What can we learn about organisational boundaries by studying indigenous conceptualisations of entrepreneurship in Indonesia’s oil palm business?

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Date(s) - 05/05/2016
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Room E561, 5th Floor, East Wing, Menzies Building (Building 11)



“What can we learn about organisational boundaries by studying indigenous conceptualisations of entrepreneurship in Indonesia’s oil palm business?”


Professor Edward Buckingham

Director of Engagement, Monash Business School



Organisational boundaries are important to scholars of strategy because they define the limits of administrative control over resources and shape the ‘rules of the game’. Efficiency-based boundary theories based on legalistic boundary assumptions have dominated the literature but have been poor at dealing with ambiguous institutional contexts. Indonesia’s ‘dualistic economy’, where organisational boundaries are often ‘loose’, represents an ideal setting for developing fresh perspectives on ‘the theory of the firm’. The management literature has largely ignored what Edith Penrose called the fuzzy nature of organisational boundaries. She argued boundaries were based on the emergence of a consensus built from shared goals and mutual dependence between individuals.  

This seminar, drawing on the literature on Indonesian organisations and my ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia’s oil palm sector, uses Penrose’s theory of fuzzy organisational boundaries to ask “Why indigenous concepts are important for understanding loose organizational boundaries?” The paper illustrates how formal sector managers and informal sector entrepreneurs jointly create and manipulate boundaries in the oil palm business to enhance strategic decision making and business growth. It contributes to the literature by drawing on Penrose’s insights to extend the identity-based conception of organisational boundaries as phenomena jointly imagined by parties internal and external to the firm.  



Professor Buckingham’s research focuses on the strategic implications of operating in developing countries.  His research interests include ‘the theory of the firm’, the strategic role of identity, institutional theory, leadership, rural entrepreneurship and capabilities development. 

Edward graduated with a BSc in Materials Science and a BA (Hons) in Indonesian Literature from Monash University. After graduating from Monash, Edward continued with post graduate China studies at the Hopkins Nanjing Center. He also holds an MBA from INSEAD. His PhD, from SOAS, the University of London, used ethnographic methods to propose identity-based theories of the firm.  His fieldwork in Indonesia examined resource transfers between plantations (formal sector bureaucracies) and small holders (informal sector enterprises) in Sumatra’s oil palm belt. In China Edward researched businesses, in the Ningbo region of Zhejiang province, at the forefront of the transition from investment to consumption led growth.

Prior to joining Monash Business School, as Professor of Management and Director of Engagement in July 2015, Edward spent two years Nottingham University’s Business School in Ningbo. His professional background includes both corporate and academic roles. Edward has been Director of INSEAD’s Executive MBA programs (France, Singapore the UAE and Beijing); Manager, Schlumberger Business Consulting Group (UK, France, Gabon, Pakistan and Russia); and Consultant, Boston Consulting Group (China). After his MBA he was Directeur Général of Airsec SAS (now part of Clariant) a French company that pioneered desiccant packaging for the pharmaceutical industry.

In executive education Edward’s areas of expertise are strategy, entrepreneurship, international business and change management. He has taught executive courses in French, Indonesian and Mandarin as well as English. His industry interests include agribusiness, manufacturing, education and natural resources.


For more information:  Dr Julian Millie Julian.Millie@monash.edu Tel: 61 39905 2996