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Keywords:

  • emergence;
  • imprinting;
  • models of organizing;
  • recombination;
  • transposition

Abstract

We study the emergence of organizational forms, focusing on two mechanisms—reconfiguration and transposition—that distinguish the founding models of the first 26 biotechnology companies, all created in the industry's first decade, from 1972 to 1981. We analyze rich archival data using hierarchical cluster analysis, revealing four organizational variants of the dedicated biotech firm (DBF). Three were products of reconfiguration, as executives from Big Pharma used past practices to incorporate new science. One DBF variant resulted from ‘amphibious’ scientists who imported organizing ideas from the academy into their VC-funded start-ups. We argue that such transpositions are fragile, yet charged with generative possibilities. Copyright © 2012 Strategic Management Society.