Causal Identification in Management Research
| Peter Klein |
Mike Ryall writes about the 2011 HBS strategy conference:
Of the empirical papers, almost half incorporated some method aimed at causal identification. My sense is that such identification strategies will soon become a fairly standard requirement for publication in a top management journal (“soon” being measured in academic time, of course).
We’ve discussed this issue several times, including a 2008 post on the potential tradeoffs between choosing problems that are well-identified and choosing problems that are important. I agree with Mike that the management and entrepreneurship literatures — at least the quantitative empirical part of those literatures — are catching up the economists here. But consider the advantages of backwardness: can management research learn to take identification seriously without falling into the Freakonomics trap? (Please, no Freakostrategy or Super-Freakopreneurship!)
Of course, management and entrepreneurship researchers, unlike most economists, tend to sympathize with (or at least tolerate) qualitative methods, and one legitimate means of generating causal inference is careful, detailed, historical investigation, case work, ethnography, analytical narrative, and so on. I suspect, though, that the trend Mike describes will tend to push these approaches to the side as well.