William Ocasio
William Ocasio

John L. and Helen Kellogg Professor of Management & Organizations

Print Overview

William Ocasio is the John L. & Helen Kellogg Professor of Management & Organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. He was educated at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, MIT, Harvard Business School, and Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. in organizational behavior in 1992. Prior to coming to Kellogg, he was Assistant Professor of Stategy and Organizations at the MIT Sloan School of Management, from 1992-1995. From 1995-2001 he was Assistant Professor at Kellogg, and he in 2001 he was promoted to Full Chaired Professor.

His research links organizational politics, cognition, and culture with the study of strategic processes, corporate governance, and organizational and institutional change. His varied research interests are brought together by a focus on explaining both the determinants of organizational and industry attention and its consequences for stability and change in organizations and institutions. Currently he is studying the determinants and consequences of attention through a variety of mechanisms including specialized vocabularies of organizing, decision making structures and processes, and the development and deployment of political capital by organizational executives. His research has been published in the Administrative Science Quarterly, American Journal of Sociology, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Research in Organizational Behavior, and Strategic Management Journal. In 2000, he won the W. Richard Scott Award for from the American Sociological Association for the Best Paper published in the area of Organizations, Occupations, and Work during the previous three years. He serves on the Editorial Boards of the Administrative Science Quarterly, Management Research, and Organization Science.

At the MBA level he teaches Power in Organizations. This innovative course brings together a political capital perspective on managerial power with a focus on how the value of polical capital is shaped by the organization's culture. For executives he teaches Political Capital, Managing Organizational Change, and Strategic Processes. His teaching philosophy is to provide students with frameworks that will foster critical thinking skills that will make them better managers and leaders in organizations. At the Ph.D. level he teaches a Seminar on Behavior in Organizational Systems.

Prior to becoming an academic, he served as Executive Director of the Governor's Economic Advisory Council in Puerto Rico from 1986-1990. A native of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico he lives in downtown Chicago.

Building on his research and organizational experience he provides consulting services, executive education, and expert testimony to Fortune 500 firms, law firms as well as to federal and state governments.

Areas of Expertise
Organizational Change
Political Economy/Design
Print Vita
PhD, 1992, Organizational Behavior, Stanford University
MBA, 1984, General Management, Harvard University
BA, 1976, Economics, University of Puerto Rico

Academic Positions
John L. and Helen Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Management and Organizations, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 2001-present
Professor, Weinberg College of Arts of Sciences, Northwestern University, 2001-present
Assistant Professor, Weinberg College of Arts of Sciences, Northwestern University, 1996-2001
Assistant Professor, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, 1995-2001
Assistant Professor of Strategy and Organizational Studies, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1992-1995
Member, Board of Directors, Corporation for Technological Transformation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1988-1990
Executive Director, Governor's Economic Advisory Council, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1986-1990
Senior Associate, ICF Incorporated, 1984-1986
Director of Planning, Center for Energy and Environment Research, University of Puerto Rico, 1981-1982
Scientist II, Center for Energy and Environment Research, University of Puerto Rico, 1979-1980

Editorial Positions
Editorial Board, Journal of Management Research, 2001-present
Section Editor, Organizational Science, 2006-present

Print Research
Research Interests
Political dynamics in organizations, corporate governance and control, organizational attention and decision-making, organizational change

Ocasio, William, Jeffrey Loewenstein and Amit Nigam. 2015. How Streams of Communication Reproduce and Change Institutional Logics: The Role of Categories. Academy of Management Review .
Joseph, John and William Ocasio. 2014. The Structural Elaboration of Board Independence: Executive Power, Institutional Logics, and the Adoption of CEO-only Board Structures in U.S. Corporate Governance . Academy of Management Journal .
Ocasio, William and John Joseph. 2008. Rise and Fall - or Transformation? The Evolution of Strategic Planning at the General Electric Company, 1940–2006. Long Range Planning. 41(3): 248-272.
Britton, Marcus and William Ocasio. 2007. Urbanization and Spatial Organization: Hospital and Orphanage Location in Chicago, 1848 - 1916. Social Forces. 85(3): 1303-1317.
Gavetti, Giovanni, Daniel Levinthal and William Ocasio. 2007. A Neo-Carnegie Perspective on Organization Theory and Strategy. Organization Science. 18(3): 523-536.
Ocasio, William and Patricia H. Thornton. 2006. Corporate Hierarchies In Markets: The Effects of Structure And Strategy on Organizational Survival. Academy of Management Proceedings.: K1-K6.
Joseph, John and William Ocasio. 2005. And Then There Were None: Political Settlements of Insider Board Membership. Academy of Management Proceedings.: R1-R6.
Ocasio, William and John Joseph. 2005. An Attention Based Theory of Strategy Formulation: Linking Decision Making and Guided Evolution in Strategy Processes. Advances in Strategic Management. 22: 39-61.
Ocasio, William and John Joseph. 2005. Cultural Adaptation and Institutional Change: The Evolution of Vocabularies of Corporate Governance, 1972-2003. Poetics. 33(3-4): 163-178.
Ocasio, William. 2001. Not all Events are Attended Equally: Toward a Middle-Range Theory of Industry Attention to External Events. Organization Science. 12(4): 414-434.
Barnett, William P., Gary A. Mischke and William Ocasio. 2000. The Eevolution of Collective Strategies Among Organizations.. Organization Studies. 21(2): 325-354.
Ocasio, William and Hyosun Kim. 1999. The Circulation of Corporate Control: Selection of Functional Backgrounds of New CEOs in Large U.S. Manufacturing Firms, 1981-1992. Administrative Science Quarterly. 44(3): 532-562.
Ocasio, William. 1999. Institutionalized Action and Corporate Governance: The Reliance on Rules of CEO Succession. Administrative Science Quarterly. 44(2): 348-416.
Thornton, Patricia H. and William Ocasio. 1999. Institutional Logics and the Historical Contingency of Power in Organizations: Executive Succession in the Higher Education Publishing Industry, 1958-1990. American Journal of Sociology. 105(3): 801-844.
Ocasio, William. 1997. Towards an attention-based view of the firm. Strategic Management Journal. 18: 187-206.
Reprinted in:
Strategic Management, edited by Julian Birkinshaw, Cheltenham: UK: Edward Elgar, 2004.
Ocasio, William. 1995. The enactment of economic adversity: A reconciliation of theories of failure-induced change and threat rigidity. Research in Organizational Behavior. 17: 287-331.
Ocasio, William. 1994. Political dynamics and the circulation of power: CEO succession in US industrial firms, 1960-1990. Administrative Science Quarterly. 39(2): 285-312.
Working Papers
Joseph, John and William Ocasio. 2008. Demand, Big Picture, and Big Bets: Goal Activation and the Commerialization of New Technologies.
Ocasio, William and John Joseph. 2007. Governance Channels, Structures, and Capabilities in Multibusiness Organizations: A Historical Case Analysis of General Electric.
Joseph, John and William Ocasio. 2007. Not all Declarations of Independence are Equal: Governance Routines, Local Search, and CEO-Chair Separations.
Joseph, John and William Ocasio. 2007. And Then There Were None: Insider Coalitions and Power Activation in Board Governance and Decision Making.
Rivera, Mark and William Ocasio. 2007. A Penrosian Model of Organizational Growth and Motivated Search: Acquisitions in the Media Sector.
Kim, Hyosun and William Ocasio. 2006. Vocabularies as Toolkits and Cultural Repertoires of CEO Succession.
Ocasio, William and Jo-Ellen Pozner. 2005. Beyond Dependence: A Political Capital Perspective on Power in Organizations.
Book Chapters
Ocasio, William and Franz Wohlgezogen. 2010. "Attention and Control." In Organizational Control: New Directions in Theory and Research, edited by Sitkin, S., Cardinal, L., Bijlsma-Frankema, K. M. , 343-398. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ocasio, William. 2008. "A Neo-Carnegie Perspective in Organizations." In The SAGE Handbook of New Approaches in Management and Organization, edited by Barry and Hansen, 150-151. SAGE Publications.
Thornton, Patricia H. and William Ocasio. 2008. "Institutional Logics." In The SAGE Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism, edited by Royston Greenwood, Christine Oliver, Roy Suddaby, Kerstin Sahlin-Andersson, SAGE Publications.
Ocasio, William and John Joseph. 2006. "Governance Channels and Organizational Design at General Electric: 1950-2001." In Organization Design: The Evolving State-of-the-Art, edited by Richard M. Burton, Bo Eriksen, Dorthe Døjbak Håkonsson, Charles C. Snow, 267-300. Boston, MA: Springer Science+Business Media.
Ocasio, William. 2005. "Executive Succession." In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management: Organizational Behavior, edited by Nigel Nicholson, vol. 11, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.
Ocasio, William. 2005. "Corporate Boards." In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Management: Organizational Behavior, edited by Nigel Nicholson, vol. 11, Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.
Ocasio, William. 2005. "The Opacity of Risk: Language and the Culture of Safety in NASA's Space Shuttle Program." In Organization at the Limit: Lessons from the Columbia Disaster, edited by M. Farjoun and W.H. Starbuck, 101-121. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.
Thornton, Patricia H. and William Ocasio. 2004. "Attention to the Sources of Power." In Markets from Culture: Institutional Logics and Organizational Decisions in Higher Education Publishing, edited by Patricia H. Thornton, 69-87. Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books.
Ocasio, William. 2002. "Organizational Power and Dependence.." In The Blackwell Companion to Organizations, edited by Joel A. C. Baum, 363-385. Wiley-Blackwell.
Ocasio, William. 2001. "How do organizations think?." In Organizational Cognition: Computation and Interpretation, edited by Theresa Lant and Zur Shapira, 39-60. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Print Teaching
Teaching Interests
Organizational and management theory, power and politics
Behavior In Organizational Systems (MORS-425-1)
This course considers theory construction, with an effort at verification, drawing on empirical studies. The focus is on problems of internal organizational systems such as goals, structure, roles, power, authority, decision making communications and controls.

Special Topics in Management and Organizations (MORS-530-0)
Doctoral-level course offered on a one-time basis dealing with a special topic in the Management and Organizations field. Addresses a specific need within the program’s curriculum and/or a trend in the field.

Full-Time / Part-Time MBA
Power In Organizations: Sources, Strategies and Skills (MORS-453-0)

This course counts toward the following majors: Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Human Resource Management, Management & Organizations.

Power dynamics are fundamental to the effective exercise of leadership in organizations. This course develops your ability to create and use sources of power beyond formal authority, to formulate strategies and tactics of political and social influence, and to exercise skills that make you a more effective organizational leader. Readings, case materials, course assignments and a field action project focus on the challenge of sustainable political advantage in organizations - the rules of the game, basic power diagnostics, the management of strategic dependencies and persuasion processes, and working in entrepreneurial contexts. Throughout, the course raises issues of career dynamics in the context of the development of your leadership abilities.

Managing Organizations for Growth (MORS-946-B)