This article expands understanding of how institutional biography may inform institutional change by examining Conrad Hilton’s role in building the global branded hotel chain (1946-1969). We show how an individual’s institutional biography can play a pivotal role in their development as an institutional entrepreneur and the institutionalization of a new organizational template. Biography, informed by the institutions individuals experience in their life trajectories, shapes the process by which an individual becomes an institutional entrepreneur; influencing the institutionalization of a new template by enabling entrepreneurs to acquire a more central position within their field. Hilton’s self-narrative became closely coupled with the ‘grand narrative’ of post-war U.S. capitalism. The Hilton case vividly illustrates how institutional tensions, embracing national interests, corporate interests, and individual self-interest, can become distilled into the identity, choices, and ambitions – the personal biographical narrative – of individuals who play a formative role in the institutions they build, change, or disrupt.
- Global branded hotel chain; institutional biography; institutional change; institutional entrepreneurship; international business; organisational template