Table of contents(19 chapters)
All knowledge claims are also to some extent legitimacy claims. No theory can receive serious attention, let alone gain credence, unless it is also seen as legitimate. Philosophers of science have spent decades trying to frame criteria that determine the legitimacy of theories, only to agree to disagree on the matter. Sociologists of science, on the other hand, take a broader view, arguing that rather than seeking ex ante criteria of knowledge it is best to examine how researchers legitimate knowledge in practice.
We develop a discourse of strategic management as design, using a conceptual base drawing upon the work of Michel Foucault, as an alternative to the prevailing strategy discourse (strategy as “economizing”). We then use contemporary design theory to theorize strategic management as a design activity in which the focus is on innovation, with the emphasis on future strategies based on the creation of desirable unknowns.
Although we have seen a proliferation of studies examining the discursive aspects of strategy, the full potential of the linguistic turn has not yet been realized. This paper argues for a multifaceted interdiscursive approach that can help to go beyond simplistic views on strategy as unified discourse and pave the way for new research efforts. At the metalevel, it is important to focus attention on struggles over competing conceptions of strategy in this body of knowledge. At the mesolevel it is interesting to examine alternative strategy narratives to better understand the polyphony and dialogicality in organizational strategizing. At the microlevel, it is useful to reflect on the rhetorical tactics and skills that are used in strategy conversations to promote or resist specific views. This paper calls for new focused analyses at these different levels of analysis, but also for studies of the processes linking these levels.
An increasingly large group of scholars in Europe have begun to take a practice lens to understanding problems of strategy making in organizations. Strategy-as-practice research is premised on the notion that all social life is constituted within practices, and that practices and practitioners are essential subjects of study. Applying this lens to strategy foregrounds the mundane, everyday work involved in doing strategy. In doing so, it expands our definition of the salient outcomes to be studied in strategic management and provides new perspectives on the mechanisms for producing such outcomes. As strategy-as-practice scholars, we have been puzzled about how much more slowly the ideas in this burgeoning field have traveled from their home in Europe to the United States than have other ideas in strategic management traveled from the United States to Europe. In this chapter, we contribute some thoughts about the development of the strategy-as-practice field and its travels in academia.
This chapter explicates the theoretical basis and contribution of poststructuralism to the study of strategy and strategic management. More specifically, it focuses upon Foucauldian analysis which is contrasted to rationalist and interpretivist studies. Foucauldian analysis is not regarded as a corrective but as an addition to these established approaches to studying strategy. Notably, Foucault's work draws attention to how discourse constitutes, disciplines and legitimizes particular forms of executive identity (‘strategists’) and management practice (‘strategizing’). We highlight how Foucault's poststructuralist thinking points to unexplored performative effects of rationalist and interpretivist studies of strategy. Foucault is insistent upon the indivisibility of knowledge and power, where relations of power within organizations, and in academia, are understood to rely upon, but also operate to maintain and transform, particular ‘discourses of truth’ such as the discourses of ‘shareholder value’ and ‘objectivity’. Discourse, in Foucauldian analysis, is not a more or less imperfect, or ineffective, means of representing objects such as strategy. Rather, it is performative in, for example, producing the widely taken-or-granted truth that ‘organization’ is separate from ‘environment’. In turn, the production of this distinction is seen to enable and sanction particular and, arguably, predatory forms of knowledge, in which the formulation and application of strategy is represented as neutral, mirror-like and/or functional.
The paradigmatic separation of the strategy and identity literatures constitutes an ongoing problem for the extension of either into more global contexts. The theorization proposed in this chapter presents rhetoric as the means by which the ‘strategy work’ of reimagining future options and the ‘identity work’ of reformulating the meaning of past actions may be integrated in the present moment. By locating both strategy work and identity work within the continuity of experience, we suggest that scholars will be better able to develop theoretically integrated, empirically grounded and globally relevant studies of strategy.
This paper develops a framework for understanding history as a source of competitive advantage. Prior research suggests that some firms enjoy preferential access to resources as a result of their past. Historians, by contrast, understand past events as more than an objective account of reality. History also has an interpretive function. History is a social and rhetorical construction that can be shaped and manipulated to motivate, persuade, and frame action, both within and outside an organization. Viewed as a malleable construct, the capacity to manage history can, itself, be a rare and inimitable resource.
In this paper, we discuss how “cultural capital” and “symbolic capital,” understood as specialized subsets of intangible resources and capabilities, enable firms to achieve valuable strategic positions in ways that are currently underexplored by mainstream strategy literature. We articulate the similarities and differences between cultural and symbolic capital and the intangible assets that have been the focus of mainstream strategy researchers, such as intellectual, social, and reputational capital. Our theoretical arguments build on insights from a number of studies conducted primarily in non-North American settings that have shown how symbolic properties of products create value. We conclude by delineating future avenues of research that strategy scholarship should consider in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between intangible resources and capabilities, and value creation.
Although the managerial profession is subjugated by the discipline of strategic management, managers are not completely subordinate to it. Instead, they are able to use the institutionalized discourse of strategic management, which is not their own product, in novel and creative ways. In this paper, we focus on the tactics that managers, as central strategy practitioners, use to consume strategy. Drawing on the work of the late Michel de Certeau as a theoretical lens, we conduct an empirical analysis of discourse, produced by 36 managers operating in three case organizations. This analysis allows us to elaborate on three different tactics of strategy consumption: instrumental, playful, and intimate. The results capture the reciprocal dynamics between the micro- and macrolevels of strategy discourse, that is, between strategic management as an institutional body of knowledge and the discursive practice of individual managers.
Recent studies in strategy have highlighted both the successes and failures of applying conventional perspectives in strategic management to developing markets. Within this debate, Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) strategies, aimed at exploiting high-volume, low-margins strata at the bottom of these societies, have particularly drawn interest. We critically examine the emergence and evolution of BoP strategies and compare their anticipated outcomes to some of the empirical evidence. We then draw on the concept of global value chains to usefully extend the BoP concept, and suggest areas for further theory building and empirical research. We offer a typology of BoP ventures, and suggest appropriate levels of public–private engagement to achieve the desired social and economic outcomes.
A key component of evolutionary models in economics and organizational research, the notion of organizational selection is rarely the object of inquiry. It generally suggests instead a neutral and unquestioned process, a mechanism explaining organizational success and survival. In this chapter, we explore the variation of selection; we problematize the notion of selection and do an exercise in conceptual genealogy. We differentiate between three patterns of firm selection: Darwinian, strategic, and institutional and define the associated “embedded rationalities” that buttress those different selection patterns. We illustrate how selection differed and evolved through time by exploring two empirical cases – France and the United States. Building upon our empirical exploration, we stress some important contributions for three theories familiar to strategy scholars – resource-based view, population ecology, and institutional theory. We also point to some consequences for empirical research and suggest new directions for future work on the dynamics of organizational action.
This chapter explores the origins of the theme of competitive advantage in 19th and early 20th century economics. This theme, which forms the core of modern Strategic Management, was a battleground for debates about the value of abstract theory versus observations about real-life events. Intellectual genealogies, citations, and other sources show the central roles played by the University of Vienna and Harvard University. These two institutions strongly influenced the theory of monopolistic competition as well as all three modern views of competitive advantage – the industrial as expressed by Porter, the resource-based as expressed by Penrose, and the evolutionary as expressed by Schumpeter.
The present paper takes a look at the particularities of German strategy research over the last three decades. In contrast to much of the Anglo-Saxon research, which has focused on competition as a guiding concept in theorizing about strategy, German research has typically been concerned with more fundamental questions about the general relationship between organizations and their environments and, as a result, tended to be more conceptual than empirical. Researchers have been particularly influenced by the German sociological and philosophical traditions, specifically by the critical theory of Jürgen Habermas and by the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann. Also, there are authors who draw on the economic tradition of the Austrian School in order to develop a competence-based theory of the firm. Another branch builds on Anthony Giddens's structuration theory and Jacques Derrida's philosophy of deconstruction. As we will demonstrate, much of the research has been concerned with fundamental theoretical tensions: evolution vs. planning, selection vs. compensation, cognitive–instrumental rationality vs. moral–practical rationality, etc. We note that, as a consequence, much of German strategy research shows a particular interest in paradoxa and oxymora (such as ‘planned evolution’, ‘productive misunderstandings’ or ‘unfocused monitoring’). This paper will identify and explore important strands of German strategy research and discuss its particularities compared to mainstream strategy research in the United States.
This chapter argues that one of the fundamental challenges of the global character of strategy research is the growing need to foster collaborations between academic and business practitioners that can help build a better understanding of the practice of strategy and through these means deliver greater impact. This challenge strengthens existing calls for strategy research to refocus on understanding the practice of strategy with an attentiveness to micro-dynamics of strategizing, and requires us to expand the ways in which research practice is performed. Whilst this can apparently be achieved through better dialogue, building trusting relationships and valuing the contribution each party can make due to their differences, it in fact requires a questioning of our research assumptions and practice.
I consider the significance of just one silence in strategy research – it revolves around the ‘I’ which brings in matters of biography, epistemology and reflexivity. While different epistemic communities have their investigative conventions or protocols and allied evaluative criteria which either silence or give voice to an ‘I’, developments in the philosophy of science and the sociology of knowledge suggest the need to account for two particular and intertwined aspects of reflexivity. The first rests on C. Wright Mills' assertion that ‘craftsmanship is the centre of yourself’, and in this paper I share four snippets of autobiographical reflection outlining the crystallization of my interests and the sociological ‘eye’ which I bring to the study of strategic management. Second, the ways the established or taken-for-granted socio-politico-ethical orders routinely reproduce as legitimate (or not) particular ways of seeing-researching and thus, particular I's, is also woven into this account. My own intellectual ‘home’ of ethnomethodology is one where constitutive reflexivity is central and shows that the field of research interest – strategy work/strategizing – and our own practice of trying to understand this field are both a reflexive accomplishment.