Evolutionary and Darwinian Methodological Endeavours in Management Research

15th EURAM Conference, Warsaw, Poland, June 2015

 

Nurturing Novelty: Toulmin’s Greenhouse, Journal Rankings and the Evolution of Knowledge

Doug Renwick (Sheffield University, UK), Dermot Breslin (Sheffield University, UK) and Ilfryn Price (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)

Using Toulmin’s seminal work on the evolution of knowledge to provide a theoretical contribution, this paper details the relationship between journal ranking lists and the emergence of novelty in research. We argue that the formal and informal use of rankings throughout the hierarchy of research institutions can have a potentially damaging impact on the eventual trajectories taken by the evolution of knowledge. Such rankings can result in biased selection processes, which in turn seem to create an artificial environment within which favoured ‘branches’ of knowledge continue to flourish, at the expense of new conceptual saplings. This ‘greenhouse’ effect might result in the creation of a knowledge tree which is increasingly unfit to the external world for which it is intended. In conclusion we take a further step back and examine the wider implications of these factors on the broader issue of REF-based research ‘impact’. In sum, we argue that journal ranking lists appear to reduce academic innovation and creativity, bias academic selection pressures and constrain dissemination and retention process in the academic community.

 

Evolutionary Models of HRM in Japanese Multinationals in Poland

Tomasz Olejniczak (Kozminski University, Poland)

In this article we present results of an empirical study of the process of HRM development in 12 Japanese manufacturing companies located in Poland. Results provide interesting insights into the issue of internal between fit HRM and Japanese manufacturing practices as well as external fits between HRM and company profile and strategy. Although we managed to confirm the inherent logic supporting existing evolutionary models of HRM, case study analysis of individual subsidiaries has revealed that the process of HRM evolution in is far from being homogenous both in terms of speed and the order of occurrence.

 

Investigating the Uncertainty of New International Ventures via Micro Marketing Discourse Research: A Case of Mixed E-Commerce and Physical channels

Sarah Pia Koenig (Sheffield Business School, UK) and Jameson Gill (Sheffield Business School, UK)

In this article we demonstrate the value of studying organisational contexts, which are characterised by uncertainty, via the micro discourse approach to research. By adopting the approach, we study a business to business case of internationalisation via the mixed channels of a physical office in the new territory supported by the parent company’s domestic website. We describe and problematise some of the foundational theories that have been applied through survey research in the macro level study of such phenomena. We then show how the micro discourse approach can help to develop rich insights into specific situated contexts where local uncertainty impinges on management decisions. The findings, which are grounded in a period of ethnography at the firm in question and developed through a thematic analysis, show how management dilemmas might develop in local contexts. The value of the work lies in the thick description of a firm’s culture which might inform practice and further study.

 

Operational Routines in Emergency Incident Response Handling

Stephen Dobson (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) and Dermot Breslin (Sheffield University, UK)

The research presented here examines the narrative log of calls and incidents in a Fire and Rescue emergency service. The sequence of these logs form procedural routines for incident handling in real-time which may be compiled through sequence analysis to establish patterns of incident handling behaviour. This paper offers important insight through its use of emergency service narrative logs which are automatically recorded as call operative’s deal with incidents. The narrative log provides a rich source of real-time continuous sequential data supporting investigation into organizational routines. Findings point to the existence of different patterns of behaviour in emergency call handling within the group.

 

Co-Evolutionary Dynamics in the Music Industry

Vincenzo Uli (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy)

What effects does radical innovation produce on the dialectical relationship between enterprises and their environment? In this paper we discuss about this topic through the case represented by the evolution of the music industry. Adopting the conceptual and methodological framework constituted by the adaptation matrix, we divide the history of the music industry into two main periods. Through using the static configuration of the adaptation matrix, we initially analyze the first period, which goes from the beginning of the 20th century to 1999. In this way, we provide a descriptive view of the industry context. Through using the dynamic configuration of the adaptation matrix, we then analyze the second period, which goes from 1999 to 2013. In this way, we attempt to identify possible co-evolutionary adaptation paths, namely virtuous or contradictory adaptation cycles. We present the paper as a critical interpretation of the major changes that have occurred in the music industry. The paper should appeal to all the industry stakeholders. It also contributes to the debate about co-evolution as it is an empirical implementation of the adaptation matrix and sheds light on the main environmental dynamics.

 

The Evolution of Retail Formats from a Common Origin – Investigating a Century of Swedish Sporting Goods Retailing

Johan Kask (Örebro University, Sweden) and Frans Prenkert (Örebro University, Sweden)

Empirical studies that explicitly draw on a General Darwinism (GD) mode of explanation is hard to find and the field of management is hampered by the heterogeneity and mix of investigations subsumed under the general heading of ‘evolutionary theory’. Among the GD studies that do exist, most research efforts have been devoted to generalizing Darwinism away from biology, and to discuss how adaptive fit comes about thereby highlighting concepts rather than empirical research. Less focus has been directed towards the accumulation of design variety and evolution from a common origin. Particularly, the accumulation of design variety (such as business concepts, retail formats, and other socio-economic entities) from some common origin is painstakingly under-researched. This paper addresses this by drawing on a rich longitudinal case, reporting on the evolution of the sporting goods sector in Sweden during a century. The case serves as the empirical base for the application of GD to investigate the accumulation of design variety from a common origin in the sporting goods retail set; where the retail set is seen as an open adaptive multi-final system. Our findings indicate that being able to attain ‘closures’, that is, finding ways to close off a section of the sector, becomes a crucial resource for the individual actors. We discern the evolutionary mechanism taking the designs from generalists to specialists. It seems easier for the individual actor to become specialized if the resource context to which it needs to relate is smaller because it makes it easier to control and influence. Yet, this also implicates that this actor becomes more dependent on that particular resource context and also more susceptible to impact and influences from it. The relationship is reciprocal and specialisation always entails specialisation in relation to something – in our case to a closed off specific resource context.

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