Progress and its Discontents: Data Scarcity and the Limits of Falsification in Strategic Management

Advances in Strategic Management, pp. 113-150, 1995

Posted: 11 Jun 2011

See all articles by Joseph Lampel

Joseph Lampel

Alliance Manchester Business School

Zur Shapira

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics; New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior

Date Written: 1995

Abstract

The lack of cumulative progress in strategic management has been blamed by some leading researchers on the methodological immaturity of the field. These researchers argue that strategic management should move beyond reliance on eclectic and informal empiricism, to a conscious emphasis on formulating falsifiable theories and hypotheses. In this paper we survey the debate between researchers who call for the adoption of falsification as a criterion of empirical testability, and others who resist what they see as the imposition of methodological conformity. We show that in spite of their differences, both sides share a concern with cumulative progress. We argue that "evolutionary epistemology" - an approach to explaining scientific progress that derives from Popper's original ideas - represents a useful perspective from which to examine the current obstacles facing strategic management. Using evolutionary epistemology, we examine the research process in strategic management. We suggest that data constraints are driving the evolution of strategic management by conferring benefits on question focused research programs, while penalizing domain focused research programs. Specifically, the increased emphasis on rigor has meant that research programs whose hypotheses can be rigorously tested with readily available data are displacing research programs that deal with issues for which data requirements are very costly. We conclude by pointing out that attempts to enhance the scientific status of strategic management by emulating other successful fields could lead to loss of relevance and theoretical sterility.

Keywords: strategic management, evolutionary psychology, logical empiricism, research programs

Suggested Citation

Lampel, Joseph and Shapira, Zur, Progress and its Discontents: Data Scarcity and the Limits of Falsification in Strategic Management (1995). Advances in Strategic Management, pp. 113-150, 1995, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1862666

Joseph Lampel (Contact Author)

Alliance Manchester Business School ( email )

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Zur Shapira

Leonard N. Stern School of Business - Department of Economics ( email )

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New York, NY 10012
United States

New York University (NYU) - Department of Management and Organizational Behavior ( email )

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