Author Archives: Howard Aldrich

About Howard Aldrich

Howard E. Aldrich is Kenan Professor of Sociology, Chair of the Sociology Department, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Fellow, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University. His main research interests are entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial team formation, gender and entrepreneurship, and evolutionary theory. His 1979 book, Organizations and Environments, was reprinted in 2007 by Stanford University Press. His book, Organizations Evolving (Sage, 1999), was co-winner of the Max Weber Award from the OOW section of the American Sociological Association. His latest book, An Evolutionary Approach to Entrepreneurship: Selected Essays, was published by Edward Elgar in 2012.

Write As If You Don’t Have the Data

At a conference, when you ask somebody to tell you about their current project, what do they typically say? I often get a puzzling response: instead of beginning by telling me about an idea, the person starts by describing their data. They tell me they are using survey data they have collected, or data from an archive, or data they’ve scraped from the web. As they go on at length about the nature of the data, I have to interrupt them and ask for what purpose the data will be used. Then, read more

Why start early on your projects?

A few days ago, I was sitting in my car at a stoplight, waiting for the light to change, when a thought suddenly popped into my head. In a flash, I recognized the relevance of a paper I’d read several decades ago for a current project on which I was working. I had been thinking about ways to justify the narrative I was trying to set up, and I’d been frustrated by my inability to find recent literature that could be cited to justify its importance.

Purple

Purple installation @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, August, 2015

Why did that idea suddenly occur to me? The read more

Pitching Papers as if You Worked in Nashville

For the past decade or so, I have made presentations to groups of graduate students and junior faculty on how to write more effectively. I’m always on the lookout for new ideas that I can inject into my presentation. Thus, I was delighted to come across an essay by C. Neil Stewart Jr, on “Songwriting and Science,” in the July 24, 2015 issue of Science magazine. Frustrated by his low hit rate from grant submissions, Stewart turned read more

Family Businesses as Boundary Objects

Boundary objects are arrangements that permit people to work together without needing to achieve consensus, as Susan Leigh Star explained. The figure below displays a collection of small dots that represent different manifestations of some phenomenon of interest, with three of them labeled with capital letters. Object A is clearly at the center – it is probably the central tendency in this group. read more

Assignments: better late than never?

A few days ago, a colleague came to me for teaching advice. On his syllabus, he had written that he did not accept late assignments. One of the students, a young woman who was struggling in the class, had turned in a paper that was woefully incomplete and he told her that it did not meet the assignment requirements. However, rather than rejecting it outright, he took account of her struggles and accepted that she hadn’t decided to read more

Lecturing & daydreaming: what happens when students have no decisions to make?

A few weeks ago, I spent several days at a conference on a topic that holds great intrinsic interest for me. I signed up for the conference, eagerly anticipating meeting new people and being challenged with novel ideas. I had never attended the conference before and had few preconceived notions about the format for presentations. However, because most of the scholars were in the humanities, I knew that I wouldn’t be seeing many tables of numbers or hearing about esoteric statistics!

What read more

Memories of Clark Terry at Jazz Land in Vienna, Austria

The death of Clark Terry (1920-2015) this past week brought back memories of watching him in concerts when I was teaching in Vienna several decades ago. He appeared at a small jazz venue called Jazz Land, run by Axel Melhardt, an Austrian man who clearly has a great love for American jazz. Somehow, he has been able to book great American jazz artists for his small club off Schwedenplatz, near the banks of the read more

My Evening with Talcott Parsons

Between 1970 and 1973, Anant Negandhi held a series of conferences at Kent State University, sponsored by the Comparative Administration Research Institute. The conference focus was on “the various conceptual problems encountered in studying the functioning of complex social organizations.” I took part in several of these, including one that led to the publication of a book on Interorganizational Theory, edited by Anant. These conferences attracted a stellar cast of organization scholars, read more

Outsmarted by a largemouth bass twice in the same day

Do largemouth bass learn from experience or are they just naturally cleverer than us? Discussions with other anglers have confirmed that the experience I describe in this post is a common occurrence, but no one has come up with a satisfactory explanation. I invite your speculations.

Largemouth Bass

One that didn’t get away, caught with a big popper

My unplanned experiment in trying to outsmart the bass began when I decided to spend a morning at a local lake, practicing my casting and, along the way, catching a few bream. The water had finally cleared up, after read more

What Sustains a Belief in Success Among the Unsuccessful?

I’ve been haunted by the question of what sustains belief in success among the unsuccessful ever since I read Reinhard Bendix’ magisterial book, Work and Authority in Industry. Bendix wrote about the economic ideology that kept millions of people in England, the United States, and other Western read more

My 4 weight rod versus Vinnie the LMB

What every large mouth bass wants!

What every large mouth bass wants!

“My 4wt rod is not up to the job!” That’s the conclusion I came to after another losing battle with my tormentor, Vinnie, the LMB.

Down at my lake at night, I usually start up with a confidence builder — using either my 4wt or 5wt to fish for bream & crappie — and then when it starts to get dark, I switch over to the 7wt. I’m using the 7wt to cast poppers, Sneaky Pete’s, and the like, with the hope that something other than too-big-for-their-britches read more

Stand Up & Be Counted: Why I Don’t Like the Labels “qualitative/quantitative”

Welcome to My Website!

I’ve divided the site into 5 sections, but this whole enterprise is a work in progress. The banner photographs at the top of each page were chosen to give visitors a glimpse into the diverse facets of my personal & professional life. Please give me feedback on what you like & what I should change. Thanks!