Renewing Research on Problemistic Search – A Review and Research Agenda

Academy of Management Annals, Forthcoming

97 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017

See all articles by Hart E. Posen

Hart E. Posen

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thomas Keil

University of Zurich - Department of Business Administration

Sangyun Kim

University of Wisconsin - Madison

Felix Meissner

University of Zurich; University of St. Gallen

Date Written: October 28, 2017

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Posen, Hart E. and Keil, Thomas and Kim, Sangyun and Meissner, Felix, Renewing Research on Problemistic Search – A Review and Research Agenda (October 28, 2017). Academy of Management Annals, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3061285

Hart E. Posen (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

Madison, WI
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://wsb.wisc.edu/directory/faculty/hart-posen

Thomas Keil

University of Zurich - Department of Business Administration ( email )

Seilergraben 53
Zurich, CH-8001
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://www.business.uzh.ch/professorships/international-management/team/keil.html

Sangyun Kim

University of Wisconsin - Madison ( email )

716 Langdon Street
Madison, WI 53706-1481
United States

Felix Meissner

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

University of St. Gallen ( email )

Bodanstrasse 6
St Gallen, 9000
Switzerland

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