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Studying strategy formation in small companies – a cognitive perspective

Thomas Wrona (Institute of Strategic & International Management, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany)
Tina Ladwig (Institute of Strategic & International Management, Hamburg University of Technology, Hamburg, Germany)

Journal of Strategy and Management

ISSN: 1755-425X

Article publication date: 16 February 2015




The major part of studies in the field of strategic cognition focussed on strategy content, while process studies are comparatively rare. Those of the studies that are dedicated to explain strategy occurrence are dominantly restricted to formal decision making. In contrast to this, the purpose of this paper is to draw on a framework that helps to get a differentiated picture on contingent processes, strategies may pass through in organizations. Furthermore, an own elicitation procedure is introduced that enables to measure strategic cognition on different levels.


The paper provides an empirical approach by applying collective causal mapping techniques, both on an individual as well as collective level. The conceptual framework of the study rests on the “genesis” concept of strategy formation introduced by Kirsch and colleagues.


The main contribution of the paper is the presentation of a methodical approach to study the formation of shared strategic orientations in small companies. An operationalization to study these cognitive processes, based on collective causal mapping techniques is provided.

Practical implications

Applying the methodical approach presented in the paper is expected to make a contribution to the understanding of the shared knowledge of organizational members about major strengths and weaknesses of a new strategic reorientation and to contribute to practical concerns of organizational members in specific problematic situations, especially in small companies.


The study empirically approaches the complex phenomenon on strategy formation in small companies and therefore expands the understanding of shared cognition in organizations.



Wrona, T. and Ladwig, T. (2015), "Studying strategy formation in small companies – a cognitive perspective", Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 2-20.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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