Institutional Theory

Institutional theory tries to describe how institutions emerge, are sustained and change over time. Institutions in this context are distinguished from organisations. This may be best illustrated by an example: higher education in an institution, but a particular university is an organisation. The institutions is larger and conceptual, the organisation is a particular instantiation of the institution.

Institution theory is best understood by extensive reading of the academic literature, but for those who want a quick access, here are some tools, none of them really fine:

The best source remains W. Richard Scott’s book: Institutions and Organisations, published by Sage. Here is the link to the 4th edition on Amazon. This is as accessible as any academic text in the social sciences (meaning not really), but it gives explanations of the concepts and how they fit together.

Author W. Richard Scott
Credentials Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University
Published 4th edition in 2013
Format Book
Length 360 pages
Accessibility Difficult: academic text

Wikipedia has a brief article on Institutional Theory, but it gives little more than the main points, together with some of the history and distinguishes between institutional theory and new institutional theory.

Author Wikipedia authors
Credentials Wikipedia authoring and review process
Published Last modified September 2016
Format Wiki
Length 838 words
Accessibility Medium: simplified academic text

The Theories Used in Information Systems Wiki has a nice, but brief, summary of the main points of Institutional Theory. It includes a list of articles in Information Systems research that have used Institutional Theory.

Author Academic staff and PhD students
Credentials Maintained by the University of Colorado and the Marriott School of Management of Brigham Young University
Published Last modified November 2014
Format Wiki
Length 2196 words
Accessibility Medium: simplified academic text

This ten minute presentation (slides and voice) by Michael Lower on Institutional Theory focuses on the similarity of organisations within an institution. Published in 2013, it’s a bit dry, but the explanations and structure are clear. The video forms part of the work towards a Doctorate in Higher Education Research Evaluation and Enhancement at Lancaster University.

Author Michael Lower
Credentials Faculty of Law, Chinese University of Hong Kong,
Published Published in 2013
Format Video (slides and voice)
Length 10 minutes
Accessibility Easy: simple explanations

Mauro Guillén presents the third lecture in a series titled “The Architecture of Collapse: The Global System in the 21st Century” at the Saïd Business School, Oxford University. This lecture: “Isomorphism, Impermeability, and Institutional Diversity” illustrates the application of institutional theory in understanding global change. He addresses the questions: Are isomorphic forces taking over the world? To what extent are nodes in the global system impermeable to these forces? What are the implications for institutional diversity?

Author Mauro Guillén
Credentials Professor of International Management and Director of the Lauder Institute at the U of Pennsylvania
Published Published in May 2014
Format Video of live, in-class presentation
Length 48 minutes
Accessibility Difficult: the lecture is clear, but requires a good grasp of the concepts, and concentration, to follow

There is space for some really good tools for learning about Institutional Theory, tools that are clear, accessible and yet meaty; tools that are structured to allow different levels of engagement with the topic. Such tools would be fine.