Renewing Research on Problemistic Search – A Review and Research Agenda
Academy of Management Annals, Forthcoming
97 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 28, 2017
Problemistic search theory, with its roots in the Carnegie School tradition, describes a behaviorally plausible process by which firms learn from performance feedback. A firm’s recognition of performance below aspirations leads to search for a solution to the problem, resulting in change intended to restore performance to the aspired level. The concept of problemistic search has diffused broadly in the management literature — it is a central theoretical concept in a broad variety of organizational theories, and an important explanation of a wide variety of organizational behaviors and outcomes. We review the literature and argue that the development of the theory has not kept pace with the breadth of the unfolding literature. We identify six critical issues with extant research that can be traced back to a continued (over) reliance on the initial conceptualization of problemistic search. To address these issues and to revitalize research, we propose a research agenda premised on a more central role for cognition in the theory and the need for greater emphasis on a process perspective of problemistic search.
Keywords: problemistic search, learning, firm performance, performance feedback, behavioral theory of the firm
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