Moving forward: Developing theoretical contributions in management studies


Journal of Management Studies

September 2014, vol. 51, n°6, pp.995-1022

Departments: Strategy & Business Policy, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: Theory, Theoretical contribution, Analogy, Counterfactuals, Management research

How do we, as management researchers, develop novel theoretical contributions and, thereby, potentially break new ground in management studies? To address this question, we review previous methodological work on theorizing and advance a typology of the reasoning processes that underlie theoretical contributions and significant advances in management studies. This typology consists of various types of analogical and counterfactual reasoning, ranging from focused thought experiments aimed at prodding existing theory in the direction of alternative assumptions, constructs, and hypotheses to more expansive efforts for inducing new theoretical models and alternative explanations. Applying this typology, we detail the mechanisms behind the formation of novel theoretical contributions and illustrate the currency of our typology through a review of 24 major theoretical breakthroughs in management studies. We conclude the paper by discussing the implications of this typology for our collective efforts in building, elaborating, and expanding theory in management studies