HKS Affiliated Authors

Alan L. Gleitsman Professor of Social Innovation, HKS; Joseph C. Wilson Professor of Business Administration, HBS


2922, Paper: " Corporations are increasingly expected to pursue social and environmental purpose in addition to profit, but we still do not know much about which forms of organizing may be best suited to enable them to rise to this challenge. In this paper, we ask: which distributions of decision-making power are better suited to sustaining the pursuit of multiple purposes in corporations? To investigate this question, we present a framework of four ideal type forms of organizing that vary along two key dimensions: purpose and power. We conceptualize organizations as varying in whether they pursue a single purpose vs. multiple purposes, and in whether decision-making power is concentrated at the top (oligarchical) vs. more democratically distributed amongst workers. We then integrate organization theory and democratic theory to present three theoretical propositions. Specifically, we advance that more democratic forms of organizing will make it easier to sustain the pursuit of multiple purposes over the long term, and we propose that formal spaces of deliberation and deliberative culture help facilitate the success of such democratic forms of organizing. Our paper contributes to theorizing at the intersection of power and purpose, two lines of work that have until now evolved mostly on separate tracks."