Faculty & Research

Elizabeth G. Pontikes

Associate Professor of Organizations and Strategy, and William S. Fishman Scholar

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5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637

Elizabeth Pontikes studies organizational knowledge and innovation, technological change, and market categorization. She is the former Director of Solution Engineering at Coremetrics, Inc., in California, where she developed sales strategies and competitive positioning. She has both taught and designed courses at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

"As Director of Solution Engineering for Coremetrics, I focused on positioning our start-up company within the emerging market of web analytics. My experience was not unique; managers in every organization face the important problem of defining their organization with respect to the structure of the market and their competitors. How potential costumers categorize organizations affects their success and performance. By doing so, managers can carve out a new category of goods or services that can be a strategic benefit for the company."

Her work has appeared in The American Sociological Review, Management Science, Administrative Science Quarterly, Sociological Science, and Organization Science. She has presented at the annual meetings of Organizational Ecologists, the Harvard Business School Strategic Management conference, the Academy of Management, and American Sociological Association annual conferences.

In 2008, Pontikes received the Louis R. Pondy Award from the Academy of Management's Organization and Management Theory division for the best paper based on a dissertation.

Pontikes earned a bachelor's degree magna cum laude in physics with distinction from Yale University in 1998, where she was the Saybrook College banner bearer and received the DeForest Pioneers Prize for achievement in physics. In 2008, she graduated with a PhD in business administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Her dissertation was entitled, "Fitting in or Starting New? An Analysis of Technological Innovation, Category Constraint, and the Emergence of New Categories in the Software Industry." Pontikes joined Chicago Booth in 2008.

Pontikes is a long-distance runner and completed the Nike Women's Marathon in 2005. She also practices yoga and enjoys reading historical nonfiction, especially about the American Revolutionary period.


2015 - 2016 Course Schedule

Number Name Quarter
39001 Strategy and Structure: Markets and Organizations 2016 (Winter)
39600 Workshop in Organizations and Markets 2016 (Spring)

Other Interests

Running, yoga, reading historical nonfiction.


Research Activities

Organizational knowledge and innovation, technological change, categorization and category emergence, stigma and negative categories.

"Two Sides of the Same Coin: How Ambiguous Classification Affects Multiple Audiences' Evaluations," Administrative Science Quarterly, 57(1) 81-118 (2012).

With Giacomo Negro and Hayagreeva Rao, “Stained Red: A Study of Stigma by Association to Blacklisted Artists During the "Red Scare" in Hollywood, 1945 to 1960,” American Sociological Review (2010).

With Barnett, W.P., "The Red Queen, Success Bias, and Organizational Inertia," Management Science vol 54, 1237 – 1251 (2009).

With Barnett, W. P., "The Red Queen: History-Dependent Competition Among Organizations," Research in Organizational Behavior Staw, B.& Kramer, R.M. (ed.), Jai Press (2005).

For a listing of research publications please visit ’s university library listing page.

REVISION: When to be a Nonconformist Entrepreneur? Organizational Responses to Vital Events
Date Posted: Oct  24, 2014
Salient successes and failures among organizations, such as spectacular venture capital investments or agonizing bankruptcies, affect consensus beliefs about the viability of particular markets. We argue that collective sense making in the wake of such vital events triggers overreactions in shared perceptions of particular markets. Consequently, new entrants flood into markets that have experienced salient successes but they stay clear from markets that have seen recent failures. We theorize that these over-reactions shape the viability of new market entrants: conformists are predicted to be less viable, while nonconformists are predicted to prosper. We find empirical support for the theory among software startups. Non-consensus market entrants that buck the trend are most likely to stay in the market, receive funding, and ultimately go public.

REVISION: The Persistence of Lenient Market Labels
Date Posted: Jan  14, 2014
Research across disciplines presumes that markets will have strong boundaries. Markets without well-defined boundaries typically are not useful and do not become institutionalized, so are expected to fade away. In contrast, we suggest that in many contexts lenient markets or market labels with porous boundaries, persist and become important. This can be explained by looking at both market entry and market exit. Consistent with prior research, we suggest that lenient market labels offer less credibility than labels with strong boundaries, and so organizations will be more likely to exit these markets. At the same time, lenient market labels are more accepting of many different types of organizations. As a result, we expect lenient labels to also have high rates of entry. When entry rates are higher than exit rates, lenient markets will endure over time. We also predict that organizations exiting lenient labels will enter other lenient labels, which further fuels their persistence. ...

New: Fitting in or Starting New? Invention, Leniency, and Category Emergence in the Software Industry, 19
Date Posted: Dec  19, 2012
This article proposes that the emergence of new markets depends on both organizational innovation and constraints from the classification structure. Previous research suggests that new market categories emerge when actors combine elements in novel ways. This paper proposes that the structure of classification is also critical. When classification contains labels that have porous boundaries – lenient labels – actors create new market labels for the purpose of reinforcing categorical distincti