Strategic Management of Fault Lines, Contradictions, and Divergences
The SMS Conference in Istanbul coincides with the 30th anniversary of the highly influential edited volume of Fundamental Issues in Strategy: A Research Agenda, published in 1994. In its introduction, the editors, Richard P. Rumelt, Dan E. Schendel, and David J. Teece, define strategic management as an “interdisciplinary subject” that “may never enter an era of “normal science” by settling on a paradigm and exploring its implications.
The editors further predicted that “perhaps strategic management is pre-paradigmatic, …, probably always offer[ing] shifting perspectives and relatively incommensurable research approaches.” Consequently, Rumelt, Schendel, and Teece identified “four fundamental issues posed in the form of questions [to] help define the field of strategic management”: How do firms behave? Why are firms different? What is the function of, or value added by, the headquarters unit in a multibusiness firm? What determines the success or failure of the firm in international competition?
They were right. The strategic management field did not converge to a single paradigm to represent another “Khunian model of science.” Instead, the field evolved with new paradigms, methodologies, and new questions. As evidenced by the number of interest groups in SMS, strategic management branched into sub-areas by building on the fundamentals of economics, sociology, psychology, and other fields. With this proliferation of different paradigms, the field expanded to include different units of analyses beyond firms, such as knowledge, relationships, individuals, and ecosystems. In isolation, these paradigms are consistent with their respective disciplinary roots. However, as part of the strategic management field, the integrated view reveals conceptual fault lines, contradictory predictions and prescriptions, and divergences between theories and practice.
In the meantime, some fundamental concepts that strategic management takes for granted in formulating those four questions and their extensions have become debatable. Globalization is no longer a global anthem; the world is moving from a unipolar state to an undecided but tumultuous period of competition among the emerging blocks of nation-states. Despite the anti-trust regulations, global or otherwise, industries are dominated by mega-firms with access to progressively granular data about their markets, customers, employees, and governments. Governments identify some foreign firms as national security threats in addition to sanctioning them, and multinational firms sanction nation-states depending on their home country’s foreign policies. Multinational firms increasingly must reconcile often opposing demands from their home versus host governments in a rapidly polarized and conflict-prone world. Distinctions between for-profit firms and not-for-profit organizations are mainly superficial since for-profit firms pursue not-for-profit investments, and not-for-profit organizations have sizable profits and invest in profit-generating opportunities.
In 1994, the emergence of fault lines, divergences, and contradictions among the paradigms of strategic management that are often unchallenged or even unrecognized was not predictable. Not surprisingly, each paradigm also commands its echo chambers and silos in scholarship and practice. While efficient, this type of specialization can potentially diminish the wealth of valuable insights that can emerge from constraining these paradigms with each other– that, by finding ways to straddle multiple paradigms in practice, is how firms precisely survive and grow.
This conference examines these and other fault lines, contradictions, and divergences among strategic management paradigms in scholarship and practice. İstanbul, Türkiye, with deep historical roots in multiple civilizations across millennia, is perhaps the best location for this theme. The city has inspired countless thinkers with its beauty in the concurrence and amalgamation of literal and figurative contradictions, divergences, and fault lines. We hope the conference’s theme and location will similarly inspire strategic management scholars, practitioners, and students.
Conference Program Chairs:
- Asli M. Arikan, Kent State University
- Şuhnaz Yılmaz Özbağcı, Koc University
- Nilhan Onal Gökçetekin, CEO of Hepsiburada