducted in a few first approaches. The focus of this dissertation project is the stabilization process in manufacturer-supplier relationships of the automotive industry. The main level of analysis is the organization of the manufacturer and its decision-making process. The conceptualization is performed along selected case studies of inter-organizational product development projects.

  • Duration: 04/2005-02/2008
  • Publication (German): Kuschinsky, N. (2008): Stabilisierung von Hersteller-Lieferantenbeziehungen als pfadabhängiger Organisationsprozess - Kooperative Produktentwicklung in der Automobilindustrie.Frankfurt: Lang.


Inter-organizational Integration Processes in the Internationalization of Software Development

  • Leo Renneke

  • This dissertation deals with the integration of internationally distributed corporate locations for the joint development of software. The process, actors and the business context of the integration processes are depicted in case studies which are based on qualitative surveys. The theoretical basis of this work is a knowledge-based interpretation of the concept of integration, supplemented by the practical integration of concepts of M&A-research and intercultural management.

  • Duration: 01/1998-07/2006

  • Publication (German): Renneke, L. (2007): Zwischenbetriebliche Integrationsprozesse bei der Internationalisierung von Softwareentwicklung. FU Berlin, digital dissertation.


Resource-oriented Supply Management – Cross-functional Collaborations between System and Component Suppliers in Automotive Supply Networks

  • Jürgen Überall

  • "Cross-functional" supply management provides a significant share of the generation and protection of strategic resources and competencies to achieve sustainable competitive advantage. The author addresses this hypothesis by systematically analyzing the company- but also network-specific capabilities and skills of the supply management of system suppliers in automotive supply networks. The understanding is that the design of the internal company organization is shown to have a major impact on the organization’s ability to cooperate in a network; and cooperation in the network has an impact on the organization of the company.

  • Duration: 10/2003-04/2006
  • Publication (German): Überall, J. (2006): Ressourcenorientiertes Beschaffungsmanagement. Frankfurt am Main: Lang.


Standardization and Individualization of Services – About the Organization of Knowledge-intensive Inter-firm Networks

  • Bennet van Well

  • Inter-firm networks offer new opportunities for knowledge-intensive service providers to handle the tensions between standardization and customization. They also provide management with additional challenges. Based on two intensive case studies, the author demonstrates the opportunities and challenges in managing network organization. In doing so, he uses findings of marketing theory, organizational theory, and the sociology of work and integrates them into a framework of structuration theory.

  • Duration: 10/1995-10/2000
  • Publication (German): Well, B. van (2001): Standardisierung und Individualisierung von Dienstleistungen - Zur Organisation wissensintensiver Unternehmungsnetzwerke. Wiesbaden: Gabler.


Inter-firm Networking, Outsourcing of Labor and Industrial Relations. The Negotiation of Order of Selected Network Relationships of a Department Store Corporation

  • Carsten Wirth

  • Inter-firm networking represents a challenge for management and interest representation. In the present work, the consequences of networking in a department store company are analysed against the background of negotiated order theory using a qualitative network analysis. The results show that the management of network relationships is a process of negotiation, whereby fields of tension and (micro-) political conflicts have to be managed competently. The practice of cooperative conflict processing of the work councils and the trade union HBV undermines the influence of interest representation further. The study also demonstrates the analytical potential of negotiated order theory for the analysis of management practices and industrial relations.

  • Duration: 01/1994-11/1997
  • Publication (German): Wirth, C. (1999): Unternehmungsvernetzung, Externalisierung von Arbeit und industrielle Beziehungen. Die negotiation of order von ausgewählten Netzwerkbeziehungen einer Warenhausunternehmung. München und Mering: Hampp.


Organizational Learning Processes

  • Martin Wiegand

  • In recent years, organizational learning and the design of learning organizations have been central issues in organization science as well as in business practice. In his research, the author documents the importance of organizational learning for business practice and critically discusses previous theoretical approaches. Furthermore, the author develops a conceptual framework for learning in and by organizations, with which the present discussion should be extended and substantiated, while the integration of relevant behavioral science and organizational theory concepts and research results is made possible.

  • Publication (German): Wiegand, M. (1996): Prozesse Organisationalen Lernens. Wiebaden: Gabler.

Organized Creativity