Advancing hermeneutic research for interpreting interfirm new product development

Arch G. Woodside (Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA)
Hugh M. Pattinson (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)
Kenneth E. Miller (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The principal objective here is to describe conceptual and research tools for achieving deeper sense‐making of what happened and why it happened –including how participants interpret outcomes of what happened and the dynamics of emic (executive) and etic (researcher) sense‐making.


This article uses a mixed research design including decision systems analysis, cognitive mapping, computer software‐based text analysis, and the long interview method for mapping the mental models of the participants in specific decision‐making processes as well as mapping the immediate, feedback, and downstream influences of decisions‐actions‐outcomes.


The findings in the empirical study support the view that decision processes are prospective, introspective, and retrospective, sporadically rational, ultimately affective, and altogether imaginatively unbounded.

Research limitations/implications

Not using outside auditors to evaluate post‐etic interpretations is recognized as a method limitation to the extended case study; such outside auditor reports represent an etic‐4 level of interpretation. Incorporating such etic‐4 interpretation is one suggestion for further research.

Practical implications

Asking executives for in‐depth stories about what happened and why helps them reflect and uncover very subtle nuances of what went right and what went wrong.


A series advanced hermeneutic B2B research reports of a specific issue (e.g., new product innovation processes) provides an advance for developing a grounded theory of what happened and why it happened. Such a large‐scale research effort enables more rigorous, accurate and useful generalizations of decision making on a specific issue than is found in literature reviews of models of complex systems.



Woodside, A.G., Pattinson, H.M. and Miller, K.E. (2005), "Advancing hermeneutic research for interpreting interfirm new product development", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 20 No. 7, pp. 364-379.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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