Brilliant But Neglected Articles

11 July 2007 at 12:17 am 13 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

Because markets for science hardly work perfectly, a certain number of papers that are truly excellent will tend to be overlooked. The scientific community may collectively commit Type 1 errors, or may simply overlook certain papers because they were published at a time when the interests of the community were elsewhere, or were published in obscure journals, or in non-English languages, etc. etc.

Here are some of those papers I would nominate for the category of “brilliant, but neglected articles” (modesty prevents me from including any of my own papers):

  • Steven A. Lippman and Richard P. Rumelt. 2003. “A Bargaining Perspective on Resource Advantage” and “The Payments Perspective: Micro-Foundations of Resource Analysis,” both in Strategic Management Journal. Perhaps the two most important articles in strategic management over the last decade. 51 and 45 hits on google scholar, respectively.
  • Jerker Denrell, Christina Fang and Sidney Winter. 2003. “The Economics of Strategic Opportunity,” Strategic Management Journal. Almost as path-breaking as the above papers by Lippman and Rumelt. 41 google scholar hits.
  • Robert Cooter. 1982. “The Cost of Coase.” Journal of Legal Studies. Great title, great paper. 48 hits.
  • Yoram Barzel. 1994. “The Capture of Wealth by Monopolists and the Protection of Property Rights,” International Review of Law and Economics. Brilliant extension of the rent-seeking literature. 33 hits on google scholar (mainly cites by N Foss and K Foss).
  • Kirk Monteverde. 1995. “Technical Dialog as an Incentive for Vertical Integration in the Semiconductor Industry,” Management Science. The foundation for the capabilities view of the boundaries of the firm. Only 85 google scholar hits.

Please, nominate a couple of papers that you think are truly excellent contributions to economics and/or management but which nobody knows of/cites.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Recommended Reading.

Empirical Research in the RBV Workshop in Economic Methodology

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Economists  |  11 July 2007 at 2:51 am

    […] Blog post today: Nicolai Foss, of the Copenhagen Business School, blogging on Organizations and Markets about the imperfect market for brilliant economics articles […]

  • 2. Steve Phelan  |  11 July 2007 at 3:07 am

    I also enjoyed the Lippman and Rumelt papers. The Denrell paper does a great job of translating Austrian insights into the language of strategic management theory. I have to say I haven’t read the last three papers but you have given me a mission. :-)

    Your post also got me thinking about why particular papers don’t see the light of day. I tend to lay the problem at the feet of Audience and Motivation.

    By Audience, I mean the potential pool of readers who may be able to comprehend (and then appreciate) the particular subtleties of a paper. I would argue that the papers you have cited from SMJ place demands on readers beyond the level of the average PhD survey course in strategic management.

    I would then point to Motivation to explain why some topics get preference in doctoral courses over others. Extrinsic motivators include recruitment, tenure, promotion, merit raises, and other forms of recognition. Arguably, papers in prestigious journals and citations drive the reward system. Of course, citations are highly correlated with placement in prestigious journals.

    I would argue that perceived “path of least resistance” to top journal success is a) getting a large (secondary) data set, b) running the data mining tool of choice, and c) selecting the theory that best fits the results (at the 0.05 level of course) and then claim to be testing (confirming) the theory.

    Perhaps I am being too cynical but ask yourself when was the last time we seriously discussed the “fundamental issues in strategy”? (Perhaps a link here to the other post today on the lack of review articles in RBV). I bet that PhD students are taking many more courses in methodology than strategic and organization theory.

    My point is that if research is data-driven then who cares about improving theory. Theory is just a crutch to explain ultimately sterile results.

    Just my $0.02 worth

  • 3. Steve Phelan  |  11 July 2007 at 3:16 am

    Oh, by the way, I think Tom Powell’s work in SMJ is underappreciated:

    . The philosophy of strategy
    . Competitive advantage: logical and philosophical considerations
    . Strategy without ontology

  • 4. Joseph Mahoney  |  11 July 2007 at 8:38 am

    There are many to choose from, but I nominate he following two articles:

    Klein, Peter G. (2001). “Were the Acquisitive Conglomerates Inefficient?” RAND JOURNAL OF ECONOMICS

    Ziedonis ,Rosemarie H.(2004). “Don’t Fence Me In: Fragmented Markets for Technologies and the Patent Acquisition Strategies of Firms” MANAGEMENT SCIENCE

  • 5. David Hoopes  |  11 July 2007 at 9:25 am

    I don’t think you are being cynical. To wit:

    “I would argue that perceived “path of least resistance” top journal success is
    c) selecting the theory that best fits the results (at the 0.05 level of course) and then claim to be testing (confirming) the theory.”

    This “fits” my recent experience quite well. Steve Postrel and I have met a great deal of resistance when we discuss why our results were NOT what we expected.

  • 6. Nicolai Foss  |  12 July 2007 at 4:24 am


    Very good comments! I am not surprised that you liked the Lippman and Rumelt papers. In some ways, they are quite close to your — earlier — work with Peter Lewin, e.g., the notion of “simple rent” in L&R seems to be similar to your points concerning rents (drawing on Frank Fetter). (Perhaps I should have nominated Lewin&Phelan along the other papers …). It would be interesting to hear whether you tried to publish Lewin&Phelan in a mainstream strategic management journal,
    and what was the reactions…

    On the audience issue you are likely right. There is a horror story that when Rumelt originally presented the ideas that became Lippman & Rumelt at an SMS plenary (in 2000?), half of the audience left the room.

    Like David, I don’t think you are at all too cynical in your portrayal of empirical research practice in strategic management.

  • 7. Steve Phelan  |  15 July 2007 at 2:47 am

    Yes, Nicolai, there is indeed so similarities between the L&R article and our own. And, yes, we have some horror stories of sending it to mainstream journals :-) Certain adherents of the RBV viewed the paper as some sort of heresy (particulalry the criticisms of the VRIO model) even though we were only trying to advance RBV theory.

    I am currently reading “A Short History in Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. He has so many cases of major scientific breakthroughs that were ignored or actively suppressed for decades that I am not suprised by the petty squabbles we have in management theory. :-)

  • 8. c  |  18 July 2007 at 8:04 am

    It would be interesting to think about the opposite case as well. “Classic” papers that are dramatically overrated . . .

  • 9. Peter Klein  |  18 July 2007 at 8:06 am

    A post on exactly this is coming soon!

  • 10. David Hoopes  |  20 July 2007 at 10:09 am

    Rumelt at SMS. I would be surprised if Rumelt presented any of this at SMS. He presented it at a mini conference at SMU 2002, but no one walked out (there were only about 20 of us and there was nowhere to go). I don’t think they started writing it much before that.

  • 11. Morton Slonim  |  15 August 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Any of a number of papers by Michael Gort

  • 12. David Hoopes  |  18 February 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I often wish people would read Danny Miller’s paper which is in the same issue as the Lippman and Rumelt and Jenrell et al.. Danny’s paper is a great complement to the Jenrell paper.

    Everything by Sid Winter. Even when it’s cited enough I just don’t think people are listening. I think Sid’s way ahead of the field on so many things.

  • 13. Nicolai Foss  |  19 February 2010 at 9:28 am

    David — is ANYTHING by Sid Winter “neglected”? He has 32,000 google scholar citations (the 1982 book’s got a whopping 15,200!!). Jay Barney has the same. (OK, Mintzberg has 10k more, and Porter has got more than 100k; surprisingly, Rumelt has less than 10k in total). Isn’t he generally recognized as the doyen of the knowledge literature in strat man and perhaps in management at large? I would actually think of Sid as perhaps _the_ dominant figure in moden strategic management research. I think his fusion of evolutionism, behavioralism and knowledge ideas is pretty much our dominant perspective (more so than the “high church” RBV of the early Barney and Peteraf papers).

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