Anda di halaman 1dari 145

Science defined

Science is an enterprise by which a particular kind of ordered knowledge is obtained about natural phenomena by means of controlled observations and theoretical interpretations.

Ideally, this science , lives up to the following : 1.The definitions are precise 2.The data collecting is objective 3.The findings are replicable 4.The approach is systemic and cumulative 5.The purposes are understanding and prediction, plus , in the applied arena, control (Berelson and Steiner , 1964)

The usually accepted goals of scientific effort are to increase understanding and to facilitate prediction (Dubin, 1978).

At its best, science will achieve both of these goals.

The Role of Theory in Science

Scientific method evolves in ascending levels of abstractions (Brown and Ghieselli, 1955).

At the most basic level it portrays and retains experience in symbols.

The symbols may be mathematical, but to date in organizational Behavior they have been primarily linguistic.

Once converted to symbols, experience may be mentally manipulated , and relationships may be established.

Description utilizes symbols to classify , order and correlate events.

It remains at a low level of abstraction and is closely tied to observation and sensory experience .

In essence it is a matter of ordering symbols to make them adequately portray events. The objective is to answer What questions.

Explanation moves to a higher level of abstraction in that it attempts to establish meanings behind events.

It attempts to identify causal , or at least concommitment, relationships so that observed phenomena make some logical sense.

Theory defined

At its maximal point, explanation creates theory

Scientific theory is a patterning of logical constructs or interrelated symbolic concepts, into which the known facts regarding a phenomenon, or theoretical domain, may be fitted.

A theory is a generalization, applicable within stated boundaries, that specifies the relationships between factors.

Thus it is an attempt to make sense out of observations that in and of themselves do not contain any inherent and obvious logic (Dubin 1976).

The objective is to answer how , when, and why questions.

Since theory is so central to science, a certain amount of repetition related to this topic, may be forgiven

Campell (1990) defines theory as a collection of assertions, both verbal and symbolic , that identifies what variables are important for what reasons, specifies how they are interrelated and why, and identifies the conditions under which they should be related or not .

It can have implications that we have not previously seen and that run counter to our common sense.

How theory works

A theory is a system of constructs and variables with the constructs related to one another by propositions and the variables by hypotheses.

The whole is bounded by the assumptions, both implicit and explicit, that the theorist holds with regard to the theory (Bacharach 1989).

Theoretical boundaries Established In terms of values, spaces , Cultures And times e.t.c, to which a theory applies

Figure 1. The components of theories and how they function

Constructs are terms which, though not observational either directly or indirectly, maybe applied or even defined on the basis of the observables (Kaplan 1964, 55).

They are abstractions created to facilitate understanding.

Variables are observable, they have multiple values, and they derive from constructs.

In essence, they are operationalizations of constructs created to permit testing of hypotheses.

In contrast to the abstract constructs, variables are concrete.

Propositions are statements of relationships among constructs.

Hypotheses are statements of relationships among variables.

Research attempts to refute or confirm hypotheses, not propositions per se.

All theories occupy a domain within which they should prove effective and outside of which they should not.

The domain-defining, bounding assumptions (Figure 1) are in part a product of the implicit values held by the theorist relative to the theoretical content.

These values typically go unstated, and, if that is the case, they cannot be measured.

Spatial boundaries restrict the effective use of the theory to specific units, such as types of organizations or kinds of people.

Among these, cultural boundaries are particularly important for theory (Cheng, Sculli, and Chan 2001).

Temporal boundaries restrict the effective use of the theory to specific time periods.

To the extent they are explicitly stated, spatial and temporal boundaries can be measured and thus made operational.

These boundary-defining factors need not operate only to specify the domain of a theory, however; all may serve in stating propositions and hypotheses as well.

For example, time has recently received considerable attention as a variable that may enter into hypotheses (George and Jones 2000; Mitchell and James 2001).

Organizational behavior has often been criticized for utilizing highly ambiguous theoretical constructs it is not at all clear what they mean (see, e.g., Sandelands and Drazin 1989).

This same ambiguity can extend to boundary definitions and domain statements.

The important point, however, is that science does not condone this type of theoretical ambiguity.

Precise definitions are needed to make science effective (Locke 2003).

A theory that resorts to ambiguity is to that extent a poor theory.


Science must make certain assumptions about the world around us.

These assumptions might not be factually true, and to the extent they are not, science will have less value.

However, to the extent science operates on these assumptions and produces a degree of valid understanding, prediction, and influence, it appears more worthwhile to
utilize the assumptions.

Science assumes, first, that certain natural groupings of phenomena exist, so that classification can occur and generalization within a category is meaningful.

For some years, for instance, the field then called business policy, operating from its origins in the case method, assumed that each company is essentially unique.

This assumption effectively blocked the development of scientific theory and research in the field.

Increasingly, however, the assumption of uniqueness has been disappearing, and generalizations applicable to classes of organizations have emerged (Steiner and Miner 1986).

As a result, scientific theory and research are burgeoning in the field of strategic management.

Second, science assumes some degree of constancy, or stability, or permanence in the world.

Science cannot operate in a context of complete random variation; the goal of valid prediction is totally unattainable under such circumstances.

Thus, objects and events must retain some degree of similarity from one time to another.

In a sense this is an extension of the first assumption, but now over time rather than across units (see McKelvey)

In a sense this is an extension of the first assumption, but now over time rather than across units (McKelvey, 1997)

For instance, if organizational structures, once introduced, did not retain some stability, any scientific prediction of their impact on organizational performance would be impossible.

Fortunately, they do have some constancy, but not always as much as might be desired.

Third, science assumes that events are determined and that causes exist.

This is the essence of explanation and theorizing.

It may not be possible to prove a specific causation with absolute certainty, but evidence can be adduced to support certain causal explanations and reject others.

In any event, if one does not assume some kind of causation, there is little point in scientific investigation;

the assumption of determinism is what sparks scientific effort.

If, for instance, one assumes that organizational role prescriptions do not influence individual performance, then the whole area of organizational design moves outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

Organizational behavior must assume some kind of causal impact of the organization on its members.

It then becomes the task of science to determine the nature of this impact.

Finally, because science is firmly rooted in observation and experience, it is necessary to assume some degree of trustworthiness for the human processes of perceiving, remembering, and reasoning.

This trustworthiness is always relative, but it must exist to some degree.

The rules under which science operates are intended to increase the degree of reliability with which scientific bservation and recording operate.

The purpose is to achieve an objective, rational, replicable result that will be convincing to those who are knowledgeable in the area of study.


First, if the findings of research are to be replicated and the generalizations from research are to be valid, concepts must be clearly defined in terms of the procedures used to measure them.

Second, scientific observation must be controlled so that causation may be attributed correctly.

Third, because science is concerned with generalization to contexts that extend far beyond a given experiment, it is essential that research utilize samples that are adequate in both size and conditions of their selection

Fourth, and this bears repeating, science requires that its propositions, hypotheses, and theories be stated in terms that can be tested empirically.

These rules of scientific inquiry serve to influence research design and the conduct of research.

The philosophy of science as set forth here places considerable emphasis on the role of theory.

The reason is that although quantum leaps in science are very rare in any event, they are only possible if theory provides the opportunity.


Theory Building Micro, Macro, and Meso Theories

Typologies as Theory

Grounded Theory

Defining a Good (or Strong) Theory


Implications of Good and Bad Theory


Theories can be good or bad, or, more frequently, somewhere in between;

they can seek truth or some other goal.


A distinction is often made between deductive and inductive theory.

In building a theory by deduction one first establishes a set of premises.

Then certain logical consequences of these premises are deduced and subsidiary concepts are established.

The starting point is rational thought, and logical consistency is a major concern in development of the theory.

Often such theories are stated in mathematical terms.

Inductive theory, in contrast, builds up from observation, often from research, rather than down from a set of premises.

Essentially one puts together a theory that best seems to explain what is known in a given area at the present time.

Then new tests of this theory or of hypotheses derived from it are carried out just as they would be if the theory were developed deductively.

Gottfredson (1983) points to three ways in which inductive theory may be developed,from research findings.

First, one may immerse oneself in the data generated by past research, but with a healthy skepticism regarding any interpretations by others found with these data.

Second, one may pick one or more specific patterns of results to explain, thus narrowing the theory-building task to a more limited domain than general theory.

Finally, one may try to resolve inconsistencies, anomalies, puzzling results, and incompatible points of view in the literature and in the data reported there.

A major pitfall in the use of the inductive approach in theory building is that the research from which the theory is induced may become confused with an adequate test of the theory.

Thus, the same research is used twice for two different purposes, and a self-fulfilling prophecy results

In the case of truly deductive theories, this is not possible.

When theories are developed inductively, it is crucial that they be tested on a new sample in a manner that is entirely independent of the pre theory research.

If one goes back to the prior sample or to data used in developing the theory, anything unique and ungeneralizable (attributable to chance fluctuation) in that particular situation is very likely to be confirmed.

As a result, a theory that is erroneous insofar as generalization and practical usefulness are concerned may well be accepted.

It is actually more useful to think of theories as falling at points along a deductiveinductive continuum than as falling into distinct categories.

Probably no theory is completely devoid of some inductive input.

On the other hand, there are instances arising from entirely inductive processes.

Such instances are often referred to as dust-bowl empiricism, implying that no theory is involved at all.

However, the result may look very much like a theory.

An example of dust-bowl empiricism would be a study in which a great many measures, say several hundred, are obtained on a sample of organizations.

These data are then put into a computer, and closely related measures are identified through the use of correlation techniques, factor analysis, or some similar procedure

What emerges is a set of hypothesized relationships among variablesa set of statements very much like an inductively derived theory

This theory is then tested on a new sample of organizations, using the appropriate measures to make sure that it does not incorporate relationships that represent mere chance fluctuations associated with the particular sample from which the theory was induced.

Any theory, irrespective of the method of construction and the extent of research confirmation, should always be treated as provisional in nature.

Theories are constructed to be modified or replaced as new knowledge is developed; this is the way science advances.

Furthermore, modification on the basis of research tends to be inductive rather than deductive.

Findings emerge that do not quite fit the existing theory.

Accordingly, the theory is changed so that these new data can be explained, and a test is then made of the revised theory.

As a result of this kind of theoretical tinkering, even predominantly deductive theories may take on a strong inductive element over time; if they do not, they may well be replaced.


A number of theories set forth various categories of organizations, environments, people, or groups, usually in the range of two to five

These formulations may deal with ideal types, sets of intellectual, hypothetical constructs created purely to study variety and change, which are not necessarily found in their complete form in the real world at all (Lammers

At the other extreme are formulations that utilize only empirically derived clusters, based on real world data, which are created using the techniques dust-bowl empiricism (Ketchen and Shook 1996)

There are variants between these two as well.

The terms typology and taxonomy may be applied to these formulations, but they have not been used in a consistent manner, and there is less-than-universal agreement either on definitions or appropriate approaches (Rich 1992).

The term typology is used to refer to a set of types developed on an a priori conceptual basis to operate as, and serve the purposes of, a theory.

These constructs may be of an ideal nature or they may to varying degrees be intended to reflect the actual nature of the real world.

These conceptual typologies are viewed as theories, and they may be good or not so good just like any other theory.

Taxonomies, on the other hand, are empirically derived clustering's developed through multivariate analysis of existing data

As such they are data, not theories; description, not explanation.

However, theoretical formulations may be developed inductively starting from taxonomies, thus folding a taxonomy into a more comprehensive theoretical system.

Thus, a taxonomy alone does not constitute a theory, but each instance needs to be considered separately.

For a more extended treatment of these matters applied to the area of entrepreneurship, the reader is referred to Miner (1997).