The field of management's devotion to theory: Too much of a good thing?

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I suspect that many members of our field, including those in leadership positions, believe that our hypercommitment to theory - and particularly the requirement that every article must contribute to theory - is somehow on the side of the angels. They may believe that this is a hallmark of a serious field. They may believe that theory is good and that the "mere" description of phenomena and generation of facts are bad. Worse yet, they may have given no thought to these matters, accepting our field's zeal about theory as simply part of the cosmos. My aim has been to promote a rethinking of these positions. Theory is critically important for our field, and we should remain committed to it. And, for sure, the greatest acclaim will always go to those who develop breakthrough theories. So there is plenty of incentive to keep working on theory. But it takes much more than theory for an academic field to advance. Indeed, various types of atheoretical or pretheoretical work can be instrumental in allowing theory to emerge or develop. Thus, our insistence in the field of management that all papers contribute to theory may actually have the unintended perverse effect of stymying the discovery of important theories. More broadly, this norm - or policy, really - is holding back our field. Copyright of the Academy of Management, all rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1346-1352
Number of pages7
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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