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A cognitive organization theory (COT) of organizational change: Measuring organizational texture, audience appeal, and leadership engagement

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Karen ElliottORCiD


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Purpose – In this paper, the authors develop a cognitive organization theory (COT) of organizational change.COT was developed in the 2000s, by taking insights from cognitive psychology and anthropology to rebuildthe foundation of organizational ecology (OE), grounding macro processes of organizational legitimation,inertia and mortality in micro processes of appeal and engagement. COT also explored the micro-level processof organizational change, arguing that four features (i.e. asperity, intricacy, opacity, and viscosity) of anorganization's texture impact the appeal of organizational change. However, to data, empirical studies of aCOT of organizational change are absent. An important reason is that many of the new COT constructs arenot linked to empirical measures. The purpose of this paper is to develop reliable and valid survey measuresof COT's key constructs.Design/methodology/approach – The authors follow a three-step procedure to develop reliable and validsurvey measures of COT's key constructs. First, the authors construct survey measures by using existingorganizational behavior (OB) scales and develop new scales in consultation with COT experts. Second, theauthors apply factor analysis to evaluate convergent and discriminant validity and use Cronbach's α todetermine the reliability of the scales. Third, the authors estimate a structural equation model to determineexternal validity, by exploring whether the measures have the effect hypothesized in COT.Findings – The authors find that existing OB scales can be used to proxy for COT's key constructs ofappeal and engagement. The authors also find that two organizational texture variables (i.e., asperity andopacity) are significantly associated with the appeal of organizational change, further confirming thevalidity of applying a COT to organization change. The results are promising, proving evidence as tothe criterion-related validity of the measures of COT constructs. From the total of 39 coefficients ofCOT-inspired independent and control variables, 22 are significant.Research limitations/implications – The authors’ findings illustrate that micro OB and macro OE canbe effectively combined in a COT of organizational change. However, the authors' contribution is only afirst step, requiring further theoretical and methodological refinement. Theoretically, OB and OE can beintegrated further, by linking together more concepts and constructs from the two streams of literature.Methodologically, the link between constructs and empirical measures can be refined, by adding extrascales and items, and collecting more data to validate them.Originality/value – In this paper, the authors develop a COT of organizational change and link its centralconstructs to empirical measures, by connecting them to existing OB constructs and developing new scales anditems. This opens the door to empirical studies on a COT of organizational change, hereby providing astepping-stone for further integration of micro OB and macro OE.

Publication metadata

Author(s): van den Oord A, Elliott K, van Witteloostuijn A, Polos L, Rogiest S, Barlage M

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Organizational Ecology Conference

Year of Conference: 2014

Print publication date: 02/10/2015

Online publication date: 14/11/2014

Acceptance date: 21/02/2014