Why are rules often not followed, either within organizations or by organizations? Why do so many rules seem to be selectively enforced? How do organizational rules form and evolve over time? Some scholars, as well as citizens, see rules as binding constraints, somewhat akin to a contract, but Prof. Powell will suggest that this is a limited view of rules, one that neither does them justice nor recognizes their polysemic character. What does such a view suggest for individuals navigating rules from within an organization, and leaders trying to steer their organizations? In this talk Professor Woody Powell (Stanford/SFI) will highlight key findings from older work in the field, and offer new insight based on ongoing work.
For participants who are particularly interested in this topic, the following foundational books can help you start thinking about the topic in advance:
- March, James G., Martin Schulz, and Xueguang Zhou. The dynamics of rules: Change in written organizational codes. Stanford University Press, 2000.
- Nelson, Richard R., Winter Sidney G. An evolutionary theory of economic change. Harvard university press, 1985.
- Daston, Lorraine. Rules: A Short History of What We Live By. Princeton University Press, 2022.
Walter (Woody) Powell is Jacks Family Professor of Education, and Professor of Sociology, Organizational Behavior, Management Science and Engineering, and Communication at Stanford University. His interests focus on the processes through which ideas and practices move across organizations, and the role of networks in facilitating or hindering the transfer of ideas.
He has been faculty co-director of the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society since its founding in 2006. At PACS, he leads the Civic Life of Cities Lab, which studies civil society organizations in the SF Bay Area, Seattle, Shenzhen, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, and Vienna. He was the 2019 recipient of the School of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching. He has received honorary degrees from Uppsala University, Copenhagen Business School, and Aalto University, and is an international member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Science and The British Academy. He has served on the board of directors of the Social Science Research Council since 2000. He was an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute from 2001-13 and continues involvement with SFI today. With Bob Gibbons (MIT), he has led the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) summer institute on Organizations and their Effectiveness since 2016. For the academic year 2022-23, he is the interim director of CASBS.