Session Type: PDW Workshop
Program Session: 3 | Submission: 19047 | Sponsor(s): (OMT, SAP, CMS)
Virtual session type: Real-time Open
New Ways of Seeing Theory
Perspectives and Practical Tips on Writing Theory
InternationalTheme: 20/20: Broadening Our SightResearch

Organizer: Joep Cornelissen, Erasmus U. Rotterdam
Organizer: Markus A. Höllerer, UNSW Sydney & WU Vienna
Speaker: Charlotte Cloutier, HEC Montreal
Speaker: Ralph Hamann, U. of Cape Town
Speaker: Santi Furnari, Cass Business School, City U. London
Digital Session Chair: Mikael Sondergaard, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus U.
Over the past years, we have witnessed a growing crisis of confidence in the standard model of theorizing through propositions and hypotheses (“if, then” clauses), and the degree to which this model can by itself conceptually capture the complexity and dynamics of managerial and organizational phenomena (Alvesson, Gabriel and Paulsen, 2017; Delbridge & Fiss, 2013). The crux of this crisis relates to the dominance of this style of theorizing across theoretical and empirical work in our field, and indeed across quantitative and qualitative studies alike (Bluhm et al., 2011; Cornelissen, 2017). Critics highlight not only the rote and oftentimes blind adoption of the model (Kilduff, 2006; Cornelissen, 2017) but also point to some of its inherent weaknesses such as the ‘general linear reality’ (Abbott, 1988) that it presupposes and the correlational ‘net-effects thinking’ (Ragins, 2008) that lies at its core. As a way of theorizing, it often falls prey to a fallacy of reasoning by consequences (Elster, 2015) and of following a rather linear and deterministic model that projects a strong form of intentionality, force and agency onto “root” causes (whether human or otherwise) that offers little room for change, chance or circumstance. The result, in the eyes of many, is a rather ‘stale’ body of knowledge (e.g., Alvesson & Sandberg, 2013) that has led “to a relatively (and inappropriately) homogeneous management research ? eld and an impoverished understanding of our phenomena of interest” (Delbridge & Fiss, 2013, p. 329). Based on these criticisms, we have also seen a flurry of suggestions towards alternative ways of theorizing. Some of these approaches start conceptually and suggest a different way of conceiving of the operational ‘units’ of theory – away from variance-based propositions or hypotheses to a consideration of events or processes (Cloutier & Langley, 2020). Yet others suggest turning our gaze to the meta-assumptions underpinning a theory and propose a form of theorizing that through problematization and critique prods the field into new ways of conceptualizing and understanding organizations and management (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2013). And again others suggest that the solution lies in considering a different notion of causality than the traditional deterministic ‘nuts and bolts’ of a regression or formal proposition, proposing instead a focus on broader ‘mechanisms’ (Davis & Marquis, 2005) or on a ‘conjunction’ of causes (Fiss, 2011) where the presence of many interacting parts collectively bring forth an effect. Despite these developments, and the continued criticism of the standard model, the classic canon of how we theorize (Whetten, 1989) still persists to this day. For example, despite continued suggestions by AMR editors not to equate theory building with the stating of formal propositions (Kilduff, 2006; Delbridge & Fiss, 2013), the model continues to be the basis of over 80% percent of the papers published in AMR each year (Cornelissen, 2017). In other words, the traditional model seems to have a continuing hold over our practices, and particularly over the ways in which we think about theory and about legitimate theoretical contributions. In this PDW, we aim to raise awareness of viable alternative forms of theorizing, but we aim to do so in ways that give real practical insights and advice on such alternative forms. The reason for this is that we believe that participants will be best served by more practical, hands-on practical insights on the conventions and best practices associated with a particular mode of theorizing besides spotlighting the existence of these modes (as published work has already done). In other words, we want to make the session as practical as possible; so that besides raising awareness of alternative legitimate forms of theorizing, we also give colleagues practical tips as well as the confidence to theorize and write in a different idiom.
KEY TO SYMBOLS Teaching-oriented Teaching-oriented   Practice-oriented Practice-oriented   International-oriented International-oriented   Theme-oriented Theme-oriented   Research-oriented Research-oriented   Teaching-oriented Diversity-oriented
Selected as a Best Paper Selected as a Best Paper