Abrahamson, E. (1996). Management Fashion. Academy of Management Review, 21, 1, 254-285

Topics: Management, Fashion Pages: 56 (15599 words) Published: August 24, 2013
Management Fashion Author(s): Eric Abrahamson Source: The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp. 254-285 Published by: Academy of Management Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/258636 . Accessed: 24/08/2013 23:34 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

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c Academy of Management Review 1996, Vol. 21, No. 1. 254-285.

ERICABRAHAMSON Columbia University
Management fashion setters disseminate management fashions, transitory collective beliefs that certain management techniques are at the forefront of management progress. These fashion settersconsulting firms, management gurus, business mass-media publicanot simply force fashions onto gulltions, and business schools-do ible managers. To sustain their images as fashion setters, they must lead in a race (a) to sense the emergent collective preferences of managers for new management techniques, (b) to develop rhetorics that describe these techniques as the forefront of management progress, and (c) to disseminate these rhetorics back to managers and organizational stakeholders before other fashion setters. Fashion setters who fall behind in this race (e.g., business schools or certain scholarly professional societies) are condemned to be perceived as lagging rather than leading management progress, as peripheral to the business community, and as undeserving of societal support. This article is not a plea for business school scholars to become slaves to management fashion. Rather, it urges these scholars not only to study the management-fashion-setting process and to explain when and how it fails to serve shareholders, employees, managers, students, and other stakeholders, but also to intervene in this process in order to render it a more technically useful, collective learning process for these stakeholders.

Modes, vogues, fads, fashions, rages, and crazes frequently revolutionize many aspects of cultural life. Theories of fashion, however, focus narrowly on fashions in aesthetic forms which, like clothing or haute cuisine, gratify our senses and emotional well-being. This focus on aesthetic fashions has two consequences. First, it confines fashion studies either to forms that have traditionally been considered trivial, such as men's beards (Robinson, 1976)or to forms that are traditionally associated with women or children: dresses (Barthes, 1983;Richardson & Kroeber, 1940), interior design, cooking, or children's names and toys (Lauer & Lauer, 1981). Second, theories of fashion in aesthetic forms are used unmodified to explain fashions in technical forms, such as management techniques. The author would like to thank Barbara Czarniawska-Joerges in particular for encouraging and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. Thanks also to three anonymous AMR reviewers, Warren Boeker, Anders Forsell, Donald Hambrick, Bernward Joerges, Jim Kuhn, Rita McGrath, Kerstin Sahlin-Anderson, Tony Spibey, Richard Rottenburg, Guje Sevon, Pamela Tolbert, Michael Tushman, and Ruth Wageman. 254

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These theories of management fashion suggest that...

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