Metaphors and Theory Building in Organization Theory: What Determines the Impact of a Metaphor on Theory?

15 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2008

See all articles by Joep P. Cornelissen

Joep P. Cornelissen

Independent

Mario Kafouros

University of Leeds - Leeds University Business School (LUBS)

Abstract

A long-standing stream of organizational research suggests that our ability to theorize and reason about organizations is significantly influenced by metaphorical representations of organizations. This study contributes to this research stream by examining how different metaphors influence theory development and academic thinking about organizations. We asked scholars from UK business schools to rate different metaphors in terms of their impact on theory building. We then examined whether, and to what extent, these metaphors (after they had been selected) had helped in clarifying and advancing their understanding of organizations. The results indicate that the ability of a metaphor to advance and clarify theoretical understandings of organizations is based upon (1) the degree to which that metaphor is seen to capture multiple salient features of organizations; and (2) the ease with which the metaphor is understood. We discuss the implications of these results for theorizing and research on organizations.

Suggested Citation

Cornelissen, Joep P. and Kafouros, Mario, Metaphors and Theory Building in Organization Theory: What Determines the Impact of a Metaphor on Theory?. British Journal of Management, Vol. 19, Issue 4, pp. 365-379, December 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1297548 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8551.2007.00550.x

Joep P. Cornelissen (Contact Author)

Independent

No Address Available

Mario Kafouros

University of Leeds - Leeds University Business School (LUBS)

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

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