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    Building understanding in strategy research: The importance of employing consistent terminology and convergent measures

    Hill, Aaron D. and Kern, David A. and White, Margaret A. (2012) Building understanding in strategy research: The importance of employing consistent terminology and convergent measures. Strategic Organization, 10 (2). pp. 187-200. ISSN 1476-1270

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    While the strategy discipline has made significant strides in measurement practices since its inception, questions persist regarding the use of different terminology and nonconvergent measures to represent a single construct within our field (see, for example, Cording et al., 2010; Hitt et al., 2004; McKinley, 2007; Suddaby, 2010). In this essay, we emphasize the importance of rectifying these practices to facilitate the cross-disciplinary conversation and systematic building of understanding that has long been a goal of strategy research (Cannella and Paetzold, 1994; Meyer, 1991; Nag et al., 2007). We focus on the utilization of consistent terminology and convergent measurement for three reasons. First, employing different terminology and nonconvergent measurement inhibits the accumulation of knowledge and understanding regarding a phenomenon (McClelland et al., 2010; Oxley et al., 2010; Singh et al., 2003; Suddaby, 2010). What should be a building process to better understanding of a phenomenon can become a hodge-podge of terms and measures that hinders this process. Second, as we detail in our essay, despite the well-recognized perils to knowledge accumulation associated with these practices, they occur in many domains of strategy research. Third, if the field is to continue to build understanding in a cross-disciplinary and systematic fashion, these issues are particularly salient: it is essential that we refer to constructs in a way that fosters conversations across disciplinary and domain boundaries and develop measures that converge on the constructs that we are discussing so that the understanding developed is valid. Like McKinley (2007: 123), we draw attention to how terminology and measurement issues create ‘barriers to cross-study accumulation of knowledge.’ Our essay diverges in two important ways, however. First, McKinley focuses on ‘de-objectification’ – when scholars ‘attach a variety of different meanings to the same construct’ (2007: 124) – or having different meanings for one term. We concentrate on the inverse – when scholars attach the same meanings but refer to the construct differently – or having one meaning but different terms. As we delineate in greater detail below, this distinction is notable. While de-objectification prevents an unambiguous construct definition, a necessary condition to accumulating knowledge across studies (for a recent discussion, see Oxley et al., 2010), it may not be sufficient if studies define a construct unambiguously but refer to it differently (Suddaby, 2010). Second, and more importantly, although we agree with McKinley in decrying nonconvergence, he calls for standard instrumentation whereas we reject this notion. Rather, we note the utility and necessity of having multiple measures of the same construct and instead advocate employing steps to assess convergence. While we expect little debate regarding the necessity of employing consistent terminology and convergent measurement, a topical reader within strategy would quickly realize that many domains fall short of this imperative. As such, we first illustrate problems associated with failing to adopt these practices. To do so, we draw upon the overconfidence/hubris literature, which is a growing area of study within strategy and its related disciplines and which faces these specific challenges. Further, our own experiences with different terminology and nonconvergence in this domain have illuminated the problems associated with these practices for us. We believe that drawing attention to these issues can aid others in developing knowledge of their phenomena of interest as it did with us. To assist in this endeavor, after discussing these problems, we offer suggestions that may prevent their continued occurrence.1

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: Knowledge management; E-learning; Game-based learning;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Business
    Item ID: 11277
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Margaret White
    Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2019 16:23
    Journal or Publication Title: Strategic Organization
    Publisher: Sage Publications
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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