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Book part
Publication date: 25 October 2017

Ron Sanchez and Aimé Heene

In this paper we examine some fundamental epistemological issues in building theory for applied management science, by which we mean theory that can be usefully applied in…

Abstract

In this paper we examine some fundamental epistemological issues in building theory for applied management science, by which we mean theory that can be usefully applied in a scientific approach to management research and practice. We first define and distinguish “grand theory” from “mid-range theory” in the social and management sciences. We then elaborate and contrast epistemologies for (i) building “grand theory” intended to be applicable to all cases and contexts, and (ii) building “mid-range theory” intended to apply to specific kinds of contexts. We illustrate the epistemological challenges in building grand theory in management science by considering important differences in the abilities of two “grand theories” in strategic management – industry structure theory and firm resources theory – to support development of conceptually consistent models and propositions for empirical testing, theoretical refinement, and application in management practice. We then suggest how a mid-range theory building approach can help to achieve integration of the two grand strategic management theories and improve their ability to support empirical testing, theory refinement, and application of theory in practice. Finally, we suggest how the competence-based management (CBM) perspective provides the foundational concepts needed to build both mid-range theory and (potentially) grand theory in strategic management that can be usefully applied in management science.

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Mid-Range Management Theory: Competence Perspectives on Modularity and Dynamic Capabilities
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-404-0

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Article
Publication date: 1 October 2003

Sue Llewelyn

The value of qualitative empirical research in the management and accounting disciplines lies in its “conceptual framing” of organizational actions, events, processes, and…

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15235

Abstract

The value of qualitative empirical research in the management and accounting disciplines lies in its “conceptual framing” of organizational actions, events, processes, and structures. Argues that the possibilities for conceptual framing extend beyond the highly abstract schema generally considered as “theories” by academics. In support of this argument, distinguishes five different forms of theorization. Explores the relationship between these theoretical “levels” and the different issues that empirical research explores, arguing that, as the “level” of theorizing “rises”, issues of agency give way to a focus on practice and, in turn, to a concern with structure. As this happens, research aims directed towards abstraction and explanation supersede those for contextualization and understanding. Concludes that views on “what counts as theory” are, currently, too narrow to conceptualize agency, emergence and change adequately in organizational life and, hence, the full range of significant empirical phenomena that characterize the management and accounting areas are not being researched.

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Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 16 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 13 January 2012

John C. Dumay

The purpose of this paper is to answer the question “What are the barriers to the use of IC concepts?” by discussing and critiquing two contemporary grand theories about…

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1996

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to answer the question “What are the barriers to the use of IC concepts?” by discussing and critiquing two contemporary grand theories about IC, being market‐to‐book ratios as a representation of IC and that disclosing IC leads to greater profitability.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper reviews contemporary IC literature and explores reasons why these grand theories of IC hinder its adoption.

Findings

The research finds that these grand theories mislead because they cannot be proven empirically. Therefore, managers should attempt to better understand the possible causal relationships between their people, processes and stakeholders (human, structural and relational capital) rather than adopting someone else's mousetrap.

Practical implications

In order to improve the use of IC concepts they should be examined as differentiation theories of practice that take into account the agent (people) as a unit of analysis, the actual practice of IC and the resultant changes within an organisation, rather than trying to achieve the impossible generalisations of IC grand theories. Researchers need to conduct more critical and performative research into IC rather than ostensive research.

Originality/value

Allows academics and practitioners to understand the barriers to implementing IC in organisations, potentially allowing for the development of better engineered IC practices rather than the development of additional IC models.

Details

Journal of Intellectual Capital, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1469-1930

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Article
Publication date: 21 October 2013

John Dumay, Jim Rooney and Lisa Marini

The purpose of this paper is to respond to calls to research recognising impediments to innovation practice. The paper argues that decision-making preferences by…

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2159

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to respond to calls to research recognising impediments to innovation practice. The paper argues that decision-making preferences by risk-averse managers are a key impediment to the organisational support required for the commercialisation of new ideas, by exploring the relationship between forms of intellectual capital (IC) and innovation. As a result, categories are derived that contrast with the current grand theory that IC drives innovative practices.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper critically examines cross-sectional empirical data gathered through semi-structured interviews with 27 Australian executive managers from leading Australian companies and the public sector. These interviews elicited narratives about successful and unsuccessful innovations where interviewees had significant involvement in the outcome. In all, 54 narratives of innovation from executive managers – 27 successes and 27 failures, were analysed using the repertory grid technique to unearth patterns about the process of innovation, especially in relation to the stability of the business environment and the need for innovation.

Findings

The paper finds that successful innovation in a context identified as demonstrating risk-averse decision-making behaviours requires different management approaches, depending on whether the innovation is radical, evolutionary or incremental. The paper discovers 12 different factors contributing to innovation processes and identifies those that are more likely to contribute to the success of innovative endeavours. From this the current grand theory that IC drives innovative practices is challenged by developing an IC-based differentiation theory of innovation practice.

Research limitations/implications

As always, the observations and conclusions reached are limited to the 27 interviews and the Australian context. Further, findings are based on the authors’ objective analysis. As with any qualitative study the authors also caution about generalising the findings, and as with any theory it should be used to develop insights into actions, rather than prescribing them.

Practical implications

For educators it highlights the need to teach students to critique innovation rather than accepting that all innovation is beneficial. For researchers it shows they must avoid success bias by investigating both successful and failed innovations, developing differentiation theories of innovation practice. The findings highlight how senior managers responsible for enabling and resourcing innovation need to develop skills for identifying the innovation type enabled, matching it to an appropriate strategic approach. Finally, for policy makers it shows how different forms of successful innovation require different approaches, and each can be encouraged, developed and enabled differently.

Originality/value

The paper is novel because it addresses the interaction and complexities of the different factors that enable successful innovation and possibly contribute to innovation failures, and the types of innovation relevant to each context. This approach is in contrast to the contemporary innovation literature, which tends to focus on successful radical innovation. As a result, the paper offers a more holistic view of the diverse and interrelated factors that impact innovation success and/or failure.

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Journal of Intellectual Capital, vol. 14 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1469-1930

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Article
Publication date: 29 July 2014

Evert Gummesson

– The purpose of this study was to suggest pragmatic ways of dealing with the business-to-business (B2B) theory/practice gap.

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3792

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study was to suggest pragmatic ways of dealing with the business-to-business (B2B) theory/practice gap.

Design/methodology/approach

Reflecting on experience both as a researcher and practitioner.

Findings

B2B marketing is characterized by complexity. There is no straight way to harmonize the relationship between its theory and practice but there are ways to make the two benefit from each other. A dilemma is that academics and practitioners are rewarded for different types of achievements.

Research limitations/implications

Scholars can be made aware of the need for close involvement through action research and case theory to secure access to high-quality data in a complex B2B reality, and to their mission to contribute better real world based theory.

Practical implications

The article can make practitioners aware of the value of grand theory to improve the pragmatic use of mid-range theory as it materializes in models, checklists and heuristics.

Originality/value

The simultaneous emphasis on explicit and tacit knowledge in both theory generation and practice, and a framework of theory generation that sorts out substantive, mid-range and grand theory relationships.

Details

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, vol. 29 no. 7/8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0885-8624

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Book part
Publication date: 8 July 2021

Rebecca Bednarek, Miguel Pina e Cunha, Jonathan Schad and Wendy Smith

Over the past decades, scholars advanced foundational insights about paradox in organization theory. In this double volume, we seek to expand upon these insights through…

Abstract

Over the past decades, scholars advanced foundational insights about paradox in organization theory. In this double volume, we seek to expand upon these insights through interdisciplinary theorizing. We do so for two reasons. First, we think that now is a moment to build on those foundations toward richer, more complex insights by learning from disciplines outside of organization theory. Second, as our world increasingly faces grand challenges, scholars turn to paradox theory. Yet as the challenges become more complex, authors turn to other disciplines to ensure the requisite complexity of our own theories. To advance these goals, we invited scholars with knowledge in paradox theory to explore how these ideas could be expanded by outside disciplines. This provides a both/and opportunity for paradox theory: both learning from outside disciplines beyond existing boundaries and enriching our insights in organization scholarship. The result is an impressive collection of papers about paradox theory that draws from four outside realms – the realm of belief, the realm of physical systems, the realm of social structures, and the realm of expression. In this introduction, we expand on why paradox theory is ripe for interdisciplinary theorizing, explore the benefits of doing so, and introduce the papers in this double volume.

Details

Interdisciplinary Dialogues on Organizational Paradox: Learning from Belief and Science, Part A
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80117-184-7

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Book part
Publication date: 11 April 2019

Chris Carter and Crawford Spence

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…

Abstract

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.

Details

The Production of Managerial Knowledge and Organizational Theory: New Approaches to Writing, Producing and Consuming Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-183-4

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Article
Publication date: 7 December 2015

Tunca Tabaklar, Árni Halldórsson, Gyöngyi Kovács and Karen Spens

Within the emerging research field of humanitarian supply chain management (HSCM) the use of existing theoretical concepts and frameworks to provide explanation and…

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1974

Abstract

Purpose

Within the emerging research field of humanitarian supply chain management (HSCM) the use of existing theoretical concepts and frameworks to provide explanation and understanding of the phenomena under scrutiny is not yet well understood. There is still a lack of research on which theoretical approaches are used in this field, and to what extent this emerging field “borrows” theories from other disciplines. The purpose of this paper is therefore to deepen the understanding of HSCM from a theoretical point of view by identifying and evaluating the use of theories in HSCM literature.

Design/methodology/approach

A literature review is conducted based on academic journal articles included in a well-recognised and publicly available bibliography on HSCM articles (Tatham, 2015). A content analysis is applied to the articles in terms of level of theory, research methodology, disaster management stages, disaster types, and disaster name/region.

Findings

A trend towards using more established, “middle- range” theories, is evident. However, the use of theoretical approaches is not evenly spread between the different phases of disaster relief. A strong emphasis on SCM as a background discipline is also mirrored in the choice of theories used, which indicates the solidification of humanitarian logistics as a primarily supply chain discipline. The lack of use of other theoretical perspectives and grand theories is, however, still evident, which provides an interesting research agenda for future research.

Research limitations/implications

The use of the bibliography limits the generalisation of the findings although some trends are evident.

Originality/value

This is a first review of theories used in HSCM. It provides an overview of the state of the art of HSCM research but contributes to the maturation of research in this field. The paper concludes with a research agenda.

Details

Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management, vol. 5 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-6747

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Article
Publication date: 13 February 2017

Evert Gummesson

This paper aims to emphasize the need for generation of more general, abstract and grand theory in marketing by synthesizing relationship marketing and other developments…

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7887

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to emphasize the need for generation of more general, abstract and grand theory in marketing by synthesizing relationship marketing and other developments and to address complexity instead of fragmented bits of marketing.

Design/methodology/approach

This study is a discourse based on new theoretical developments, literature and personal reflection.

Findings

Relationships, networks and interaction constitute the core of marketing.

Research limitations/implications

Future focus on theory generation and complexity through case study research and not on fragmented quantitative surveys and hypotheses testing. When complexity is better understood, boil it down to actionable simplicity in the form of mid-range theory.

Practical implications

Research in marketing is there to be used in real life; it is not an academic parlor game. The paper addresses complexity instead of shunning it, search for the core of marketing and offer simplification as mid-range theory (checklists, heuristics, etc.) and with focus on decisions, action and results.

Originality/value

Going from the current fragmented approach of marketing to a holistic and theory-based approach, linking theory with practice.

Details

Journal of Services Marketing, vol. 31 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0887-6045

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Article
Publication date: 8 July 2021

Heather Morris, Claire Blewitt, Amanda O'Connor and Helen Skouteris

The aim of this paper is to discuss how theories and practitioner-led theorising allow frontline workers to iteratively co-construct solutions that work in the real world.

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to discuss how theories and practitioner-led theorising allow frontline workers to iteratively co-construct solutions that work in the real world.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper addresses the authors’ aim by proposing a social care theorising model

Findings

This study adopts a socio-ecological and epistemological lens when describing theorising and unpacks what this means when frontline workers adapt their practice and programs to work effectively with individuals and families. As frontline workers move towards a grand theory that determines their overarching theoretical perspectives through which they interpret their “social work” world, leadership, organisational culture and governance become crucial in supporting their use of discretion. This support is mostly manifested as supervision and coaching, and the authors argue here that a “researcher in residence” narrows the barriers to embedding research and evidence into practice. Discretion implies the choice of a practitioner to deliver program components in a way that fits the family, which may not align with rigid program protocols, and this calls in to question how to measure fidelity and compensate for adaptation. Furthermore, it highlights the limitations of some research methods and suggests that rapid data collection and analysis may be useful during this theorising process.

Originality/value

This paper conceptualises how frontline social care workers theorise in their practice, the ways these theories are shaped and suggests an option to narrow the research–practice gap.

Details

Journal of Children's Services, vol. 16 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-6660

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