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Second-Order Imitation: Uncovering Latent Effects of Board Network Ties

James D. Westphal, Marc-David L. Seidel and Katherine J. Stewart
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec., 2001), pp. 717-747
DOI: 10.2307/3094829
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3094829
Page Count: 31
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Second-Order Imitation: Uncovering Latent Effects of Board Network Ties
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Abstract

This study examines whether board interlock ties facilitate second-order imitation, in which firms imitate an underlying decision process that can be adapted to multiple policy domains, rather than imitating specific policies of tied-to firms (first-order imitation). Longitudinal analyses of archival data for a large sample of Forbes/Fortune 500 companies, as well as analyses of survey data on mimetic processes among these firms, show that network ties to firms that use imitation to determine a particular policy can prompt use of imitation by the focal firm in determining both that policy and a different policy. Firms that have board network ties to firms in other industries that imitate their competitors' business strategy are likely to imitate their own competitors' business strategy, as well as their competitors' acquisition activity and compensation policy. Thus, the findings reveal network effects that are not visible with extant perspectives on interorganizational imitation. We discuss implications for institutional theory and research on interorganizational networks.

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