Capturing Causal Complexity: Heuristics for Configurational Theorizing

50 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2022

See all articles by Santi Furnari

Santi Furnari

City University London - The Business School (formerly Cass)

Donal Crilly

London Business School - Department of Strategic & International Management

Vilmos F. Misangyi

The Pennsylvania State University

Thomas Greckhamer

Louisiana State University

Peer C. Fiss

University of Southern California - Management and Organization Department

Ruth V. Aguilera

Northeastern University - Department of International Business and Strategy

Date Written: 2021

Abstract

Management scholars study phenomena marked by complex interdependencies where multiple explanatory factors combine to bring about an outcome of interest. Yet, theorizing about causal complexity can prove challenging for the correlational theorizing that is predominant in the field of management, given its “net effects thinking” that emphasizes the unique contribution of individual explanatory factors. In contrast, configurational theories and thinking are well-suited to explaining causally complex phenomena. In this article, we seek to advance configurational theorizing by providing a model of the configurational theorizing process which consists of three iterative stages—scoping, linking and naming. In each stage, we develop and offer several heuristics aimed at stimulating configurational theorizing. That is, these theorizing heuristics are intended to help scholars discover configurations of explanatory factors, probe the connections among these factors, and articulate the orchestrating themes that underpin their coherence. We conclude with a discussion of how configurational theorizing advances theory development in the field of management and organizations, and beyond.

Keywords: theorizing, theory building, configurational approach, configurational theory, causal complexity, heuristics

Suggested Citation

Furnari, Santi and Crilly, Donal and F. Misangyi, Vilmos and Greckhamer, Thomas and Fiss, Peer C. and Aguilera, Ruth V., Capturing Causal Complexity: Heuristics for Configurational Theorizing (2021). Academy of Management Review, 46: 778-799, 2021, Northeastern U. D’Amore-McKim School of Business Research Paper No. 4158028, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4158028 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4158028

Santi Furnari

City University London - The Business School (formerly Cass)

Donal Crilly

London Business School - Department of Strategic & International Management ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

Vilmos F. Misangyi

The Pennsylvania State University

Thomas Greckhamer

Louisiana State University

Peer C. Fiss (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Management and Organization Department ( email )

Bridge Hall 306
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States
213 821 1471 (Phone)
213 740 3582 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~fiss/

Ruth V. Aguilera

Northeastern University - Department of International Business and Strategy ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

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