The Extreme Makeover of the AMR
| Nicolai Foss |
I just received my copy of the April issue of the Academy of Management Review, stuffed with matrices, probability density functions, NKC models, Boolean algebra, isoquants, Max This and Max That, etc. etc. Yes — that’s right: The Academy of Management Review, the journal that over the last decade has only published one single formal article.
Of course, this is the long-awaited special issue, “Special Topic Forum on Formal Approaches to Management Theory,” edited by Ron Adner, Laszlo Polos, Michael Ryall, and Olav Sorenson. (One of the papers has already been extensively discussed here at O&M). The papers are a mixed bag in terms of the formal approaches that are applied, i.e., analytic methods, simulation, and formal logic. I have only read a couple of the papers (Alvarez & Parker on “Emerging Firms and the Allocation of Control Rights: a Bayesian Approach”) and Postrel’s “Multitasking Teams with Variable Complementarity: Challenges for Capability Management,” which both are excellent, but I look forward to reading the rest.
The editors supply an introduction which reiterates the often claimed benefits — familiar to those with an economics background — of formalization in terms of precision and transparency, logical consistency, and unanticipated implications (for a general treatment, see Suppes’s 1968 classic). They are careful to say that they “would not claim that verbal theorizing . . . has no place in management research”! (p. 206).
Among the possible questions that this special issue provokes are these:
- Is this extreme makeover of the AMR an isolated event — or, will we see formal papers in the AMR on a more regular basis (I hope so)?
- Contributors to the AMR include scholars with backgrounds in many diverse disciplines. Those with an economics background has an absolute advantage in terms of doing formal research. Does this mean that the formal work that will be published in the AMR will be strongly economics-biased? (The majority of contributors to the present SI are, to my knowledge, economists).
- AMR wants to publish papers that break new theoretical ground and is inter-field and perhaps inter-disciplinary. Does “natural language” have certain benefits in this regard? Does AMR becoming a bit more like Management Science threathen this ambition?