The advocacy trap: when legitimacy building inhibits organizational learning

Zuzul, T and Edmondson, A (2016) The advocacy trap: when legitimacy building inhibits organizational learning. Academy of Management Discoveries, 3 (3). pp. 302-321. ISSN 2168-1007


This paper describes a relationship between legitimacy building and learning for a new firm in a nascent industry. Through a longitudinal study of a new firm in the nascent smart city industry, we found that the firm failed to make progress on important internal initiatives, despite notable external successes, including prestigious employees, well-known partner companies, and extensive positive media attention. Exploring these concurrent developments, we discovered a surprising relationship between the firm's external successes and its internal failures. We propose that the legitimacy building that helped the new firm establish external success gave rise to cognitive and emotional internal dynamics that inhibited organizational learning. We call this dynamic the advocacy trap. By suggesting a downside to legitimacy building and identifying a novel barrier to organizational learning - rooted in cognition and emotion, and especially salient in new firms and nascent industries - our discovery opens several new avenues for research in entrepreneurship and organizational learning.

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Item Type: Article
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
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© 2016 Academy of Management

Date Deposited: 24 Nov 2016 13:35
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2024 01:31

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