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Riku Ruotsalainen (D.Sc., Aalto University) is an Assistant Professor of Organization Theory at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. His research focuses on how organizations can lead complex change processes through which they can initiate, foster, and strengthen organizational innovation paths that bring about organizational renewal. He is particularly interested in how individuals promoting new ideas in organizations can build coalitions to initiate organizational innovation; how heterogeneous occupational groups and organizations can collaborate to drive organizational innovation; and how organizations can successfully introduce change in their organizations by adopting new organizational practices. He has won and has been a finalist for awards for his research from the Academy of Management, Aalto University, and Finnish Strategic Management Society. Ruotsalainen is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (the RSA). Before academia, he worked in the Talent & Organization specialty within Accenture management consulting practice (currently Accenture Strategy), helping large multinational companies to realize strategic and organizational changes such as mergers and acquisitions.  


Ruotsalainen studies the so-called “microfoundations” of collaboration between heterogeneous organizational groups and organizations. Microfoundations research, generally speaking, examines the micro-level origins of collective constructs such as organizational routines and capabilities, innovation, and institutional change. In other words, microfoundations research focuses on new or altered patterns of organized activity that need explanation such as new organizational forms, structures, or practices and suggests that explaining them requires to pay particular attention to who instigate and foster the generation of such emergent patters and how they do so on the ground. Due to its focus on actions and interactions that give rise to entities at a higher level, microfoundations is particularly useful for doing problem-driven research that not only adds to existing higher-level theories but also helps practitioners and policy-makers to engage in tackling managerial and societal challenges. By focusing on producing both theoretically and practically valuable knowledge, microfoundations research thus aims to meet the ideal of “nothing being so practical as a good theory” originally put forward by Kert Lewin.

Focusing on the microfoundations of collaboration enables Ruotsalainen to provide a novel theoretical view on theoretical puzzles that cannot be explained through prior theory and, thereby, to contribute to three established literatures: 1) innovation research, 2) institutional theory, 3) corporate social responsibility. Related to innovation, Ruotsalainen studies how collaboration is conducive to the adoption of new practices in organizations (innovation through adoption) and to the generation of process, management, and governance innovations through inter-organizational innovation task forces in health care (innovation through invention). Related to institutional theory, he studies how leaders of public sector organizations producing public services collaborate with external actors to drive institutional change of their organizations and public service provision. Related to corporate social responsibility, he studies how emergent forms of collaboration between different stakeholder groups during controversies over a firm’s actions can produce collective interpretations of corporate irresponsibility. 


Ruotsalainen is an experienced and passionate university teacher who takes teaching very seriously and focuses on supporting the learning process of students and producing very good learning outcomes. He has eight years of experience on being the responsible examiner, coordinator, and main lecturer on different undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate courses for 25 – 500 students in four different schools located in Finland and the Netherlands.

His students have rated his courses and his teaching skills very highly throughout his academic career. The all-time average of students ratings of courses that Ruotsalainen has coordinated is 4,2 out of 5 and the all-time average of student ratings of his teaching skills is 4,4 out of 5. 

Currently Ruotsalainen teaches the following courses at the School of Business and Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam:

  • Organization theory, a first-year course in the International Business Administration Bachelor's programme with 350 students
  • Perspectives on Organizational Change, a fourth-year course in the Leadership and Change Management specialization of the Master in Business Administration programme.
  • Research Design, a postgraduate course in the Part-time PhD in Business doctoral programme.
  • Summer School in Management Studies, a postgraduate course in the Part-time PhD in Business doctoral programme

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