Melissa Graebner, Gies College of Business at University of Illinois

Trash and Treasure: Garbage Can Organizing in Angel Investor Groups
Melissa Graebner


Winter 2021
Lecture Time: 
Friday, April 16, 2021 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 


The garbage can model is one of the most influential portrayals of organizational decision making. Yet, the model and subsequent extensions give incomplete insight regarding the influence of heterogeneous organizational members and how “anarchic” organizations may attempt to change. To address these research gaps, we conduct an inductive multiple-case study of organizations closely resembling organized anarchies: early-stage angel investor groups. Our findings expand on the garbage can model by revealing how heterogeneous members enter an organized anarchy, the issues and frustrations they experience, and the makeshift organizational adaptation that emerges in response. We find that efforts to develop more rational structures trigger resistance and member exit. Overall, our findings extend the garbage can model by describing how organizations with a fluid and diverse membership develop a tenuous balance between complete “anarchy” and specialized structures.

Recording & Additional Notes

Melissa Graebner is a Professor of Business Administration at the University of Illinois and a co-editor of SEJ. Her research focuses on understanding social micro-processes in strategic contexts, particularly in the settings of new ventures and mergers and acquisitions. She has a particular interest in process research and qualitative research methods. Her work has been published in leading journals, including ASQ, AMJ, Strategic Organization and SMJ. She is the recipient of the 2009 Best Paper Award from AMJ and received, with co-authors Jeff Martin and Phil Roundy, the 2017 SO! WHAT Award for the best SO!apox essay published in Strategic Organization in 2012. She received her PhD in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University and has worked as a strategy consultant for McKinsey and Company in Chicago and San Francisco.