Sub-Plenary 2-5

Deep Knowledge and Profound Impact:
Perspectives and Prospects for Phenomenon-driven Research in Organization and Management Studies

A sub-plenary organized and supported by the EGOS journals Organization Studies and Organization Theory


Friday, July 5, 2024, 16:00–17:30 CEST

U6 Building – “AGORÀ” | Room: U6-P0-08 | Piazza dell’Ateneo Nuovo, 1 | 20126 Milano

Organizers & Moderators:
Joep P. Cornelissen, Co-Editor-in-Chief Organization Theory
Markus A. Höllerer, Co-Editor-in-Chief Organization Theory
Paolo Quattrone, Co-Editor-in-Chief Organization Studies
Tammar B. Zilber, Co-Editor-in-Chief Organization Studies
Evelyn Micelotta, Co-Editor-in-Chief Family Business Review
Sigrid Quack, incoming Co-Editor-in-Chief Organization Theory
Gavin Schwarz, Editor-in-Chief Journal of Applied Behavioral Science

This will be an interactive-sub-plenary on phenomenon-driven research. The expert panel will reflect on different approaches to phenomenon-driven research that are particularly promising to study grand challenges, the changing world of work and organizations, and other important contemporary phenomena. They will outline different approaches and discuss their own experiences in getting their phenomenon-driven studies reviewed and published. We then invite the audience to share experiences. After a Q&A session, we end with some editorial reflections from the Editors-in-Chiefs of the EGOS journals Organization Studies and Organization Theory on publishing phenomenon-driven studies.

Overall, the aims for this sub-plenary are (1) to offer a platform for revitalizing the role of phenomenon-driven research within organization studies, and (2) to expand our collective understanding of the different ways in which phenomenon-driven research can produce actionable knowledge and foster deep understandings of important organizational and societal phenomena.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed a growing crisis of confidence in the mainstream models of theorizing and research, and the degree to which the kinds of theory-driven knowledge that it produces can do justice to the complexity and dynamics of organizational phenomena; including the lived experience of those living in organizations. At the same time, however, most of the published theoretical and empirical papers in many journals continue to be built around a contribution to a standalone ‘theory’ as the main and oftentimes only objective. This particular emphasis on contributing to a theory – as opposed to contributions to knowledge about phenomena – means that certain important phenomena (such as inequality, social unrest and instability, climate change, racism, and gender discrimination) may either remain somewhat overlooked; or when they are considered, they simply serve as the grist for the theoretical mill with a phenomenon being studied to further elaborate or qualify a specific theory (such as paradox theory, institutional theory, sensemaking theory, etc.).
On the back of the continued criticism of our undue focus on theory, calls have been made for the field to revitalise phenomenon-driven research as a viable alternative out of the ‘theory crisis’ and as a way of developing deeper, more varied and relevant forms of knowledge for society. A focus on contributions to knowledge about phenomena, it is suggested, avoids mistaking a theoretical contribution with a contribution to a theory. The latter runs the risk of becoming a stylistic and self-referential exercise of gap filling; whereas the former involves the effort of providing meaningful, valid, and generalizable views on certain phenomena that builds on prior scholarship and pushes our current knowledge and forms of understanding. Such a phenomenon-driven focus additionally calls for new methodologies that may be required to study phenomena more richly and powerfully than what was previously done through the spectre of a particular theory.
But, despite its general potential, inevitable questions surface about what kinds of phenomenon-driven approaches are out there; what they each offer; and how their contributions can be judged in furthering our understanding of important phenomena. The role of theory does not completely disappear in such approaches – but is nonetheless different from conventional standards around theoretical contributions. What, then, can be said about theory, or theorizing, as part of phenomenon-driven research, and how does it contribute to the knowledge produced?
With this sub-plenary, we aim to offer perspectives on these questions, and aim to do so by featuring a set of contributions and debate along three lines: (a) what are some of the kinds of phenomenon-based research that are particularly promising to study grand challenges, the changing world of work and organizations, and other important contemporary phenomena; (b) what similarities and differences exist between them; and how do these relate to ontological, epistemological and methodological commitments and possibilities; and (c) how will their contributions to knowledge be judged by peers, including editors and reviewers of journals, who until recently have been primarily focused on contributions to ‘theory’?

Joep P. Cornelissen is Professor of Corporate Communication at Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management, The Netherlands. He is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of the EGOS journal Organization Theory.
Markus A. Höllerer is Professor in Organization and Management at UNSW Business School, Sydney, Australia, as well as Senior Research Fellow in Urban Management and Governance at WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria. He is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of the EGOS journal Organization Theory.
Evelyn Micelotta is an Associate Professor in Management at Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada. She is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of Family Business Review and a Senior Editor of Organization Studies.
Sigrid Quack is Professor of Sociology at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany, and incoming Co-Editor-in-Chief of the EGOS journal Organization Theory.
Paolo Quattrone is Professor of Accounting, Governance and Society and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Investment Risk at the Alliance Manchester Business School, United Kingdom. He is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of the EGOS journal Organization Studies.
Gavin Schwarz is a Professor and Head of School at the School of Management and Governance in the UNSW Business School, Australia. He is currently Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (JABS).
Tammar B. Zilber is a Full Professor in the Organizational Behaviour Department at the Hebrew University Business School, Israel. She is currently Co-Editor-in-Chief of the EGOS journal Organization Studies.