Theory development is a high priority in organisational and management research. However, it is often equated with building new theory, a practice that is rewarded in the publication process and encouraged by norms that pervade the field. This practice has produced a proliferation of theories, most of which are not exposed to rigorous empirical research that probes core propositions and puts theories at risk. In the interest of theory development, management and organisational research would make better progress if we:
Devote more attention to theoretical refinement
- Conduct research that identifies the boundaries and limitations of theories
- Stage competitive tests between rival theories
- Increase the precision of theories so they yield strong predictions that can be falsified
These issues are addressed by the articles that constitute this feature topic with the goal of enhancing theoretical progress in management and organisational research. In summary, this body of work indicates many of the problems inherent in our discipline:
Our discipline does not necessarily lend itself to quantitative methodologies.
- Quantification has often been pursued without any depth of understanding of its appropriateness to solve a particular problem.
- Advanced maths has overridden quality theory building to the detriment of the discipline.
- Many of the ‘rules’ of I/O psychology are followed blindly and are nothing more than arbitrary misapplied standards.
- Good theory building is iterative and many of the theories that are put forth in our discipline are not tested.
Our discipline is in its infancy and promises much to the world of work. For it to deliver on this promise it requires that it step aside from the shackles of the past and embrace the reality of solving the issues of the industry.