The Production of Managerial Knowledge and Organizational Theory: New Approaches to Writing, Producing and Consuming Theory: Volume 59
Table of contents(16 chapters)
In this introduction, the authors outline some critical reflections on the sociology of knowledge within management and organization theory. Based on a review of various works that form a sociology of organizational knowledge, the authors identify three approaches that have become particularly prominent ways by which scholars explore how knowledge about organizations and management is produced: First, reflective and opinion essays that organization studies scholars offer on the basis of what can be learned from personal experience; second, descriptive craft-guides that are based on more-or-less comprehensive surveys on doing research; third, papers based on systematic research that are built upon rigorous collection and analysis of data about the production of knowledge. Whereas in the studies of organizing the authors prioritize the third approach, that is knowledge produced based on systematic empirical research, in examining our own work the authors tend to privilege the other two types, reflective articles and surveys. In what follows the authors highlight this gap, offer some explanations thereof, and call for a better appreciation of all three ways to offer rich understandings of organizations, work and management as well as a fruitful sociology of knowledge in our field.
This chapter addresses the concern that much theory building in organization and management (OM) research suffers from de-contextualization. The authors argue that de-contextualization comes in two main forms: reductionism and grand theory. Whereas reductionism tends to downplay context in favor of individual behavior, grand theory looks at context only in highly abstract ahistorical terms. Such de-contextualization is problematic for at least two reasons. First, the boundary conditions of theories remain unexplored in ways that threaten scientific validity. Second, de-contextualization limits the potential of OM theory to fully understand the role of organizations in society and thereby address societal grand challenges. These claims are exemplified through critical reviews of four fields in OM research – gender, employee voice, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and institutional logics – and counterpoints that may help to overcome de-contextualized research are presented.
Pragmatism in the sense of harmonizing rules and reality for the sake of appropriate problem solving and overall performance is a ubiquitous phenomenon in organizational life. As such it has been generalized as an everyday requirement of making organizations work and a virtue of human decision making under the condition of complexity, strategic dilemmas or “wicked problems.” This chapter addresses both the theoretical and the normative dimensions of pragmatism in organizations, public administration in particular. The main statement is that the necessary theoretical clarification concerns the distinction between pragmatism and what is referred to as a logic of appropriateness while the normative limits of pragmatism refer to the necessity of ranking logics of appropriateness and related values plus the ability to act on the basis of accurate judgment which is primarily, even if not exclusively, a matter of leadership.
In this chapter, the authors critique dominant technocratic conceptions of rigor in management research and elaborate an alternative account of rigor that is rooted in methodology and involves a concern with the quality of scientific reasoning rather than a narrower focus on methods or measurement issues per se. Based on the proposed redefinition, the authors conceptualize how rigor, as an essential quality of reasoning, may be defined and the authors in turn qualify alternative methodological criteria for how they might assess the rigor of any particular piece of research. In short, with this chapter the authors’ overall aim is to shift the basis of rigor to an altogether more legitimate and commensurable notion that squarely puts the focus on reasoning and scientific inference for quantitative and qualitative research alike. The authors highlight some of the benefits that such an alternative and unified view of rigor may potentially provide toward fostering the quality and progress of management research.
The authors explore the emergence of altmetrics and Open Access (OA) publishing and discuss why their adoption in the management field lags behind other fields such as life sciences. The authors draw on the status literature to discuss the knowledge production and consumption underpinned by the ‘Impact Factor’ metric and high-status ‘Toll Access’ journals and their implications. The authors explain the rise of altmetrics and OA publishing and their implications on the production and consumption of knowledge. The authors then examine the current situation, challenges and offer reflections on the management field’s progression towards a more open research regime in the digital era.
This chapter extends research on peer review by utilizing and assessing an emerging methodology: automated textual analysis. In a corpus of 38 papers successfully revised for publication in Administrative Science Quarterly, the authors found that measures based on exact wording (measured by plagiarism detection) and sentence similarity (measured by Word Mover’s Distance) performed well in capturing differences between original submissions and published papers. They identified the same overall pattern of revision that authors reported (intensive revision of Theory and Discussion sections, limited modification of Methods), and were strongly correlated with the turnover in references and hypotheses that occurred in the course of peer review. Automated textual analysis can usefully contribute to the study of manuscript change in peer review and other social scientific contexts, particularly as available textual corpora grow in size.
The circumstances for the emergence of new ideas in organizational theory have previously been explored from several viewpoints. Researchers trace the origins of new ideas to previous literature or compare ideas across continents and countries. The author takes another point of departure. Following Merton (1957, 1963), she focuses on “multiple discoveries” in science, studying the independent, simultaneous (re-)discovery of certain aspects of institutional theory in organizational theory. Specifically, she follows the circumstances under which two pairs of researchers proffered similar explanations for the phenomena they encountered (Jönsson & Lundin, 1977; Meyer & Rowan, 1977). Without ever having met, they suggested an analogous way of understanding the concept of organizing, though their research used different frames of reference and field material and was published in different outlets. The author’s analysis of the circumstances surrounding the two papers led her to explore elements in the emergence of new ideas: the Zeitgeist – the spirit of the times – international networks, and collegial work. When these factors are in play, physical meetings do not seem to be required, but scholars must be involved in networks in which their colleagues provide judgment and advice.
This chapter outlines a discursive epistemology of knowledge production through an analysis of the role of time and context in the social construction of organizational insights, outcomes and theories. While the role of time and context has been widely acknowledged in organizational discourse analysis, it has remained unclear what is specific to knowledge generation. Drawing upon a case study of an attempted company acquisition, the authors illustrate how knowledge is discursively produced and consumed during a process of strategizing. The analysis of this study shows how knowledge producing processes (e.g., strategizing, theorizing, conceptualizing and hypothesizing) extend both the time horizon of discourses that relate to the future, and the context horizon for discourse(s) that relate to the broader context. This reconstructs the tapestry of interwoven discourses that make up a local discourse and enable new managerial knowledge to be produced.
We explore the lived experience of organizational scholars who have conducted fieldwork in unsettling contexts. Through analyzing our interviews with these scholars, we find themes around the causes and consequences of unsettling fieldwork, and the coping strategies employed. We reflect on the often overlooked emotional and relational aspects of conducting and coping with unsettling fieldwork, and offer some suggestions for how scholars might support each other, especially given the increasing prevalence of organizational scholarship that pushes boundaries by engaging unconventional topics and settings.
In this chapter, the authors discuss how visual artifacts may support the analysis and interpretation of qualitative data in organization studies. They draws on their own experience as well as other scholars’ published work to explore the distinctive affordances of visual forms. In particular, the authors identify four roles – namely “mapping,” “analyzing,” “conceptualizing,” and “communicating” – that visual artifacts play to help us move from raw qualitative data to a compelling conceptual product.
Specifically, the use of visuals for “mapping” involves directly coding data into visual forms such as cognitive maps, flow charts or relational diagrams, an approach that may offer a useful complement to traditional verbal coding. Using visuals for “analyzing” implies either comparing, aggregating or decomposing previously constructed visual maps, or drawing directly on verbal data to develop visuals such as analytical flow charts, process replication maps, and trend charts. Using visuals for “conceptualizing” involves rising above the data to develop more abstract representations of concepts and relationships, while maintaining recognizable connections to empirical phenomena. While conceptual models can take a wide variety of forms, the authors illustrate, in particular, the use of visuals to represent linear, dialectic and multi-level process theories. Finally, the authors consider the importance of visualizations for “communicating” insights as well as for developing them, and the inextricable linkages between the two.
The authors conclude by discussing some of the strengths and weaknesses of visualization and by considering how new technologies may offer further possibilities for useful and insightful visual representations of qualitative data that can enhance theory-building.
In this chapter, the authors explore the state of our field in terms of ways to present qualitative findings. The authors analyze all articles based on qualitative research methods published in the Academy of Management Journal from 2010 to 2017 and supplement this by informally surveying colleagues about their “favorite” qualitative authors. As a result, the authors identify five ways of presenting qualitative findings in research articles. The authors suggest that each approach has advantages as well as limitations, and that the type of data and theorizing is an important consideration in determining the most appropriate approach for the presentation of findings. The authors hope that by identifying these approaches, they enrich the way authors, reviewers, and editors approach the presentation of qualitative findings.
This chapter argues that while Organization and Management Theory (OMT) appears in good health it stands on the precipice of a crisis of its own making. This stems from an overly self-referential and narrow focus on theoretical contribution, at the expense of a broader set of societal commitments. Paradoxically, this is particularly the case if a researcher is putatively engaging with broader societal issues. The central thesis advanced in this chapter is that researchers should be more socially reflexive about what they are researching, why they are researching it, and for whom. As a corollary, the chapter calls for researchers to interrogate the research that they are undertaking critically and to work out the broader social significance of their work. The chapter unfolds with concise analyses of two branches of OMT: the sociology of the professions and institutional theory. The chapter highlights how research into the professions runs the danger of being captured by the objects of its research: as researchers busy themselves examining pre-existing concepts, rather than exploring the power struggles that take place in particular fields. The chapter argues for a re-framing of research into the professions. The chapter highlights the rise of institutional theory to its current position of dominance within OMT. Institutional theory’s recent move to study ‘Grand Challenges’ is welcomed but also problematised. The chapter closes with reflections on a course of action for making OMT matter.
This chapter asks: ‘How often do we as social scientists question the validity of our theories and our findings? How often do we reflexively examine the distortions in the lenses we use to analyse organizations? ‘It proceeds to answer these questions by defining reflexivity and presenting six perspectives on reflexive analysis that build on and extend previous analytical treatments of reflexivity, especially that by Alvesson, Hardy, and Harley (2008). Illustrations of the six are drawn from my own experiences as well as those of other scholars. The intention is to stimulate greater interest in reflexivity and provoke other scholars to look more reflexively at their own work.
This essay addresses the topic of research lifeworlds and personal lifeworlds and what we gain and lose as researchers, and as people, from their overlaps and collisions. The essay analyses six narrative accounts of the authors lived experience of a unique collision between research and personal lifeworlds when the researcher-mother presented with her sick daughter to the hospital emergency department that served as the field site for her own research. This analysis revealed the following themes through which a researcher’s personhood animates the research process: feeling exposed but empowered; gaining conceptual clarity while opening up ethical ambiguity; and becoming liminal because of identity shifts and coping through self-reflexivity. The essay contributes to our collective understanding and shared learning of the ways a researcher’s personhood shapes, and is shaped by, the research process and (re)production of knowledge.
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- Research in the Sociology of Organizations
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- Emerald Publishing Limited
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