From novel practice to consecrated exemplar: Unity temple as a case of institutional evangelizing

Candace Jones*, Felipe G. Massa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Institutional theorists focus on practices that spread because they conform with and build on established cultural assumptions and resources. Novel practices, however, not only fail to conform to, but also challenge the dominant institutional order. We seek to understand the process by which novel practices move from entrepreneurial anomaly to consecrated exemplar within a field. We contrast Unity Temple by Frank Lloyd Wright-a building that challenged the accepted practices of ecclesiastical design in the architectural profession-with the most prominent churches during the same period. We find two distinct legitimation processes-institutional evangelism where creators express their identity and generate novel practices versus adaptive emulation where adopters focus on prestigious others and emulate their established practices. We reveal that actors engaged in institutional evangelism and adaptive emulation, employing institutional work and leveraging ideas, materials and identities to effect, transform, and maintain institutions. Our comparative cases show the key role of materiality, particularly collective identity markers, in institutional work and institutional processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1136
Number of pages38
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • adaptive emulation
  • architecture
  • collective entrepreneurship
  • collective identity marker
  • institutional evangelism
  • institutional work
  • materiality
  • profession


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