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

Christopher Marquis is the Sinyi Professor of Chinese Management at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge. Professor Marquis’ research and teaching focus on how businesses are creating a more resilient and sustainable capitalism by focusing on the elusive triple bottom line of environmental, social and financial performance. He is the author of the recent award-winning book Better Business: How the B Corp Movement is Remaking Capitalism. He also studies entrepreneurship and market development in China, and in the fall of 2022 will publish a new book tentatively titled Mao and Markets: The Communist Roots of Chinese Enterprise. He is the author of more than 20 peer-reviewed academic articles and more than 50 Harvard business cases on topics related to social innovation, sustainable business and doing business in China.

Professor Marquis served two terms as an Associate Editor at Administrative Science Quarterly, and has also been a Senior Editor at Organization Science and Management and Organization Review. He has also served a term as Representative at Large for the International Association for Chinese Management Research (IACMR) and Organization and Management Theory Division, Academy of Management.

Before returning to academia, Marquis was a Vice President and Technology Manager at JP Morgan Chase. He currently is on the advisory board of China-focused media platform SupChina.