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Research Proposal

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With lots of public attention to actual cases of organizations imitating each other (e.g. the tablet market) and low levels of variation in organizational fields (e.g. the IT-sector), it is interesting to focus on the outcomes of organizational imitation in terms of organizational performance from an institutional perspective.

“According to DiMaggio and Powell, firms tend to resemble one another because of three main institutional forces shaping their organizational fields: power, namely the dependence of the field’s membership upon others (e.g. regulatory authorities); uncertainty about how to gain legitimacy (approval) for their behaviour; and culture, namely educational and socialization norms and their influence on behaviour. It is worth noting that, while uncertainty can be considered a predictor of imitative behaviour (i.e. mimetic isomorphism), the other two forces (especially culture) may be sources of isomorphism but not of imitation, as firms may be isomorphic because they behave similarly and not because one firm intentionally tries to copy the strategic behavior of the other” (Ordanini et al., 2008).

But, does imitation lead to an increase in organizational performance? Early theorists in institutional theory state that organizations should be isomorphic to its competitors in order to achieve legitimacy (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Meyer & Rowan, 1977), and suggest that legitimacy increases performance because of its effect on the flow of resources to the firm (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978). Following the reasoning of Eapen and Krishnan (2009), conformity increases competition among the conforming firms. They state: “When firms become similar through conformity, they tend to end up occupying similar product and technology spaces and compete for the same set of scarce resources and customers relevant to that space. This increased competition, ceteris paribus, can harm economic performance” (p.97). Also, according to Deephouse (1999),...

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