Professor Murmann's Blog: Marrying History and Social Science in Strategy Research

Marrying History and Social Science in Strategy Research

Strategy research at its core tries to explain sustained performance differences among firms. This article argues that one, out of the many, ways to create a productive marriage between strategy research and historical scholarship is to carry out historically informed comparative studies of how firms and industries gain and lose their competitive position. While much of current strategy research adopts a large N hypothesis testing mode with the implicit assumption that one discovers generalization just like a Newtonian law such as F=m*a that applies across all space and time, an historically grounded methodology starts from the opposite direction. It assumes that a process or event may be idiosyncratic and therefore seeks to establish with detailed evidence that a 2nd (and later 3rd, 4th, ...nth) process or event is indeed similar before generalizing across observations. The article argues that the field of strategy would benefit from allocating more effort on building causal generalizations inductively from well-researched case studies, seeking to establish their boundary conditions. It articulates a comparative research program that outlines such an approach for the arena of industry and firm evolution studies.  Download Article.