Organization theory is a paradoxical field of scientific inquiry. It has struggled for more than fifty years to develop a unified theory of organizational effectiveness under girded by a coherent set of assumptions, and it has thus far failed to produce one. Yet, by other standards it is simultaneously a tremendously successful field. It has great intellectual mobilizing powers and its publications - journals as well as books - are highly esteemed. In this address I attempt to unravel this paradox by discussing the field’s considerable pathologies, such as its tendency towards theoretical fragmentation and methodological factionalism, as well as its formidable strengths, like the endlessly intriguing questions it asks itself and the considerable ambidexterity with which it handles pluralism problems. Most importantly, however, I propose three overarching methodological strategies with which organization theorists can address the problems currently hampering their field. First, I argue that greater integration amongst extant theories might be reached by exploring hidden moderators that can produce contradictory research findings across macro social contexts. Second, the field can improve upon its theoretical relevance by discovering and acknowledging the stylized facts of organizational life. Third, we can collectively increase our under standing of organization a phenomena by exploring the micro foundations of our macro theories. In short, if we dared to ruffle our methodological feathers, the prospects for the organization theory field could be very bright indeed.

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Erasmus Research Institute of Management
ERIM Inaugural Address Series Research in Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Heugens, P. (2008, September 12). Organization Theory: Bright Prospects for a Permanently Failing Field. ERIM Inaugural Address Series Research in Management. Retrieved from