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The German Science Foundation is funding a new research unit based at Freie Universität Berlin with the topic “Organized Creativity: Practices for Inducing and Coping with Uncertainty“.

The research unit examines the challenging question of how creativity can be socially organized. It comprises four projects, each of which examines different dimensions of uncertainty in a specific area of organizing practices: collaborative practices, temporal practices, and regulatory practices.

Doctoral positions (and one postdoc) are open at the different partner universities of the research unit, which is comprised of the following scholars:

Prof. Dr. Jörg Sydow, Freie Universität Berlin (spokesperson)
Prof. Jana Costas, Ph.D., Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder
Prof. Dr. Leonhard Dobusch, Universität Innsbruck
Prof. Dr. Gernot Grabher, Hafen City University, Hamburg
Prof. Dr. Oliver Ibert, Freie Universität Berlin and IRS Erkner
Prof. Gregory Jackson, Ph.D., Freie Universtität Berlin
Prof. Dr. Sigrid Quack, Universität Duisburg-Essen
Prof. Dr. Elke Schüßler, Freie Universität Berlin and (from 1.5.16) Johannes Kepler Universität Linz

Please access the individual job offers here (in German only) and check out the general project website for further information.


Yesterday night, the representatives of 196 nations reached what The Guardian called “the world’s greatest diplomatic success” at the 21st UN climate conference, COP21, in Paris. After the dramatic failure of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 to reach an agreement for committing the nations of the world to cut carbon emissions, Paris was hailed as the “our best chance to safe the planet“.

I observed the intense build-up towards the Paris COP with much apprehension because, based on a historical analysis of the COPs leading up to the Copenhagen event, my coauthors and I detected the staging of a COP as a “high-stakes” event as potentially problematic for reaching a successful outcome. In our paper, we argued that in the light of extremely high fragmentation in the field developing prior to Copenhagen, the staging of COP15 as a high-stakes event backfired, exacerbating feelings of distrust and unbridgeable disagreement among the negotiating parties. We identified agenda-setting, the possibilities for informal interaction and negotiation leadership as crucial factors influencing the success of negotiations. We also argued that an intense and frustrating pre-COP meeting cycle could decrease the negotiators’ motivation.

The Paris COP allows us now to reflect on our argument and “test” whether our findings can be used to explain its outcome. Somewhat in contrast to our argument, COP21 was also preceded by intense years of negotiations, often on a daily basis. Yet, while the negotiations prior to Copenhagen revolved around the highly contested technical details of the Kyoto Protocol’s policy instruments, they were marked by diplomatic achievements such as the climate accord struck between the USA and China prior to Paris.

In line with our findings, the way the Paris COP was “enacted”, particularly by the negotiation leaders, was a key to its success. For instance, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his colleague Laurence Tubiana – maybe paradoxically – formally installed informal meetings to enable consensus-building in small groups and prevent fragmentation. When the deal threatened to fail, the French negotiation leaders formed working groups and asked dissenting parties to chair these groups, thus forcing them into a proactive leadership role. Additionally, the staging of COP21 decidedly differed from previous COPs: usually the heads of states come in at the end of the negotiations, but were asked to open the meeting in Paris, thus setting a clear mandate for their negotiators to reach a consensus.

Following David Victor, we questioned in our paper whether the UNFCCC’s principles of inclusiveness and consensus can be upheld or are in the way of a climate deal. In the light of clever negotiation leadership and intense preceding diplomatic efforts outlined above, COP21 has shown that the inclusion of small countries can actually be an important force for change and ambition, as the UNFCCC has envisioned. Indeed, it was the small island states and least developed countries that formed a “high ambition coalition” leading to a 1.5-degree temperature target in the new agreement, which is more ambitious than the previous 2 degree target, but necessary to ensure the survival of countries in low-lying coastal areas.

At least for a short moment, today I feel hopeful for the world my daughters will live in in the future thanks to “the miracle of Paris”. Of course, it remains to be seen what the ratification process will look like in the next year – the history of the Kyoto Protocol tells us that what is hailed as a miracle today may eventually turn out to be a devil in disguise in the future.

I’m very pleased to announce the publication of a new English-language textbook on the management of inter-organizational relations written and edited by Jörg Sydow, Gordon Müller-Seitz and myself and published by Palgrave. While several textbooks on specific topics such as strategic alliancesoutsourcing and offshoring or social networks are already out there, there was to date no comprehensive textbook dealing with different forms of inter-organizational relations from a management perspective that could be used in English-language courses on managing alliances and networks.Palgrave Bild

Several academically-oriented books such as the Oxford Handbook of Inter-Organizational Relations or the book Managing Dynamic Networks are useful to complement teaching, but are – in our experience – too theoretical to structure an entire course. Conversely, practitioner-oriented texts like the Manager’s Guide to Choosing and Using Collaborative Networks can only complement, but not fill an entire university course. A case collection on alliance management has been edited by the Ivey School of Business, but this collection does not include textbook chapters.

Our new book aims to include both an introduction to several forms of inter-organizational relations and the underlying academic debates as well as a collection of case studies highlighting particular managerial issues. In an effort to promote research-led teaching, all cases were developed on the basis of research projects conducted by members of the Research Group Inter-firm Networks and the Group’s international network. The book is structured in six parts, four of which comprise the main forms of inter-organizational relations that are distinguished: strategic alliances and networks, regional networks and clusters, global production and supply networks, and innovation and project networks. Especially the chapter on global production and supply networks includes a debate about transnational governance issues and discusses, for instance, the challenges associated with transnationalizing professional services or issues of accountability and liability in global production networks.

Five case studies are available for each of these network types, each focusing on particular management challenges. For strategic alliances and networks, for instance, Jörg Sydow together with Horst Findeisen, Vice President at the Star Alliance Services GmbH, wrote a case on the institutionalization of new management structures in the Star Alliance. For regional networks and clusters, Chacko Kannothra and Stephan Manning from the University of Massachusetts in Boston developed a case on the new impact sourcing trend and its implications for regional development in India. For global production and supply networks, Miriam Wilhelm from the University of Groningen presents details from her in-depth research on Toyota’s practices for managing cooperation and competition. In the chapter on innovation and project networks, Leonhard Dobusch wrote about the development of the international network organization behind Wikimedia.

Overall, this book tackles not only a border-crossing issue – management practices and challenges arising outside of hierarchical organizational boundaries – but also aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice in a new textbook format geared towards advanced bachelor, master and MBA students. The book is complemented by a companion website where teaching notes, a glossary and further informative links for each case are provided.

This post is provided by our regular guest blogger Elke Schüßler. Elke Schüßler is Assistant Professor of Organization Theory at the Management Departement at Freie Universität Berlin.

Daniel Henninger (Foto: Dow Jones Events, CC-BY-ND)

Daniel Henninger (Foto: DJEvents, CC-BY-ND)

Yesterday, the article „Why Can’t the Left Govern?“ written by Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and a former Pulitzer Price finalist, made it to the Wall Street Journal’s most popular article within a few hours. At the time of writing this post, the article received over 1000 comments.

I would not have stumbled across this piece of journalism had it not been based on a study by Charles-Clemens Rüling, Bettina Wittneben and myself recently published in the Academy of Management Journal on the problems of UN climate conferences in advancing transnational climate change policy. In an adventurous logical jump, Henninger links our analysis of the field maintenance mechanisms that have eaten their way into the transnational climate policy process to a worldwide crisis of the Left generally and US president Obama’s reform of the US healthcare system through what is known as „Obamacare“ specifically.

While indeed the reform of the US healthcare system has been a daunting struggle for almost a century and, as such, may exhibit some parallels to the task of mitigating climate change, there are several reasons for considering this jump as adventurous.

Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Elke Schüßler. Elke Schüßler is postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at Freie Universität Berlin.

The 17th climate summit in Durban has just concluded and the target of developing binding decisions for greenhouse gas emission caps post-2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the “only game in town”, as it is often called inside the climate policy community – will end, has moved further afar. The main outcome of a uniquely long and strenuous negotiation process in this South African city was to postpone the development of such a treaty to 2015.

In a previous blog entry, Leonhard Dobusch and I have analyzed the role of music industry conferences as so-called “field configuring events” and the role they play in the contestation and possibly innovation of copyright regulation. Together with Bettina Wittneben (WiSE Institute) and Charles-Clemens Rüling (Grenoble Ecole de Management), I am conducting a similar analysis of the role of climate summits in the field of international climate change policy.

This field was established by the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and has since been marked by a series of international policy conferences carrying forward the United Nation’s climate change negotiation process: the annual ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) together with a series of mid-year ‘Meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies’ (SB) held in the context of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Recent research has underlined the role of international conferences as “catalysts of change, especially as organizations and governments struggle to develop global solutions to complex problems” (Hardy & Maguire, 2010: 1358). Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Elke Schüßler. Elke Schüßler is postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at Freie Universität Berlin.

As part of a larger research program on so-called field configuring events (FCEs) in the German music industry, Leonhard Dobusch and I took a closer look at the question of how the issue of copyright is represented at – and in turn framed by – music festivals, fairs, and conferences where the issue of copyright (or, more generally, the question of the future of the music industry in its multiple forms) is discussed by a diversity of field actors (see working paper). The concept of FCEs comes from organization theory (see Garud 2008 for a scholarly example) and refers to events as temporally and spatially bounded arenas for networking, sensemaking, and debate with a potentially larger impact. We consider such FCEs as a discursive focusing lens hosting different “discourse coalitions” and their respective “story lines” (see Hajer 1993) and argue that the way the event landscape evolves can be taken as a representation of how the field evolves with respect to certain issues.

Empirically, we first analyzed at the evolution of the event landscape in the pre- and post-Napster period (1995-2001 and 2001-2009, respectively). We identified 27 events in the German music industry that fulfilled our selection criteria and that we classified as conservationist, reformist, radicalist, or neutral with respect to copyright. We observe a steady rise in the number of events, from only 3 in the year 1997 to 20 in the year 2009 (see Figure 1).  There is now a larger number of radicalist and reformist than conservationist events and, accordingly, the majority of newly founded events had either a radicalist (5 events) or a reformist (7 events) orientation.

We further conducted a comparative in-depth discourse analysis of three selected events in the year 2009, a critical year for the German music event landscape: the traditional main industry event, the “Popkomm”, sponsored predominantly by the major labels and canceled in 2009 with reference to “illegal downloads”; the all2gethernow (a2n), an impromptu collective act of the independent players in the industry to fill the gap and to counter the claims of the Popkomm; and the c/o pop festival founded in Cologne in 2004 associated with the digital music business. Our aim was to identify compatible and incompatible story lines, associate them with certain actor groups (not) participating at these events, and link them to the related event- and field-level practices. In a comprehensive media analysis we identified 34 different claims with respect to copyright made in the context of these events and, again, classified them as conservationist, reformist, radicalist, or neutral.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
February 2017
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