The Extreme Makeover of the AMR

22 April 2009 at 10:19 am 3 comments

| 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?

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Management Theory.

Macroeconomics Quote of the Day Diversity of Opinion at the University of Missouri

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. REW  |  23 April 2009 at 10:19 am

    The content of this issue of AMR is shocking, perhaps even more avant-garde than you intimate above, Nicolai. More card-carrying economists are represented in this issue than in any yearly volume since I joined AoM. In response to your first question: I suspect that we will pay for this issue in the short run run by reversion toward of the prior state of nature. The micro-org theory and OB mobs will have to have special issues that are contrapuntal.

    I am worried that if some of the threads of inquiry in this issue are followed, the community of scholars around them (especially the eco-logical formalists) will be small, self-referential, and cliquish. This stifles implied intent of having cross-disciplinary scientific conversation.

    Maybe I am just a pessimist. But I did like many of the articles in the SI and I appreciate the effort the authors and editors made to get these papers to the level of quality they evince.

  • 2. Richard Makadok  |  16 June 2010 at 5:29 am

    Hi, Nicolai.

    An update: Russ Coff and I were just notified that our hybrid-governance article in this special issue has won the 2009 AMR Best Paper Award.

    We would especially like to thank Mike Ryall, the special-issue co-editor who handled our paper, for his great assistance in helping us to navigate the review process.


  • 3. Nicolai Foss  |  16 June 2010 at 5:31 am

    Wow! Congrats!! Certainly deserved!

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