Ocasio Launches Gies Illinois Strategic Organizations Initiative

Driven by the strategic priority to achieve the highest standard in faculty excellence and globally renowned research, Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is launching the Illinois Strategic Organizations Initiative (ISOI). Under the direction of Professor William Ocasio, ISOI addresses unmet demand by academic communities and corporations for interdisciplinary research in strategic organizational design and management.

ISOI’s mission to conduct, sponsor, and promote world-class research and thought leadership in strategic organizations will build upon Gies College of Business’ distinguished history and reputation in both organizational behavior and strategy. Major theoretical innovations in strategic organizations were developed at Illinois, including resource dependence theory, organizational symbolism, managerial cognition, and institutional pluralism, among others.

“No business school in the world has taken the lead in researching the area between organizations and management. I applaud the College’s leadership for recognizing this opportunity and affording me the chance to follow my passions in a way that I could not do anywhere else,” said Ocasio, the College’s James F. Towey Professor of Business and Leadership. “We are going to take Gies’ current capabilities and elevate them further, making Gies a leader – if not the leader – at the intersection of organizations and strategy.”

Ocasio is an award-winning researcher and teacher who this summer joined Gies Business after 25 years at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He will be joined by Professors Matthew Kraatz and Deepak Somaya from Gies’ Department of Business Administration, who have been named associate directors of ISOI.

“Most business schools push for disciplinary purity,” said Ocasio. “We seek to provide a particularly welcoming environment for cutting across disciplines and subdisciplines like marketing and organizations. Not a lot of schools do that effectively.”

“There’s an opportunity for real change in the way research is done in this field,” said Dean Jeffrey R. Brown. “Business schools have become more siloed without a lot of interdisciplinary conversation. Academic research is behind practitioners in this area. The world of 25 years ago is not the same world we live in now. It’s changing fast, and in many ways, the research hasn’t caught up.”

Historically, the University of Illinois and Gies College of Business have been recognized leaders in the fields of organizational behavior and strategy, ranking as a top 10 producer of scholarship in these areas over the past three decades. “As modern companies increasingly integrate strategy and organization in more and more innovative ways, an initiative at the intersection of these fields and focused on the real-world problems of managers can be incredibly impactful in research and practice,” said ISOI Associate Director Deepak Somaya, professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship and Stephen and Christy King Faculty Fellow.

This fall, ISOI is hosting a Distinguished Speaker Series on the Past, Present, and Future of Strategic Organizations. The speaker series is intended for students, researchers, and practitioners interested in hearing and debating viewpoints and connecting current research to practice. Dean Jeffrey R. Brown kicked off the initiative, discussing the successful transformation of Gies’ strategy as a business school and its re-organization to meet the emerging needs of learners throughout their careers.

“Our objective is to create a dialogue on state-of-the-art research and practice of strategic organizations to guide ISOI in accomplishing its mission,” Ocasio said. “The series intends to be different from a traditional research paper seminar. It will focus on opinion, viewpoints, and debate about our research field(s), and to make a connection to its practice by hosting speakers with experience leading organizations.

Professor Ocasio is recognized as the top scholar in the management subfields of organizational attention and corporate strategic agendas. His Google Scholar count will soon reach 20,000. He has an unparalleled reputation as a pioneering theoretical thinker, whose scholarly work is directly applicable to leaders of global corporations. His paper, “Towards an Attention-Based View of the Firm,” was awarded the Schendel Prize from the Strategic Management Society for its lasting scholarly impact on research, teaching, and practice.

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