Faculty & Research

Elizabeth Pontikes

Elizabeth G. Pontikes

Associate Professor of Organizations and Strategy

Elizabeth Pontikes studies market categorization, innovation, and technological change. She studies these topics using large data sets and computational text analysis. 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.


Other Interests

Running, yoga, reading historical nonfiction.


Research Activities

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

Pontikes, E.G. and W.P. Barnett (2017). "The Non-consensus Entrepreneur: Organizational Responses to Vital Events." Administrative Science Quarterly, 62(1) 140-178.

Pontikes, E.G. and R. Kim (2017). "Strategic Categorization." in From Categories to Categorization: Studies in Sociology, Organizations and Strategy at the Crossroads (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Volume 51). Durand, R., N. Granqvist, and A. Tyllström  (eds), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 71-111.

Pontikes, E.G. and W.P. Barnett (2017). "The Coevolution of Organizational Knowledge and Market Technology."Strategy Science, 2(1) 64-82.

Pontikes, E.G. and W.P. Barnett (2015). "The Persistence of Lenient Market Categories." Organization Science, 26: 1415 - 1431.

Pontikes, E.G. and M.T. Hannan (2014) "An Ecology of Social Categories."; Sociological Science, 1: 311-343.

"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 the university library listing page.

REVISION: Concept Innovation in the Software Industry: 1990-2002
Date Posted: Jun  09, 2016
This study investigates concept innovation, when firms create new market category labels to differentiate their products. Data suggest that concept innovation is frequent. But little is known about its antecedents. This study proposes that concept innovation depends on both a firm’s technological inventions and constraints from existing classification. Firms that develop technologies that combine elements across market categories are more likely to engage in concept innovation – when categories are constraining. But when a firm’s categories are lenient, the relationship breaks down and leniency itself leads to concept innovation as firms attempt to resolve ambiguity in the environment. Results support hypotheses in a longitudinal analysis of concept innovation for 4,566 firms and 456 market categories in the software industry between 1990 and 2002.

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. ...