Explaining the Escalation of Activism through Repertoire Reconfiguration
Siobhan O'Mahony, Associate Professor in Strategy and Innovation at the Boston University Questrom School of Business and the Academic Director of Research and Curriculum for Innovate at Boston University Questrom School of Business
Friday, May 31, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Much research shows that even with limited resources, activists can surprise more powerful groups by introducing tactical innovations. Yet, introducing novel tactics can complicate activists’ organizing efforts in underappreciated ways. How do activists sustain ongoing tactical innovation? We argue that examining the organizing repertoire, the set of practices and tools used to enable tactical innovation, is critical to understanding not only how tactical innovations are created, but also how activism escalates. With an inductive field study, we examine how the Anonymous online community escalated from ad hoc raids on single targets to coordinated operations against multiple targets over a seven-year period. We offer a grounded theoretical explanation of how activist escalation is enabled by reconfiguring a repertoire of practices and tools to address organizing challenges and a particular explanation of how this process unfolds in an under-explored context.
Siobhán O’Mahony is a tenured Associate Professor in Strategy and Innovation at the Boston University Questrom School of Business and the Academic Director of Research and Curriculum for Innovate at Boston University, a campus wide initiative to spur innovation across Boston University. O'Mahony studies how collective technical and creative projects organize. In her research, O’Mahony has examined high technology contractors, open source programmers, music producers, scientists and engineers, internet startups and corporate consortiums. She is interested in how people organize for innovation, creativity and growth without replicating the bureaucratic structures they strive to avoid. Much of her work examines how innovative projects manage the tension between maintaining open, participatory and pluralistic organizing approaches and preserving project boundaries, purpose and mission.
Her work has been published in the top journals in her field including Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Academy of Management Journal, Research Policy, Research in Organizational Behavior, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Industry and Innovation, the Journal of Management and Governance among other edited volumes. O’Mahony has provided expert testimony on innovation to the European Union, the National Academy of Science and Engineering, and the National Science Foundation. Her research has been mentioned in the New York Times and she has provided expertise on CNBC. She is a member of the editorial boards of Administrative Science Quarterly and the Academy of Management Journal.
At Boston University, O’Mahony teaches two popular electives: Design Thinking and Innovation and Organizing for Innovation. Before joining Boston University, O’Mahony was a tenure track professor at the Harvard Business School and at UC Davis Graduate School of Management. She has consulted to numerous companies such as Novell, Cap Gemini, Ideo, the Cutter Consortium, McDonald Investments, Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, and the Global Business Network. O'Mahony received her Ph.D. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, an M.P.A from the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, and a B.S. in Industrial Labor Relations from Cornell University.