Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2011, Hull, UK, Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the ISSS

Font Size:  Small  Medium  Large

OBSERVATIONAL DECISIONS AND METAPHORS IN THE THEORY CONSTRUCTION PROCESS: THE BUSINESS ECOSYSTEM METAPHOR

Duncan Robert Shaw, Timothy F H Allen

Abstract


Metaphors from ecology are common in business and the business research literature. Such metaphors are attractive because they potentially give access to new insights and they help to communicate complex issues. But there are dangers to using them erroneously. The role of metaphors in theory construction is to increase conceptual variety of theory to match the variety of the research problem. The process of theory construction includes many opportunities for increasing conceptual variety. The researcher’s role is to generate and filter candidate conceptual systems and the perspective of the researcher strongly affects the success of this role. Hierarchy theory is a theory of observation that helps us to define how the perspective of the researcher affects theory construction and the use of metaphors. We use this theory of observation to develop a model for avoiding error and bias whilst making best use of the researcher’s preconceptions and metaphors. We illustrate our model using to assess the business ecosystem metaphor, which is common in the business literature.

Full Text: PDF