New Articles from California Management Review



Newly published research from California Management Review is now online! We invite you to view all of the Online First articles for CMR by clicking here, that hosts articles covering a variety of topics such as corporate misconduct, competitive strategy, and  benefits of minority stake strategies.

One article in particular, “Strategizing with Biases: Making Better Decisions Using the Mindspace Approach,” co-authored by Chengwei Liu, Ivo Vlaev, Christina Fang,
Jerker Denrell, and Nick Chater focuses on Mindspace when it is applied to strategic decision making. The complete abstract for the article is below:

This article introduces strategists to the Mindspace framework and explores its applications in strategic contexts. This framework consists of nine effective behavioral interventions that are grounded in public policy applications, and it focuses on how changing the context can be more effective than attempts to de-bias decision makers. Behavioral changes are likely when we follow rather than fight human nature. Better decisions can be achieved by engineering choice contexts to “engage a bias” to overcome a more damaging bias. This article illustrates how to engineer strategic contexts through two case studies and outlines directions and challenges when applying Mindspace to strategic decisions.

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Different approaches to theory building with qualitative research

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgNewly published research from the Journal of Management Inquiry is now online! We invite you to view all of the Online First articles for JMI by clicking here, with articles that cover a variety of topics such as corporate corruption, emerging international markets, cross-cultural organization theories, and grounded qualitative research.

In particular, we would like to highlight an article by Joel Gehman, Vern L. Glaser, Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Denny Gioia, Ann Langley, and Kevin G. Corley entitled, “Finding Theory–Method Fit: A Comparison of Three Qualitative Approaches to Theory Building.” The article is currently free to read for a limited time. Please find the abstract below:

This article, together with a companion video, provides a synthesized summary of a Showcase Symposium held at the 2016 Academy of Management Annual Meeting in which prominent scholars—Denny Gioia, Kathy Eisenhardt, Ann Langley, and Kevin Corley—discussed different approaches to theory building with qualitative research. Our goal for the symposium was to increase management scholars’ sensitivity to the importance of theory–method “fit” in qualitative research. We have integrated the panelists’ prepared remarks and interactive discussion into three sections: an introduction by each scholar, who articulates her or his own approach to qualitative research; their personal reflections on the similarities and differences between approaches to qualitative research; and answers to general questions posed by the audience during the symposium. We conclude by summarizing insights gleaned from the symposium about important distinctions among these three qualitative research approaches and their appropriate usages.

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Do Groups Make Better Decisions than Individuals?

Group projects are everywhere–whether you’re at school, at work, or even in your household. It’s customary to listen to each member of the group, and what he/she has to say about a strategy for approaching the project, or ways to improve the process in the future. Often,MTR_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpg the ideas are compounded and morphed into a strategy that the group can agree on, but does that mean someone would choose not to offer an idea if it’s a different perspective than the “norm”?

A recent study in Management Teaching Review focuses on group decision making and how groups are more likely to accept a decision as “the best” when group members conform to social norms. Authors C. Melissa Fender and Lisa T. Stickney present the data for us in their article, “When Two Heads Aren’t Better Than One: Conformity in a Group Activity.” The article is currently free to read for a limited time; click here to view the full text.
The abstract for the article is below:

Group and team class decision-making activities often focus on demonstrating that “two heads are better than one.” Typically, students solve a problem or complete an assessment individually, then in a group. Generally, the group does better and that is what the students learn. However, if that is all such an activity conveys, then a significant teachable moment has been missed. It is often the case that a group member has one or more correct answers that the group did not use, or perhaps even outscores the group. The simple activity described here provides an opportunity to discuss a number of reasons that can cause such conformity to happen, integrating several areas of human psychology and behavior, and then segue into techniques to prevent it.

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How Do New Theorizing and Shifts in Learning Emerge?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Birgit Helene Jevnaker and Atle A. Raa of the Norwegian Business School, Oslo. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled, “Circles of intellectual discovery in Cambridge and management learning: A discourse analysis of Joan Robinson’s The Economics of Imperfect Competition,”  Below, Jevnaker and Raa describe the inspiration for the study and key findings:]

We share an interest in how ideas in management learning can originate from early thinkers aJevnaker_teaser.jpgnd books.  For instance, we are interested in how classic economic thinking has influenced management learning and practice. In our article, we elaborate and discuss how Joan Robinson – in interaction with a circle of other Cambridge economists – developed a new theory of the firm in imperfect competition. In her opinion, imperfect competition was the normal market situation. It could be a limited number of firms that represented the total supply of a consumer product like carbonated soft drinks.

Joan Violet Robinson was a member of an informal group of a younger generation of economists in Cambridge, UK. Through her first book, The Economics of Imperfect Competition, she actually became an innovator of new ideas and comlqncepts. In this book, published in the wake of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she explains new principles of how markets operate in different ways depending on the nature of the competition. By recognizing that some enterprises can affect prices and competition, this opened up for later, new thinking of how firms act and learn differently.

We were surprised by two things:

  • First, she became a transformer of earlier ideas of perfect competition into ideas of imperfect competition. It is remarkable that a young woman economist, without any formal position in the academy of Cambridge, could quickly synthetize new thinking of how markets are different.
  • Secondly, we noted that a younger generation of academics engaged collectively in critical and alternative theorizing. Robinson and her friend, the economist Richard F. Kahn, as well as other companions met regularly and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s arguments. We call this “epistemic interaction”. By this we understand mutual or reciprocal actions or influence in developing the grounds of knowledge and understanding among agents. In Greek, knowing and its possibility of understanding is episteme.

Through our discourse analysis of Robinson’s 1933-book and its emergence, we seek to explain our story beyond the perspective of a great economist finding new ideas by herself. Her book uncovers several important contributors; Robinson herself anchors her book in both established and new theorizing of firms and markets.

Joan Robinson points to the common existence of a limited number of firms with monopoly power over their offerings. Inspired by the 1930s reality as well as earlier writings, she offers new concepts, for example for exchange situations with only one buyer (monopsony). This is a situation where exploitation of labour can emerge, she points out. Robinson no doubt had a certain pedagogical style. She made many of the complicated economic ideas easier to understand by examples and metaphoric language. She claimed that the tool-users had been given “stones for bread” from the toolmakers (the economic thinkers). Still, she stressed that economics is one of the social sciences that study how society works.

From the circle of young economists’ debating in the 1930s, it is worth noting that firms and managers can be commonly acting within dissimilar or “imperfect” market conditions rather than principally “perfect” ones where firms are facing similar price mechanisms, often discussed in past economic literature. This critique and shift in understanding eventually opened up for management studies recognizing also fundamental differences in managerial knowledge, learning and strategizing. We think that more research on how earlier economic thinking has influenced management practice is a fruitful approach to the study of how management learning have developed through most of the 20th century up to our days. It is of general interest how new academic ideas come about.

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Influences of Multiple Role Management Strategies

[We’re pleased to welcome author Guillaume Carton of the Institut Supérieur de Gestion, France. Carton recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Bridging the Research-Practice Divide: A Study of Scholar-Practitioners’ Multiple Role Management Strategies and Knowledge Spillovers across Roles,” co-authored by  Paula Ungureanu of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy. From Carton:]

What inspired you to be interested in this topic? We both did our PhD investigating the theory-practice divide in management. We wanted to cJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgontribute to the debate by bringing empirical data sets of exemplar situations through which people successfully bridge the divide. While some studies have argued that focus of rigor versus relevance determine an unbridgeable research-practice divide, others have suggested that successful exchanges occur on a daily basis thanks to people that dedicate their careers to spanning these boundaries. Yet, few studies have investigated if and how research-practice boundary spanners make it there where others are accused of failing. That is how we got interested in scholar-practitioners, individuals who successfully keep one foot each in the worlds of academia and practice and advance knowledge of both research and practice. We contacted recipients of scholar-practitioners’ prizes, and other recognized scholar-practitioners and simply asked them how they were dealing with their day-to-day multiple professional roles. Our study speaks both to the theory-practice debate and to the literature on strategies of multiple role management.

Were there findings that were surprising to you? One may think that getting a PhD or a DBA after an experience in industry, or working part-time as a consultant throughout academic tenure automatically awards the status of boundary spanner, and all the benefits it implies, such as, for instance, the knowledge advantages of a financial broker or the reputation of a cultural mediator. However, our study shows that scholar-practitioners have a very hard time defining who they are, professionally and personally speaking, because they are caught in between institutional pressures for role separation, on the one side, and their personal desideratum for role integration, on the other side.

Specifically, we show that scholar-practitioners move differently on the separation-integration continuum, according to how experienced they are. The less experienced scholar-practitioners seem to be more subject to pressures for role separation and follow a strategy that constantly reorders the priority of their roles, avoiding this way an overloading integration. The more the scholar-practitioners progress in their career, the more they are willing to integrate their roles, through strategies that we called “role interspacing” and “temporary role bundling” which, however, do not reach a full level of integration.

An important feature of the study is the concern not only with how boundary spanning occurs but also with what kind of knowledge gets transferred from one role to another. We found that role management strategies that are closer to the separation pole allow scholar-practitioners to make operations with contents, while strategies that are closer to the integration pole enable them to transfer across roles procedural knowledge, and, in the condition of highest role integration, metaknowledge -i.e., knowledge about who knows whom and who knows what in their social networks.

How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice? Currently, we know almost nothing about how people or organizations successfully bridge the research/practice divide. Our paper gives a first impulse to investigate and recognize the key role of scholar-practitioners. We also go beyond scholar practitioners and provocatively suggest that a solution to bridge the academia-practice gap is to encourage also traditional scholars and practitioners to perceive themselves as fragile and at the same time resourceful boundary spanners.
Our study also brings significant contributions to role theory. The finding that professionals move differently on the separation-integration continuum according to experience can have important consequences for setting up motivational strategies for professionals at different stages of their career, as well as assisting them in their struggles to maintain a delicate equilibrium between pressures for separation and integration.

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Institutional Theory Needs to Rethink its Neglect of Morality

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Geoff Moore of Durham University, UK and Gina Grandy of the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. They recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “Bringing Morality Back in: Institutional Theory and MacIntyre.” From Moore and Grandy:]

We have had an interest for many years in the work of the moral philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and the ways in which, despite his highly critical approach to capitalism and corporate management, his work can be used to explain and explore what a virtue-based understanding of organizations means in both theory and practice. In particular, his distinctions between practices and institutions, and between two types of goods (internal and external) which are pursued by organizationJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgs has led to a series of papers exploring the implications of this approach. In this endeavour, we have been encouraged by a steady stream of articles, both theoretical and practical, which have explored this understanding of practices and organizations in such diverse settings as circuses, jazz, investment advising, banking, health and beauty retailing, and pharmaceuticals.

At the same time, we have noted the potential links with Institutional Theory and in particular its notions of logics and legitimacy and wanted to explore these links in greater depth. We were also concerned that new Institutional Theory lacks a positive account or morality and felt that this could be addressed by integrating it with MacIntyre’s work.

An empirical project involving an ecumenical study of churches in the north east of England led to some findings which we felt could be best explained by just such an integration of Institutional Theory and MacIntyre’s work. In particular, consistent throughout the empirical evidence was practitioners’ concern with the telos (overall purpose) of their organizations and the core practices of their faith, and their concern for the legitimacy of their organizations both to internal and external audiences, and hence of the moral nature of organizational life.

We argue that these findings can be generalized to any practice-based organization and conclude that ignoring or underplaying the moral dimension will give, at best, a diminished account of organizational life. Hence, we argue that Institutional Theory needs to rethink its neglect of morality and we suggest several implications for Institutional Theory as a result. We hope this might lead to further studies which follow up our lead and so to the bringing of morality back in to Institutional Theory. We also hope that a wider recognition of the moral dimension as an essential component in organizational life will impact practitioners and lead to organizations fulfilling their potential for the common good.

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Using Theory Elaboration to Make Theoretical Advancements

[We’re pleased to welcome author Herman Aguinis of George Washington University. He recently published an article in Organizational Research Methods entitled, “Using Theory Elaboration to Make Theoretical Advancements,”co-authored by Greg Fisher of Indiana University. From Aguinis:]

“Our field is rapidly being pulled apart by centrifugal forces. Like a supernova that once packed a wallop, our energy is now dissipating and we are quickly growing cold”
Donald Hambrick (2004, p. 91)

“Like symphony orchestras that play a repertoire of a dozen baroque and classical composers year in and year out, management research can sometimes appear like a living museum of the 1970s.”
Jerry Davis (2010, p. 691)

As highlighted by the above two quotes, theory development in the management field is fragmented and lacks novelty. What then can we do about this?

We propose that one way to address the opposing forces of fragmentation and lack of novelty is to adopt an approach to theory development that has loosely been referred to as theory ORM_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgelaboration. Lee, Mitchell and Sablynski (1999) suggested that “Theory elaboration occurs when preexisting conceptual ideas or a preliminary model drives [a] study’s design” (p. 164) and they contrasted it with theory generation that “occurs when the inquiry’s design produces formal and testable research propositions” and theory testing that “occurs when formal hypotheses or a formal theory determines the study’s design” (Lee et al., 1999, p. 164). We provide a more comprehensive definition of theory elaboration as the process of conceptualizing and executing empirical research using pre-existing conceptual ideas or a preliminary model as a basis for developing new theoretical insights by contrasting, specifying, or structuring theoretical constructs and relations to account for and explain empirical observations.

To better understand theory elaboration we identified published articles that have implicitly or explicitly adopted such an approach, and although the overall number of articles is small we recognized that many such articles are among the most highly cited and impactful in the management field. We therefore set about to codify such an approach. To do so we used a reverse-engineering process to extract fundamental features of impactful theory elaboration studies.

Our goal is adopting such a reverse engineering process was to explain how to conduct a theory elaboration study, to offer illustrations of how to use particular tactics to achieve specific theory advancement goals, and to point out particular contexts and circumstances where theory elaboration is most fruitful. As such our paper serves as a catalyst for “cloning” the important theoretical advancements that have been achieved by the handful of studies that have adopted a theory elaboration perspective.

From this reverse engineering process we describe seven specific tactics for conducting a theory elaboration study:

  • Horizontal contrasting – contrasting observations across different contexts
  • Vertical contrasting – contrasting observations across different levels of analysis
  • New construct specification – identifying and defining new constructs
  • Construct splitting – identifying a need or oppo
    rtunity to break a broad construct into specific constructs
  • Structuring specific relations – defining/redefining a specific relation between two constructs
  • Structuring sequence relations – providing an explanation of a sequence of events or relations
  • Structuring recursive relations – Accounting for a recursive relation between two or more entities over repeated interactions

We link each of these tactics with different types of theory advancements and we provide a sequential decision-making process for deciding whether to adopt a theory elaboration approach. Finally, we identify research domains and specific topics in OBHR, strategic management, and entrepreneurship for which theory elaboration is likely to be highly effective as a means to make theoretical advancements. We believe that theory elaboration holds a great promise as a perspective to empower scholars to overcome some of the current challenges associated with theory advancement in the management field.

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