Ideas as Institutions: Explaining the Air Force's Struggle With Its Aerospace Concept
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH
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Ideas matter, but before they do, they must first establish themselves. This dissertation explores how organizations come to embrace the ideas that they do. Its findings suggest that ideas stick within organizations not simply when they make sense, or when they further an organizations goals and objectives. On the contrary, in order to persist, ideas also need committed proponents, structures to adhere to, and resources for nourishment. Moreover, ideas stand a better chance of taking root and strengthening when they are congruent with the organizations external context. by short, this dissertation suggests that ideas emerge, permeate, and persist within organizations in the same way that institutions do within cultures. These broader findings spring from a case study that details the history of the aerospace concept a simple idea born and perpetuated within the United States Air Force in which air and space are seen as a single indivisible medium rather than as two different places. The concept has long been an official position of the Air Force, but it has never fully taken hold. This describes a paradox of sorts on one hand, the aerospace concept is strong enough to persist as long as it has, but on the other, it is not strong enough to stick. To understand this apparent inconsistency, the dissertation evaluates the aerospace concept as if the idea was an emerging institution within the Air Force. First, it derives a hybrid institutionalization process model by bridging two disparate sources within institutionalisms literature.