Benefiting from Institutional Complexity: How Organizations Engage with Minority Logics
Institutional complexity – being simultaneously exposed to multiple institutional logics – is commonly perceived as a challenge and source of tension for organizations. In this paper we argue that rather than being a source of tension, complexity may represent an opportunity for organizations to accrue certain benefits. They may therefore deliberately expose themselves to institutional complexity. Using an inductive study of university-industry research centers, we illustrate how research universities obtained benefits by embracing a minority logic (the commercial logic), in addition to remaining committed to their dominant, academic logic. We argue that organizations achieve this by creating special boundary spaces where institutional complexity is confined. These boundary spaces are sufficiently differentiated from the mainstream organization to enable it to attract audiences adhering to alternative logics. Simultaneously, they are also sufficiently integrated with the mainstream organization to avoid excessive tensions arising from the presence of multiple logics. Our study has significant implications for our understanding of institutional complexity in three ways. We suggest that organizations deliberately seek institutional complexity, we identify the special organizational structures useful in minimizing potential disruption, and we point to the role of hybrid leaders in operating successful boundary spaces.