Conformist innovation: an institutional logics perspective on how HR executives construct business school reputations

Graeme Martin* (Corresponding Author), Sabina Siebert, Ian Robson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)
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In this paper, we explore whether Legge’s classic 1970s criticism of human resource (HR) executives as ‘conformist innovators’ is still relevant. Drawing on institutional logics, we analyse HR managers’ rationales for choosing particular university business schools to provide senior executive development. Our mixed-methods study demonstrates that senior HR managers socially construct and enact business school reputations by drawing on strategic rationales. These rationales are embedded in societal, field and organizational logics, especially the extant reputational rankings of international business schools and an ‘ideal’ template of elite business schools. We find that these rationales, and the decisions they evince, tend to confirm the traditional picture of conformist innovation among HR executives. We discuss the implications for the reputation of HR as a profession, their employers and business schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2027-2053
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number13
Early online date12 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018



  • business school reputations
  • conformist innovation
  • HR decision-making
  • HR rationales
  • institutional logics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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