Patricia H. Thornton is Adjunct Professor and an affiliate of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Duke University Fuqua School of Business where she teaches entrepreneurship and new venture management. She is also Visiting Associate Professor and affiliated faculty to the Program on Organizations, Business, and the Economy in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University where she teaches the social science of entrepreneurship.
She has been a visiting scholar in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University and a visiting scholar in Organizational Behavior at INSEAD. She holds a Ph.D. (1993) in Sociology from Stanford University.
Her research and teaching interests focus on the areas of organization theory, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the social and cultural factors promoting entrepreneurship. She is a pioneer in developing the Action Learning Approach for teaching entrepreneurship using live business plans, entrepreneurs, and investors.
She is a leading scholar in the development of the Institutional Logics Perspective and was the winner of the 2013 George R. Terry Award granted by the Academy of Management for her outstanding contribution to management knowledge for the book with William Ocasio and Michael Lounsbury, The Institutional Logics Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure, and Process, Oxford University Press, 2012.
She received with William Ocasio the W. Richard Scott award for the best scholarly research article by the Organizations, Occupations, and Work section of American Sociological Association, and with Nancy B. Tuma the award for the best scholarly paper by the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management. She was peer elected to the honorary Macro Organizational Behavior Society of scholars who interests lay in organization theory and the behavioral aspects of strategy. She was peer elected to the Executive Committee of the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management.
Professor Thornton has written extensively on the topics of entrepreneurship, institutional theory, and how institutional logics affect attention and strategy, the latter two becoming key fields of research paper submissions to the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management. She is published in the American Journal of Sociology, the Annual Review of Sociology, the Academy of Management Journal, Organization Science, among others.
Her Stanford University Press book, Markets from Culture (2004) examined the change in organizational decision making in higher education publishing firms and provided an early empirical model of how organization decisions are related to larger scale societal institutions. She has served as guest editor for the International Small Business Journal special issue on Socio-Cultural Factors and Entrepreneurial Activity.
Thornton has served as an expert witness on mergers and acquisitions in the higher education publishing markets to the U.S. Department of Justice. She wrote the original business plan and co-found Interim Inc., a successful non-profit organization providing transitional and assisted living facilities and services to individuals with mental health disabilities.
Currently Thornton is actively engaged in several research projects, 1) how organizations cooperate and co-produce in conflicting and foreign institutional environments; 2) how symbolic management affects intentions to start a company (using data from 62 countries); 3) how the meaning of network ties are conditioned by institutional logics with consequences for start-up performance; 4) and how cultural knowledge affects the discovery of entrepreneurial opportunities.