Christopher Marquis, University of Cambridge

How Does History Matter for Organizations?
Christopher Marquis


Fall 2022
Lecture Time: 
Friday, December 2, 2022 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 

R0240, Ross School of Business, Lower Level

Introduced By: 
Kyle McCullers


Path dependence and imprinting are two important but distinct theoretical lenses to understand persistent effects of the past. While both concepts focus on how history has a lasting effect, they differ substantially in terms of how the past effect is formed, in particular (a) the importance of initial conditions (weak versus strong) and (b) the mechanism sustaining the historical effect (self-reinforcement versus inertia). To differentiate the two perspectives theoretically and empirically, we conduct a study of firm innovation—a context in which prior research has examined both path dependence and imprinting processes—with a longitudinal sample of U.S. publicly traded companies from 1981 to 2010. We find that prominent features of the founding environment and firms’ founding inventors strongly and enduringly affect patenting behaviors, and that after including initial condition variables that tap imprinting processes, effects of variables representing path dependence become substantially weakened. Our results suggest that imprinting and path dependence should be better differentiated in sociological research, and that prior research on path dependence may be mis-specified because of ignoring founding conditions.

Recording & Additional Notes

Chris Marquis is the Samuel C. Johnson Professor in Sustainable Global Enterprise and professor of management at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. Prior to joining Cornell, he worked at Harvard Business School and has held visiting positions at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Peking University, Fudan University, and Shanghai Jiaotong University. Marquis received a PhD in sociology and business administration from the University of Michigan.

Professor Marquis’s teaching and research is focused on how business can have a positive impact on society and the natural environment. He is currently pursuing several streams of research. The first seeks to assess how firms’ and entrepreneurs’ social and environmental strategies and activities can be designed to maximize both business and social value. The second explores how environmental sustainability and shared value initiatives have developed in China. Finally, the third examines institutional change processes in emerging markets. These research projects build on Marquis’s earlier work that analyzed how firm behavior is shaped by broader contexts such as embeddedness in geographic communities and how environmental conditions during founding periods leave a lasting imprint on organizations. In particular, Marquis’s prior research examined the effects of these processes in the contexts of community-based social networks and the evolution of the US banking industry.

Marquis’s research has won a number of national awards, including the 2006 William H. Newman Award for best dissertation across the entire the Academy of Management, the 2006 Louis R. Pondy award for best dissertation in organizational theory from the Academy of Management, the 2003 James D. Thompson Award for best graduate student paper from the American Sociological Association, and the 2005 State Farm Doctoral Dissertation Award. He was a finalist for the 2010 and 2013 Aspen Institute Faculty Pioneer Award, a runner-up in the Academy of Management’s Best Published Paper in Organization and Management Theory in 2009, and a finalist in the 2004 INFORMS/Organization Science Dissertation Proposal Competition.

Marquis has published in Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, American Sociological Review, Organization Science, and Strategic Management Journal, as well as a number of edited collections. He is an associate editor of Administrative Science Quarterly and an elected member of the Executive Committee of the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management and of the International Association of Chinese Management Research (IACMR). Before his academic career, Marquis worked for six years in the financial services industry, most recently as vice president and technology manager for a business unit of J.P. Morgan Chase.