Sub-theme 50: Open Strategy: Practices, Perspectives and Problems

Leonhard Dobusch
Universität Innsbruck, Austria
Georg von Krogh
ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Richard Whittington
University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

Many organizations in public, private and non-for-profit sectors are becoming more transparent about their strategies, while also including a wider range of actors in strategy development. These moves involve a variety of strategy practices, for example strategy jamming (Bjelland & Wood, 2008), strategy crowdsourcing (Stieger et al., 2012), strategy blogs and wikis (Dobusch & Kapeller, 2013) or strategy simulations in online games (Aten & Thomas, 2016). Although involving many different practices, this phenomenon has been described most comprehensively as ‘open strategy’ (Chesbrough & Appleyard, 2007; Whittington et al., 2011).
Building upon these studies, recent works on open strategy have begun to look at open strategy from an increasing variety of perspectives such as impression management (Whittington et al., 2016), middle-management inclusion in strategy-making (Wolf et al., 2014) or the inter-organizational explorations of strategic issues (Werle & Seidl, 2015). However, systematic cross-fertilization between the emerging open strategy literature and other areas and concepts of organizational openness are still rare.
The sub-theme thus seeks to situate open strategy within broader shifts towards greater openness of various kinds (open innovation, open source, open government, open science/citizen science and similar). By adopting this broader orientation, the sub-theme aims to access theoretical and empirical insights from other domains capable of informing expectations about organizational strategy in particular (e.g. Dobusch, 2014; Spaeth et al., 2014; von Krogh et al., 2012). The sub-theme will empirically examine various practices of open strategy, consider different theoretical perspectives for understanding this phenomenon, and address potential problems for those involved (employees, managers and other stakeholders).
This sub-theme, therefore, seeks to advance our understanding of strategy openness in different fields. Questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How does open strategy manifest and operate in different contexts (sectors, national institutions, organizational structures or ownership forms)?
  • How can related and overlapping phenomena (open innovation, open source, open science, open government etc) inform our understanding of open strategy?
  • How do general trends towards transparency and openness in organizations and society shape strategy practices, and what might be the societal and public policy implications of openness?
  • What can be learnt for open strategy from more established fields of relevant research (e.g. worker participation, co-operatives, procedural justice, dynamics of online communities, middle management inclusion, organizational learning)?
  • What platforms, technologies, and materialities are particularly relevant to open strategy?
  • What are the barriers, difficulties and competitive implications involved in implementing open strategy practices?
  • What theoretical perspectives are most illuminating for our understanding of open strategy (e.g. practice theory, discourse theory, critical theory, information theory, sensemaking, dialogical, power or technological change theories, behavioural theory, resource-based theory, knowledge-based theory)?
  • What are the methodological opportunities and challenges for the study of open strategy and how can they be most effectively addressed?



  • Aten, K., & Thomas, G.F. (2016): “Crowdsourcing Strategizing. Communication Technology Affordances and the Communicative Constitution of Organizational Strategy.” International Journal of Business Communication, 53 (2), 148–180.
  • Bjelland, O. M., & Wood, R.C. (2008): “An Inside View of IBM's' Innovation Jam'.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 50 (1), 32–40.
  • Chesbrough, H.A., & Appleyard, M.M.(2007): “Open Innovation Strategy.” California Management Review, 50 (1), 57–74.
  • Dobusch, L., & Kapeller, J. (2013): “Open Strategy between Crowd and Community: Lessons from Wikimedia and Creative Commons.” Academy of Management Proceedings, 2013 (1), 15831–15831.
  • Dobusch, L. (2014): “How exclusive are inclusive organisations?” Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, 33 (3), 220–234.
  • Spaeth, S., von Krogh, G., & He, F. (2014): “Perceived Firm Attributes and Intrinsic Motivation in Sponsored Open Source Software Projects.” Information Systems Research, 26 (1), 224–237.
  • Stieger, D., Matzler, K., Chatterjee, S., & Ladstaetter-Fussenegger, F. (2012): “Democratizing Strategy: How Crowdsourcing Can Be Used for Strategy Dialogs.” California Management Review, 54 (4), 44–69.
  • von Krogh, G., Haefliger, S., Spaeth, S., & Wallin, M. W. (2012): “Carrots and rainbows: Motivation and social practice in open source software development.” MIS Quarterly, 36 (2), 649–676.
  • Werle, F., & Seidl, D. (2015): “The layered materiality of strategizing: epistemic objects and the interlay between material artefacts in the exploration of strategic topics.” British Journal of Management, 26 (S1), S67–S89.
  • Whittington, R., Cailluet, L., & Yakis-Douglas, B. (2011): “Opening Strategy: Evolution of a Precarious Profession.” British Journal of Management, 22 (3), 531–544.
  • Whittington, R., Yakis-Douglas, B., & Ahn, J. (2016): “Cheap talk? Strategy presentations as a form of chief executive officer impression management.” Strategic Management Journal, forthcoming; version of record online: March 8, 2016,
  • Wolf, C., Jacobs, C., & Floyd, S. (2014): “Talking or Walking the Talk? Middle Management Inclusion in Strategy Work.” Paper presented at the Workshop on Open Strategy, Saïd Business School, Oxford, July 1, 2014.
Leonhard Dobusch Professor of Organization at the Department of Organization and Learning, Universität Innsbruck, Austria. He is member of the Editorial Review Board of ‘Organization Studies’ and co-founder of the momentum conference series. His research interests include transnational copyright regulation and management of digital communities.
Georg von Krogh is a Professor at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and holds the Chair of Strategic Management and Innovation. He studies various aspects of openness in firms, such as the antecedents and consequences of open innovation.
Richard Whittington is Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School, UK. He is an Associate Editor of the ‘Strategic Management Journal’ and currently co-editing (with D. Seidl and J. Hautz) a special issue of ‘Long Range Planning ‘on Open Strategy.