International insights on organizational management theory and practice


International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 4 July 2008



Peters, J. and Snowden, K. (2008), "International insights on organizational management theory and practice", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 16 No. 1/2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

International insights on organizational management theory and practice

Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Volume 16, Issue 1/2

A fascinating story from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center back in the 1980 s concerned a young Steve Jobs, subsequently founder of Apple Computers, who originated the first cut of the graphical user interface – the method by which ‘ordinary people’ rather than programmers communicate with machines, and the precursor to the Windows-based look of personal computers today. Jobs’ prototypes were reviewed by the Xerox R&D hierarchy who concluded – quite reasonably – that they did not much want to be bothered with the risky and volatile world of personal computing when they were doing very nicely in the photocopier business.

This is the heart of what Harvard’s Clayton Christensen calls the “Innovator’s Dilemma” – that successful organizations need and espouse innovation, but simultaneously resist it. Indeed, the very nature of the organization is to tend towards being organized, which means that structures, rules and norms are put in place to prevent an organization becoming disorganized.

This means that the espoused theory in many companies of encouraging innovation is countered by the theory-in-use of maintaining the status quo where things are working well, or creating managed change when they are not. Innovation is disruptive, and innovators tend to be disruptive, and therefore are resisted by a managerial social structure.

A few years after the Steve Jobs discussions at PARC, the exotically named Gifford Pinchot III wrote an interesting book called Intrapreneuring, a guide to being an internal entrepreneur (intrapreneur). One of Pinchot’s “Ten Commandments” of being an intrapreneur was to “come to work each day prepared to be fired” which nicely sums up the trouble we have with enterprise and innovation in organizations.

In being asked to guest-edit this issue of IJOA, we were pleased to be able to bring research insights to bear on some of the challenges of organizational life, such as counter-organizational innovation in an organized environment. The value of research to the “real world” is sometimes questioned, but good research situates organizational problems and challenges in a wider context; cross-organizationally; cross-culturally; longitudinally; set against social, psychological, behavioural, economic, and other theories. This allows managers and leaders to triangulate the urgency of the day-to-day with longer-term, wider-scope trends.

Thus, we can draw on social theory and human psychology to understand the resistance of the organization to innovation; on comparative studies to see how this phenomenon has been addressed elsewhere; and on historical studies to see how thinking has evolved over time. These insights, and crystallizations by fine scholars such as Clayton Christensen, mean that the manager faced with the Steve Jobs/Xerox dilemma, and the many similar puzzles and problems of managing operations and strategies, need not be alone with his or her challenge.

The issues examined within this collection include organizational assessment, performance, moral principles, mission statements, and dynamic capabilities of an organization.

In their paper, Byron Bissell and Jeanmarie Keim propose a model for conducting an organizational assessment/diagnosis. They provide a perspective on consulting with dysfunctional organizations that combines the expertise of psychologist and business consultants.

Andrea Lanza, Antonella Pellegrino and Giuseppina Simone present a novel approach to heterogeneity as it affects firms’ performance and demonstrate that heterogeneity is in fact a multidimensional phenomenon, and that its dimensions play a differentiated role on firms’ performance.

Joan Marques reviews the phenomenon of moral principles as they have been adopted over time. The paper makes a statement that even moral principles that have been around for centuries, may have to be re-evaluated in light of changed circumstances, and conclusively presents “The Spiritual Rule,” a principle that eliminates the risk of excessive arbitrariness, and calls for consideration of all life on earth in every decision we make.

Maria Burke addresses the issues surrounding the revitalising of organisations in turbulent environments and presents empirical evidence of how leaders today are choosing to function in a very uncertain environment, that of the higher education sector.

In their paper, Gertjan Nimwegen, Laury Bollen, Harold Hassink and Thomas Thijssens study the relevance of mission statements as an instrument for external communication purposes. The study takes a stakeholder perspective, which suggests that it is the dependence of the company on the respective stakeholders that determines the content of the mission statement, rather than the dependence of the stakeholder on the company.

Ming-ji James Lin and Chih-Jou Chen examine the influence of internal integration and external integration on three types of shared knowledge (shared knowledge of internal capabilities, customers and suppliers) and whether more leads to superior firm innovation capability and product competitive advantage.

Frank Schlemmer and Brian Webb evaluate the role of the managing director in the development of dynamic capabilities within small to medium enterprises (SMEs). The paper suggests that managing directors “enact” in the development of dynamic capabilities, if they believe that dynamic capabilities are a source of competitive advantage. If they do not appreciate the importance of dynamic capabilities they can get trapped in a vicious circle.

In their paper, Lei-Yu Wu, Chun-Ju Wang, Chun-Yao Tseng, Ming-Cheng Wu develop a framework to link founding team and start-up competitive advantage in the context of the Taiwanese technology-based ventures. The paper analyzes 211 start-ups of the technology-based sector and verifies the relationship between entrepreneur resources, trust, founding team partners’ commitments, and start-up competitive advantage.

Andrew Papadopoulos, Yan Cimon and Louis Hébert put forth a framework that integrates three dominant theoretical approaches (the resource-based view, transaction cost economics, and industrial organization) to inter-firm relationships by framing the asymmetry and heterogeneity that exists between collaborating firms along two axes.

We believe these nine papers all provide an interesting and informative look at organizational management theory and practice and would welcome your comments on this special issue, in particular how this research has been applied in an organization context to truly become “research you can use”.

John Peters, Kate Snowden

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