"These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. Enough time passes, you get so you depend on them. That's institutionalized."
--Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding
Institutional environments exude pressure for isomorphism, or sameness, among indiividuals who by definition are born different and unique. Processes that encourage institutional isomorphism can be mimetic, normative, or coercive in nature (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983; Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Scott, 1995).
Mimetic isomorphism occurs when individiuals, facing uncertainty, adopt the behavior of those perceived as successfully navigating the institutional environment. Who's staying alive? Who's getting promoted? What are they doing? Copy what appears to be working.
Normative isomorphism occurs when individuals adopt behavior patterns deemed to be appropriate in the institutional environment. Here's how we do things around here. Follow the rules. Keep your nose clean.
Coercive isomorphism occurs when institutional norms are imposed on individuals by force. If you do not comply, we will break you.
Individuals who bow to these pressures often want to be seen as belonging, i.e., as legitimate in the institutional field.
The larger and more powerful the institution, the greater the pressure for isomorphism.
DiMaggio, P. & Powell, W. 1983. The iron cage revisited: Institutional isomorphism and collective rationality in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48: 147-160.
Meyer, A. & Rowan, B. 1977. Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83: 340-363.
Scott, R. 1995. Institutions and organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.