Acting Globally but Thinking Locally? The Influence of Local Communities on Organizations

by Christopher Marquis & Julie Battilana

Overview — It is a paradox that in a globalizing and "boundaryless" economy, factors associated with local communities—such as interpersonal networks, laws, and tax rates, among others—remain important for understanding organizational behavior. As Marquis and Battilana argue, communities influence organizational behavior not only as local markets and resource environments, but also through a number of institutional pressures. Focusing on communities as institutional environments provides fresh theoretical insights into organizational behavior, in addition to offering a more unified perspective to the diverse set of research that is emerging on local communities. Key concepts include:

  • Despite globalization, local factors remain important, and in many ways local particularities have become more visible and salient as globalization has proceeded.
  • In today's environment, organizations are embedded both locally and globally. Researchers need to account for these different levels in order to understand organizational behavior and also perhaps advance theory.

Author Abstract

We develop an institutional theory of how local communities continue to matter for organizations, and why community factors are particularly important in a global age. Since globalization has taken center stage in both practitioner and academic circles, research has shifted away from understanding effects of local factors. In this paper, our aim is to redirect theoretical and empirical attention back to understanding the determinants and importance of local influences. We review classical and contemporary research from organizational theory, sociology and economics that have focused on geographic influences on organizations. We adapt Scott's (2001) influential three pillars model, including regulative, social-normative and cultural-cognitive features to conceptualize an overarching model of how communities influence organizations. We suggest that because organizations are simultaneously embedded in communities and organizational fields, by accounting for both of these different levels, researchers will better understand isomorphism and change dynamics. Our approach thus runs counter the idea that globalization is a homogeneity-producing process, and the view that society is moving from particularism to universalism. With globalization, not only has the local remained important, but in many ways local particularities have become more visible and salient, and so understanding these dynamics will be helpful for researchers addressing institutional isomorphism and change.

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