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Special Research Forums

This page identifies special research forum calls for papers.  These calls are for thematically-oriented special issues of the Academy of Management Journal.

Information on how to develop a proposal for a Special Research Forum are given here

Current special forums include:



Ann Langley, Clive Smallman, Haridimos Tsoukas, and Andrew H. Van de Ven

This special research forum is devoted to research aimed at understanding process questions about how and why things emerge, develop, grow, or terminate over time – as distinct from variance questions focusing on co-variations among dependent and independent variables. Process questions address issues that span or interconnect the domains of AOM Divisions. They include studies that examine how and why phenomena pertaining to individuals, groups, organizations, and larger industry networks or communities develop and change over time. For example, papers might examine the sequences of events or steps that unfold over time in the development of individuals' decisions, jobs and careers, organizational innovation, transformation, and relationships, or larger social, technical, and economic developments. We seek papers that focus on the temporal order and sequence in which selected managerial or organizational phenomena develop and change over time, and that advance our understanding of process theories of organization and management (as discussed by Van de Ven & Poole, 1995).

Contributions may take a range of forms and may focus on different levels of analysis, but they should take temporal developments seriously and examine how phenomena develop and change. As Tsoukas and Chia (2002) noted, processes of change are continuous and inherent to organizing. Submissions to the Special Research Forum may address emergent, improvisational and self-organizing forms of adaptation and novelty. Given the ubiquity of innovations in contemporary organizations, research that examines how inventions are created and what processes unfold as they are developed and implemented as innovations are also invited.

More generally, potential research topics might include but are not limited to:

  • Process studies of individuals within organizational contexts. For example, process studies might address career transitions, organizational identification, and individual learning. Contributors might also examine how individuals entrepreneurially generate change, as well as how they cope with initiatives that are imposed upon them. An interesting example of a process study at the individual level of analysis is Pratt, Rockman and Kaufman’s (2006) examination of the construction of professional identity among medical residents.
  • Process studies of group development. At this level studies might include examinations of how groups (e.g., task forces, work groups, management teams) emerge, evolve or dissolve over time. They might also examine how new forms of work organization are incorporated into work groups and how groups evolve when they are merged into larger entities. An interesting example is Repenning and Sterman’s (2002) study of the dynamics surrounding process improvement teams.
  • Process studies of organizational innovation and change. Studies might examine micro-processes of how individuals innovate, improvise, adapt, and learn as well as more macro processes of how organizational start-ups, reorganizations, mergers, alliances, and crisis-induced changes unfold over time. Two examples of process studies at the organization level are Balogun and Johnson’s (2004) study of how middle managers make sense of change as it evolves and Plowman, Baker, Beck, Kulkarni, Solansky and Travis’s (2007) study of the emergence of accidental radical change in a religious organizations.
  • Meso studies of how individual, group, organization, and industry-level processes co-evolve over time. How and when do individual processes aggregate into organizational changes and vice-versa? Is it through processes of interpretation and action at different levels (Orlikowski, 1996)? How do stable routines at one level induce changes in routines at another level (Feldman, 2000)? How do managerial intentions and actions change over time and how are they reinterpreted by various stakeholders and organizational levels over time? How are industry level processes or field level processes intertwined with processes within organizations to generate new outcomes?

Process studies necessarily require temporally grounded data. These data may be constituted through tracing phenomena backwards in time as in Plowman et al.’s (2006) study or by following them forward in real time as in Balogun and Johnson (2004) and Pratt et al. (2006). Generally, such research will also tend to draw on multiple sources of qualitative and quantitative data, as might be obtained from interviews and surveys, real time observations, documents and archival records. Statistical and narrative forms of longitudinal analysis and theorizing are also commonly used (Langley, 1999; Pentland, 1999) ranging from qualitative and narrative analysis to more quantitative methods that render deeper understanding of complex temporal relationships (Abbott, 1990; Poole, Van de Ven, Dooley, & Holmes, 2000). We also welcome research that innovates by drawing on novel data sources and analytic strategies (both qualitative and quantitative).

As in the case of all contributions to Academy of Management Journal, papers accepted for this Special Research Forum must be empirically rich, methodologically rigorous, and theoretically insightful. In other words, process research studies must reach beyond surface description to develop some form of understanding of dynamic phenomena that speak to situations other than the empirical settings examined.


Submissions are due between July 1 and August 31, 2010. Contributors should follow the direction for manuscript submission described in “Information for Contributors” in the front of each issue of AMJ and on AMJ's Contributor Information Page

For queries about submission, contact AMJ's managing editor, Michael Malgrande. For questions regarding the content of this Special Research Forum, write to one of the guest editors: Ann Langley,Clive Smallman , Haridimos Tsoukas , or Andy Van de Ven.


Abbott, A. (1990). A primer on sequence methods. Organization Science, 1(4), 375-392.
Balogun, J. & Johnson, G. (2004). Organizational restructuring and middle manager sensemaking, Academy of Management Journal, 47(4), 523-549.
Feldman, M. (2000) Organizational routines as a source of continuous change, Organization Science, 11:611-629
Langley, A. (1999). Strategies for theorizing from process data, Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 691-710.
Orlikowski, W. (1996) Improvising organizational transformation over time: A situated change perspective, Information Systems Research, 7:63-92
Pentland, B.T. (1999). Building process theory with narrative: From description to explanation. Academy of Management Review, 24(4): 711-724.
Poole, M.S., Van de Ven, A.H., Dooley, K., & Holmes, M.E. 2000, Organizational change and innovation processes: Theory and methods for research, New York: Oxford Univ. Press. Plowman, D.A., Baker, L.T., Beck, T.E., Kulkarni, M., Solansky, S.T. & Travis, D.V. (2007). Radical change accidentally: The emergence and amplification of small change, Academy of Management Journal, 50(3), 515-543.
Pratt, M.G., Rockmann, K.W. & Kaufmann, J.B. (2006). Constructing professional identity: The role of work and identity learning cycles in the customization of identity among medical residents, Academy of Management Journal, 49(2), 235-262.
Repenning, N.P. & Sterman, J.D. (2002). Capability traps and self-confirming attribution errors in the dynamics of process improvement. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47(2), 265-295.
Tsoukas, H. & Chia, R. (2002). On organizational becoming: Rethinking organizational change, Organization Science,, 13(5), 567-582.
Van de Ven, A.H. & Poole, M.S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510-540.



Ranjay Gulati, Martin Kilduff, Stan Li, Andrew Shipilov, Wenpin Tsai

An ancient paradox that has modern relevance is that individuals have multiple selves from which unique identities are formed. From the time of the ancient Greeks up to the present, debate has raged concerning whether to place the emphasis on the plurality of selves or the unitary nature of identity. The contribution of psychologist William James (1890: 294) was particularly influential in asserting that a person had as many social selves as they were other individuals who recognized the person and carried an image of the person in their mind. The sociologist Georg Simmel (1955: 150) added further insight with his description of how individuals became unique to the extent that they affiliated with many different non-overlapping groups. It is from these influential psychological and sociological sources that we derive the idea for this Special Research Forum.

We define relational pluralism as the extent to which a focal entity (whether a person, a team, or an organization) derives its meaning and possibility of action from relations with other entities. Because of the division of labor, we necessarily have to enter into relations with other entities to accomplish life's tasks (Durkheim, 1984). And this relational pluralism brings the likelihood of innovation, but also of subversive challenges to the status quo (Berger & Luckmann, 1967: 125).

In studying outcomes of relational pluralism such as innovation and shifts in power, contributors to this special research forum should consider the ways in which relationships between actors can be characterized as multiplex, heterogenous, and overlapping. Multiplexity is the extent to which actors are connected by more than one type of relationship (e.g., members of the same department who are also friends). Heterogeneity is the extent to which actors form connections with others from quite different backgrounds (e.g., different ethnicities or industries). Overlap is the extent to which the focal actor's relationships are clustered in one group or span across different groups.

Studies are already beginning to examine the phenomenon of relational pluralism and its implications. At the individual level, work has focused on how individuals develop multiple identities (Pratt & Rafaeli, 1997), but this work did not directly examine how these identities shift depending on the configuration of heterogeneous relations in organizational settings (Mehra, Kilduff, & Brass, 1998). At the dyadic level, we know that the extent to which people confirm to each other's identities affects cooperation and performance at work (Milton & Westphal, 2005). But these rich processes of identity confirmation have yet to be explored with respect to conflicting identities deriving from heterogeneous relations. At the team level, theories and empirical research have examined linkages between social structures and team-level outcomes (Hansen, 1999; Oh, Chung, & Labianca, 2004; Roberson & Colquitt, 2005), but have not explored the origins and consequences of multiple types of inter-team relations. At the firm level there are conflicting arguments about the consequences of relational pluralism, ranging from the recognition that multiplexity in relationships (Baker and Faulkner, 2002) and competitive positions lead to lower competition (Gimeno & Woo, 1996) to warnings that heterogeneous relations can damage stock market value (Zuckerman, 1999).

Consequently, there is more work to be done to analyze the origins and outcomes of relational pluralism. We are interested in work at different levels and work that derives from psychological, sociological, economic and other traditions. Relevant theoretical perspectives that explore relational pluralism could include social identity theory, distinctiveness theory, leader-member exchange theory, institutional theory, resource dependence theory, relational demography, the resource based view of the firm, and social network theory. Relevant methods could range from qualitative (participant observation, interviews, case studies) to quantitative (analysis of text, survey or archival data). We particularly welcome combinations of methods (e.g., the use of diary data together with social network analysis) in order to capture relevant phenomena such as the emergence of multiplex relations.

Here is a sampling of possible topics:

  • the dynamics of relational pluralism, including questions concerning how heterogeneity in social structure is shaped by cognition, and how individuals and organizations develop multiple identities in their struggle for power and control;
  • the emergence of hybrid organizational forms from heterogeneous interdependencies;
  • the origins of relational pluralism, including studies of the evolution from relational singularity to relational plurality;
  • the social contexts from which relational pluralism derives, including studies of how these contexts promote or restrict the formation, maintenance, and recombination of relationships;
  • the consequences of relational pluralism, including how heterogeneity and its management affect individual, organizational, and systemic outcomes;
  • relational pluralism across levels (individual, team, organizational unit), including questions of how relational pluralism at one level affects the emergence of status and power at another;
  • implications of relational pluralism for managerial practice and public policy.

For this Special Research Forum, we seek submissions that capture the richness of qualitative and quantitative data using rigorous methods that contribute to theory development concerning relational pluralism, and that open new areas for research. The range of questions we have posed are illustrative rather than definitive, and we welcome submissions that approach relational pluralism within and across organizations in ways that have not previously been conceptualized.


Submissions are due between September 1 and October 31, 2011. Contributors should follow the direction for manuscript submission described in "Information for Contributors" in the front of each issue of AMJ and on AMJ's Contributor Information Page

For questions about submitting to this Special Research Forum, contact AMJ's Managing Editor, Michael Malgrande, at For questions regarding the content of this Special Research Forum, write to one of the guest editors: Ranjay Gulati (, Martin Kilduff (, Stan Li (, Andrew Shipilov (, or Wenpin Tsai (


Baker, W. E., & Faulkner, R. 2002. Interorganizational Networks. In J. A. C. Baum (Ed.), Companion to Organizations: 521-540. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. 1967. The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Durkheim, E. 1984. The division of labor in society. New York: Free Press.

Gimeno, J., & Woo, C. 1996. Economic multiplexity: The structural embeddedness of cooperation in multiple relations of interdependence. Advances in Strategic Management, 13: 323-361.

Hansen, M. 1999. The search-transfer problem: The role of weak ties in sharing knowledge across organizational subunits. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44: 81-111.

James, W. 1890. The principles of psychology. (2 vols). New York: Henry Holt.

Mehra, A., Kilduff, M., & Brass, D. J. 1998. At the Margins: A Distinctiveness Approach to the Social Identity and Social Networks of Underrepresented Groups. The Academy of Management Journal, 41: 441-452.

Milton, L. P., & Westphal, J. D. 2005. Identity Confirmation Networks and Cooperation in Workgroups. Academy of Management Journal, 48: 191-212.

Oh, H., Chung, M.-H., & Labianca, G. 2004. Group social capital and group effectiveness: The role of informal socializing ties. Academy of Management Journal, 47: 860–875.

Pratt, M. G., & Rafaeli, A. 1997. Organizational Dress as a Symbol of Multilayered Social Identities. The Academy of Management Journal, 40: 862-898.

Roberson, Q. M., & Colquitt, J. A. 2005. Shared and Configural Justice: A Social Network Model of Justice in Teams. Academy of Management Review, 30: 595-607.

Simmel, G. 1955. Conflict and the web of group-affiliations. Glencoe, IL: Free Press. Zuckerman, E. 1999. Categorical imperative: Securities analysts and the legitimacy discount. American Journal of Sociology, 104: 1398-1438.