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Philosophy of Management

Volume 9
Humbug, Ba and Human Experience

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1. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Frits Schipper Editorial: Realities and Illusions
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2. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Claus Dierksmeier, Michael Pirson The Modern Corporation and the Idea of Freedom
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While the idea of freedom lies at the heart of our economic system, academic research has neglected to connect theories of the firm to freedom theory. To fill this void, the authors delineate two archetypes of freedom – quantitative and qualitative – and outline the consequences of the respective notions for organisational strategy, corporate governance, leadership and culture. Supporting the quest for reform in management theory, the authors argue for an enlarged perspective of the role of the firm within free societies.
3. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Verner C. Petersen Self-Fulfilling Aspects of Unrealistic Assumptions in Management Theory
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The purpose of this paper is to take a critical look at some of the assumptions and theories found in economics and management and discuss their implications for the practices found in the management of business and in public management. Two sets of assumptions are of interest here. First and foremost, the assumption that economic agents are only actuated by self-interest, accompanied by assumptions about the motivating effect of pecuniary incentives and assumptions about the regulation of behaviour through rules, controls and sanctions; secondly, assumptions about “scientificness” and objectivity, accompanied by demands for mathematical formalism, clear goals, quantifiable models and measurements. The assertion is that unrealistic assumptions of economics have become taken for granted and tacitly included into theories and models of management. Guiding management to behave in a fashion that apparently makes these assumptions become “true”. Cases and illustrative examples are used to show how this influences the practice of decision makers and managers.
4. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Kit Barton An Assessment of Existentialist and Pragmatist Modes of Teaching Business Ethics
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With increasing public demand for ethical accountability, business schools are experiencing difficulty incorporating relevant training into their programmes. Rakesh Khurana, professor of organizational behaviour at Harvard Business School, has provided an historical account explaining how business schools initially promoted and then abandoned a specific professional identity for their students, which would have included a set of ethical values. It is possible to begin to revive this initial project by incorporating certain philosophical approaches to teaching ethics. The philosophies of both Martin Heidegger and John Dewey can be used to steer such professional training. In combination, Heidegger’s existential demand for responsibility and Dewey’s pragmatic concern for the social environment provide pedagogical techniques and guidelines for successful instruction.
5. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Saidatt Senapaty Towards Sustainable CSR: Analyzing Macro level HRD Issues
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Companies view corporate social responsibility as either compliance to legal obligations or “corporate giving”, in the form of donations for charitable causes. This mode of corporate giving will be unsustainable unless integrating strategic responsibility with social responsibility and ensuring individual “rights” and “responsibilities” is possible. This paper makes an attempt to conceptualize a sustainable framework for CSR, analyzing and discussing some macro level HRD issues. Four kinds of justification for CSR are identified: philanthropic, social responsiveness, pure normative and normative strategic. A stakeholder model that fulfills normative assertions and instrumental claims is offered as an alternative framework for sustainable CSR.
6. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Kazem Chaharbaghi, Jim Barry Paradoxing Relevance in the Research Quality Debate: Reflections of the “Irrelevance” of “Relevance”
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This study examines the contestability of “relevance” as an abstract construction with no fixed meaning when applied, and questions its usage in the research quality debate. It finds that different research agendas and approaches have their own idiosyncratic logic and that any logic has its own criteria for assessing quality which cannot be applied to assess the quality of others. This is illustrated by delineating practitioner-led research from academic-led research and by comparing and contrasting research perspectives as examples. The research quality debate becomes meaningless when it is limited to a singular research agenda or approach as in practice these are invariably combined. Having said this, however, every agenda and approach can be argued to be legitimate as potentially each can find what otherwise cannot be noticed. As a result, this study challenges the conventional unitarist wisdom that conceptualises knowledge as commodity, and suggests instead that heterogeneity, linked to tolerance and relative independence of means and mind, free from the control or influence of others to enable critical distance from context and status quo and facilitate judgement, is the key to those seeking a meaningful research quality debate thatacknowledges tolerance of the diversity of knowledge, difference, contestation and struggle. Although such heterogeneity may at first appear to add confusion rather than clarity, without first looking at this heterogeneity it is not possible to develop a dialogue, in the context of the present neo-liberal post-political drift that emphasises consensus, the annulment of dissensus and diverts attention from relationships of power, through which a positive contribution can be made to the research quality debate.
7. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 3
Stephen Lloyd Smith Naïve Expertise: Spacious Alternative to the Standard Account of Method
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The standard account of method (SAM) describes business and management research as a choice between “two traditions”: “qualitative “phenomenological” interpretivism” and “quantitative ‘scientific’ positivism”; each the enemy of the other. Students assemble “advantages and disadvantages” of each, pledge their allegiance, or a preference for “mixed method” (wishing for a “truce” in the “paradigm war”). In our increasingly Fordist academies, these variants attract grade-weightings of typically 20%, defined by “marking schemes” which are also standardised. Fordism is the management strategy of standardisation, deskilling, low unit-cost, simple assembly and central control. We argue that SAM “Fordises” the intellect and confounds our experience that inquiry entails the greatest customisation humanly possible. Moreover, unlike Ford’s River Rouge plant, SAM is plagued by faults: thousands of category mistakes caused by collapsing unrelated methodological dimensions into one simple-looking yet multiply mistaken dichotomy. Happily, natural language facilitates myriadmethodological distinctions which untutored inquirers articulate with more facility, pluralism and precision than SAM. By providing better labelling for their easy instincts, naïve inquirers can recognise and revel in what they did not know.
8. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Mark R. Dibben Editorial: Humbug, Ba and Human Experience
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9. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Silja Graupe, Ikujiro Nonaka Ba: Introducing Processual Spatial Thinking into the Theory of the Firm and Management
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Over the last two decades, the Japanese notion of ba, introduced by Ikujiro Nonaka and his associates to the West, has come to play an important role in management theory. This notion, which has been roughly translated as ‘place’ or ‘topos,’ stresses the importance of processual spatial thinking for economics and management alike. As such, it echoes and amplifies recent voices in the business world, which argue that we must understand business strategy in terms ofspace, that is to say, as an expression of the dynamics of social interaction which involves such factors as connectivity, information flow, external versus tacit knowledge, etc. Despite many efforts, the barriers for fully integrating ba into the body of Western management literature will remain for as long as its underlying assumptions are defined by ontologically static categories. This article is an attempt to overcome this theoretical bottleneck, first by critiquing the sub optimal approach to processual problems generated by conventional Western business theories, which can neither recognise their hidden background assumptions about space nor transcend them, and second, by explaining, within the framework of comparative analysis, how ba leads to a new processual and dynamic account of business life. Our overall aim is to demonstrate how a new processual notion of space enables a deeper, more integrated understanding not only ofthe nature of the firm, but also of the role managers play within firms.
10. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Mary Brown Revisiting Organisational Personality: Organisations as Functional and Metaphysical Entities
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This article reflects aspects of the debate between constructivism and rationalism by suggesting that rationalist accounts of the nature of organization may be limited, and that recent events around the crisis in world financial systems demonstrate the failure of the latter to provide adequate explanatory theory. The paradigms of mythos and logos reflect the dichotomy, where the former represents meaning and sense making as opposed to the rational pragmatic scienceof logos thinking. In the context of organization theory it is proposed that people create their worlds through language and that to propose an organization possesses a type of personhood in the metaphysical sense, a trope familiar to the literary scholars but not always appreciated by management writers. However, some scholars are now attempting to link the two worlds: an example is the use of the organic metaphors favoured by the Romantic poets to understandthe nature of economic turbulence. The paper argues that such attempts to employ mythos-type thinking are a helpful counterweight to rational attempts to explain apparently non-rational organizational actions.
11. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Surendra Arjoon An Aristotelian–Thomistic Approach to Management Practice
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Every academic endeavour rests ultimately on a particular assumption of human nature. Two views of human nature are compared and contrasted: (1) a utilitarian naturalistic humanism which holds essentially the view that human nature is materialistic, and (2) an Aristotelian–Thomistic natural law/virtue ethics humanism which holds the view that human nature is both materialistic and spiritualistic. This paper argues that the latter view better captures and explains the metaphysical realities of human nature. In addition, the role of virtues and its applications in management practice are presented. Organisational policy mechanisms and managerial implications will depend on which view of human nature one adopts. The failure to integrate the virtues and natural law ethical principles into management practice threatens the stability and survival of the firm since they are required to correct the dysfunctional aspects and ethical deficits of the current business philosophy.
12. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Eugene Schlossberger Supervision and the Logic of Resentment
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Because resentment features prominently in work relations, supervisors should understand the nature of such emotions and how to address them. Popular wisdom’s insistence that emotions cannot be rationally assessed is mistaken. Emotions are judgments embodied in perceptions, dispositions, and “raw feels,” that reflect one’s worldview. At the core of paradigmatic resentment is the moral judgment that someone has betrayed one by unfairly rejecting one in a waythat shows ill-will. Non-paradigmatic resentment is an extension of the paradigm. This paper examines (part I) the logic of resentment and (part II) how supervisors can avoid and assist subordinates in processing resentment. Part III suggests that emotional change requires reconciling inconsistencies in a person’s worldview, which may require deep and widespread changes in outlook. Emotions are as logical or illogical as the people who have them. People are immune neither from criticism for their emotions nor from demands that their emotions be changed.
13. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Philip A. Woods, Glenys J. Woods The Geography of Reflective Leadership: The Inner Life of Democratic Learning Communities
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This paper is underpinned by an epistemological question: What are the types and ways of knowing that can be entailed in reflective leadership in its fullest sense? The question is explored through a mapping exercise which outlines a geography of reflective leadership in terms of three variables: type of knowledge, problem focus, and mode of learning (incorporating the notion of embodied learning). Particular attention is given to recognising within the terrain of reflective leadership the epistemic credentials of spiritual learning and experiential awareness of spirituality.
14. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 2
Daniel R. Gilbert Living in a Managed World
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The folklore of Groundhog Day is an invitation to reflect on continuity, choice, and reinvention in our daily lives. Groundhog Day is an annual opportunity to imagine how the future could unfold as a straightforward extension of what we are doing today in one another’s company, or as a departure from the typical course of our joined endeavors. The joined endeavor at issue in this paper is the act of justifying inclusion of the study of managerial practice, commonly calledManagement, in the undergraduate college curriculum in the United States. Management is routinely shielded from a process of intellectual justification. There is a fruitful alternative to this de facto exemption. I argue that there is a place in the undergraduate curriculum for systematic attention to managerial practice, but that place need not be filled with a Management major per se. This new curricular place is anchored in the experience of living our everyday lives in a world managed by others. The inspiration for imagining this different place came one Groundhog Day, as I was sorting mail delivered to me by the US Postal Service.
15. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Paul Griseri Editorial: a New Beginning
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16. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Rod Thomas What is the relevance of Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism to Management Studies and Practice?
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This paper revisits some recent contributions on ‘Why Management Theory Needs Popper’ to the journal Philosophy of Management. It proposes that those discussions provided an appraisal of the relevance of Popper’s falsification schema to management theory, but that they did not thereby bring to the fore all of the issues pertinent to a balanced and well-rounded understanding of Popper’s philosophy of critical rationalism. It is argued that such an understanding requires a discussion of what Popper himself declared to be the real lynchpin of his thought: fallibilism and a critical approach. It is noted that this represents a rejection of the historical problem situation of philosophy – that knowledge claims need to be positively justified as true. It is argued that this rejection implies an anti-authoritarian, non-justificational philosophy based on the use of critical reason. Its application to several different objects of criticism is demonstrated and its ethical dimensions are explored. The relevance of critical rationalism to management studies and practice is assessed and an inherent limitation on the prospects of its adoption in management practice is identified.
17. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
John Darwin Kuhn vs. Popper vs. Lakatos vs. Feyerabend: Contested Terrain or Fruitful Collaboration?
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In this paper we examine the alleged war between Kuhn and Popper, extending the discussion to incorporate two of their lesser known, but important, protagonists, Lakatos and Feyerabend. The argument presented here is that the four can fruitfully be considered together, and that it is possible to go beyond the surface tensions and clashes between them to fashion an approach which takes advantage of the insights of all. The implications of this approach for management are then considered, using the concept of co-creation in two different contexts to illustrate this.
18. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Antonio Marturano, Martin Wood, Jonathan Gosling Leadership and Language Games
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Process theories of leadership emphasize its relational nature but lack a substantial method of analysis. We offer an account of leadership as a language-game, employing the concepts of opaque context and propositional attitudes. Using established methods of linguistic analysis, we reformulate Weber’s understanding of charismatic leadership. A by-product of this approach is to limit the epistemological role of individual psychology in leadership studies, and to increase the relevance of linguistic and semantic conventions.
19. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Ghislain Deslandes, Kenneth Casler Managerial and Philosophical Intuition in the Thinking of Bergson and Mintzberg
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Within the Configuration school the management author Henry Mintzberg contributed a strong criticism of a normative conception of strategic planning, arguing that this is too narrow. The philosopher Henri Bergson embraced the totality of life as a creative evolution which transcends the fullness of a preconceived idea. While Mintzberg attempts to rethink the concept of strategy and Bergson to renew philosophical thought, together they share a vision of a changing and unpredictable world that enables them to discover – above and beyond the systematic data they are able to assemble – another mode of knowledge formed by intuition. Intuition holds a central place in the work of both thinkers, invigorating Mintzberg’s work on strategy and Bergson’s thought on metaphysics through a grasp of the substantiality of change. In this paper, we explore the implications of the concept of intuition for their ideas, then discuss some of its limitations, before investigating its possible applications for management research.
20. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 9 > Issue: 1
Gregory Katz, Marc Lenglet Whistleblowing in French Corporations: Anatomy of a National Taboo
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Denunciations, disclosures and reporting: why do whistleblowing procedures create an ethical dilemma in French corporations? Since July 2006, the requirement that foreign multinationals listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) implement this practice has been met with stiff resistance in many French companies. French labor unions see this controversy as a clash between the French and Anglo-Saxon models of transparency. To understand the moral reticence of French companies towards whistleblowing, we investigate five distinct perspectives: legal, economic, historical, philosophical and sociological. 1/ We first probe into the legal contradictions in French regulations and find in these paradoxes the symptoms of a national taboo. 2/ We report on an economic survey, that gathers empirical data from 82 large French corporations, and analyzes different business sectors in France and the working population covered by a whistleblowing procedure. 3/ To elicit the etiology of this taboo, we return to the historical sources of the Dreyfus Affair and the Vichy regime, whose political traumas remain imprinted on the collective French memory. The linguistic confusion between the two French terms délation and dénonciation shows why whistleblowing is perceived in France more as an act of betrayal than of heroism. 4/ The philosophical roots of whistleblowing also shed light on the organizational behavior of French companies and the transparency they are struggling to promote. 5/ Entangled in sociological ambiguities, we discuss why French companies see whistleblowing as a risk, not as a means to prevent risk.