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Philosophy of Management

Volume 5, Issue 1, 2005

Real Worlds

Anders Örtenblad
Pages 45-54

Vague and Attractive
Five Explanations of the Use of Ambiguous Management Ideas

This paper reviews the literature on the diffusion and popularity of vague management ideas. Is it the vagueness in itself that makes them so popular, or are there other explanations? Five possible explanations for the attraction of ambiguous management ideas are suggested: (i) concretising; (ii) symbolic legitimisation; (iii) seduction; (iv) unknown use; and (v) challenge. Some of the explanations are explicitly suggested in the literature, whereas others are explanations offered by the present author on the basis of a review of the literature. The five explanations are categorised according to the level of consciousness of the use of vague ideas among the users, and according to whether the ideas are implemented in actual practice or used only in talk. The present paper also discusses what management researchers could do to help those who use vague management ideas.

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