Academic entrepreneurs: Organizational change at the individual level

Janet Bercovitz, Maryann Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the process of organizational change by examining localized social learning in organizational subunits. Specifically, we examine participation in university technology transfer, a new organizational initiative, by tracking 1,780 faculty members, examining their backgrounds and work environments, and following their engagement with academic entrepreneurship. We find that individual adoption of the new initiative may be either substantive or symbolic. Our results suggest that individual attributes, while important, are conditioned by the local work environment. In terms of personal attributes, individuals are more likely to participate if they trained at institutions that had accepted the new initiative and been active in technology transfer. In addition, we find that the longer the time that had elapsed since graduate training, the less likely the individual was to actively embrace the new commercialization norm. Considering the localized social environment, we find that when the chair of the department is active in technology transfer, other members of the department are also likely to participate, if only for symbolic reasons. We also find that technology transfer behavior is calibrated by the experience of those in the relevant cohort. If an individual can observe others with whom they identify engaging in the new initiative, then they are more likely to follow with substantive compliance. Finally, when individuals face dissonance, a situation where their individual training norms are not congruent with the localized social norms in their work environment, they will conform to the local norms, rather than adhering to the norms from their prior experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-89
Number of pages21
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Entrepreneurship
  • Localized learning
  • Organizational change
  • Technology transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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