Capturing causal complexity: Heuristics for configurational theorizing

Santi Furnari, Donal Crilly, Vilmos F. Misangyi, Thomas Greckhamer, Peer C. Fiss, Ruth V. Aguilera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

271 Scopus citations


Management scholars study phenomena marked by complex interdependencies among multiple explanatory factors that combine to bring aboutan outcomeof interest. Yet, theorizing about causal complexity can prove challenging for the correlational theorizing that is predominant inthe fieldofmanagement, givenits "net effects thinking" that emphasizes theuniquecontributionofindividualexplanatoryfactors. Incontrast,configurationaltheoriesandthinking arewell suited to explaining causally complexphenomena. In this article, we seek to advance configurational theorizing by providing a model of the configurational theorizing process,whichconsists of three iterative stages-scoping, linkingandnaming. Ineachstage,wedevelopandoffer severalheuristics aimedat stimulating configurational theorizing. That is, these theorizing heuristics are intended to help scholarsdiscover configurationsofexplanatory factors,probethe connectionsamongthese factors, and articulate the orchestrating themes that underpin their coherence.We conclude with a discussion of how configurational theorizing advances theory development in the field of management and organizations, and beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)778-799
Number of pages22
JournalAcademy of Management Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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