Strategic Management Journal
Strat. Mgmt. J., 28: 935–955 (2007) Published online 22 March 2007 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/smj.615 Received 5 July 2005; Final revision received 23 October 2006
WHAT IS STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT, REALLY? INDUCTIVE DERIVATION OF A CONSENSUS DEFINITION OF THE FIELD RAJIV NAG,1 * DONALD C. HAMBRICK2 and MING-JER CHEN3
1 Sam Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A. 2 Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 3 The Darden School, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S.A.
It is commonly asserted that the ﬁeld of strategic management is fragmented and lacks a coherent identity. This skepticism, however, is paradoxically at odds with the great success that strategic management has enjoyed. How might one explain this paradox? We seek answers to this question by relying ﬁrst on a large-scale survey of strategic management scholars from which we derive an implicit consensual deﬁnition of the ﬁeld—as tacitly held by its members. We then supplement this implicit deﬁnition with an examination of the espoused deﬁnitions of the ﬁeld obtained from a group of boundary-spanning scholars. Our ﬁndings suggest that strategic management’s success as a ﬁeld emerges from an underlying consensus that enables it to attract multiple perspectives, while still maintaining its coherent distinctiveness. Copyright 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
An academic ﬁeld is a socially constructed entity (Hagstrom, 1965; Kuhn, 1962). In comparison to a formal organization, which can be identiﬁed and deﬁned, for instance, by its web of legal contracts (Williamson, 1979), an academic ﬁeld has socially negotiated boundaries and only exists if a critical mass of scholars believe it to exist and adopt a shared conception of its essential meaning (Astley, 1985; Cole, 1983). Such shared meaning is far from assured, however, since various forces can serve to dilute or blur consensus. These forces might include heterogeneity of members’ training, Keywords: strategic management; academic communities; linguistics *Correspondence to: Rajiv Nag, Sam Walton College of Business, WCOB 468, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, U.S.A. E-mail: Rnag@walton.uark.edu
the intellectual pull and hegemony of adjacent ﬁelds, and an ever-shifting body of knowledge and theory (Astley, 1985; Whitley, 1984). Strategic management represents a case of an academic ﬁeld whose consensual meaning might be expected to be fragile, even lacking. The ﬁeld is relatively young, having been abruptly reconceptualized and relabeled—from ‘business policy’—in 1979 (Schendel and Hofer, 1979). Its subjects of interest overlap with several other vigorous ﬁelds, including economics, sociology, marketing, ﬁnance, and psychology (Hambrick, 2004), and its participant members have been trained in widely varying traditions—some in economics departments, some in strategic management departments, some in organizational behavior, some in marketing, and so on. It comes as little surprise, then,
Copyright 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
R. Nag, D. C. Hambrick and M.-J. Chen
Journal (SMJ, the leading journal dedicated to the ﬁeld) and major journals in one of three adjacent ﬁelds: economics, sociology, and marketing. By surveying boundary-spanners, we sought to stringently test the validity of the implicit deﬁnition gained in Study I, as well as to derive an explicit, and perhaps inclusive, deﬁnition of strategic management. We conclude the paper by discussing the implications of our analyses for the ﬁeld and proposing further applications and extensions of our research.
that the published, espoused deﬁnitions of strategic management vary (as we shall review below). And we can anticipate that asking strategic management scholars to deﬁne the ﬁeld might elicit an array of responses. How, then, does the ﬁeld of...
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