Mellom marked og akademia - Institusjonell fleksibilitet i to forskningsinstitutter
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The aim of this thesis is to study how inconsistencies and contradictions in the organizational practice and competence of research institutes within the social sciences is handled and used by its employees. I build on a synthesis of institutional and interpretive theory, and explore how researchers and managers make sense of and defend their research approach. The findings in this thesis come from a comparative analysis of two research institutes, with empirical data generated from in-depth-interviews. I find that the informants have to combine several different institutionalized taken-for-granted "truths" on how to do applied research. The combination of these result in inconsistencies and contradictions that are deeply embedded in the organization. The research institutes are in other words institutionally complex, they are what is called hybrid organizations. This is because the research institutes aren’t just for-profit organisations, they also try to develop scientific knowledge. How the members of these institutes handle the inconsistencies and contradictions that their institute is built on, is an important part of their organizational identity. However, for members of such organizations, changing is not necessarily easy. I find that institutional changes are interpreted and viewed very differently in the two institutes, as one is more positive to this than the other. In the discussion of this thesis, I argue that how the organizational identity of the institute is created and interpreted by the informants, is of crucial importance for how well the inconsistencies and contradictions are handled. How they attribute meaning to and talk about their own and other organizations’ research practice and competence, also has a great impact on their willingness and ability to change and adapt. Those who handle these tensions best, seem to have what I call an institutional flexibility. Through a process of collective sensemaking they are able to create a bigger room for different research practices and competences, and thereby also for changing and adapting. This is an ability that becomes more and more important nowadays in the world of applied research, as old institutional borders are changing, blurring and crossing. As modern organizations are subject to different, conflicting and inconsistent demands, they themselves become more complex. Research institutes are no exception, and therefore their members need to be able to handle that dynamic complexity.