"Seizing Opportunity in Emerging Fields: How Institutional Entrepreneurs Legitimated the Professional Form of Management Consulting," Organization Science

Published: 25 March 2013

Authors: David, Robert; Sine, Wesley; Haveman, Heather

Publication: Organization Science, March/April 2013


We draw on the early history of the management consulting field to build theory about how institutional entrepreneurs legitimate new kinds of organizations in emerging fields. We study the professional form of management consulting organization, which came to dominate other alternatives. Pioneers of this organizational form seized opportunities arising from broad institutional change to discredit the status quo and legitimate their model of how to advise organizations on strategic and operational issues. Similar to institutional entrepreneurs seeking to change mature fields, those in this emerging field engaged in theorization, undertook collective action, and established affiliations with recognized authorities and elites. But unlike institutional entrepreneurs in mature fields, the actors we studied could not leverage logics, positions, or collectivities within their emerging field; instead, they drew on logics from outside their field, sought affiliations with external authorities and elites, and emphasized the benefits of their activities for society at large. Our analysis thus suggests important differences in how actors legitimate novel organizational forms in emerging versus mature fields and underscores the need for theories of institutional entrepreneurship that explicitly account for field context.

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