Understanding Management Ideas: The Development of Interpretability
Doctoral thesis, 2015
In the face of an ever-changing, complex environment, managers in organizations need constantly to develop ideas on how to maintain competitiveness. One way to address this challenge comes in the form of ideas about how to manage – or management ideas (MIs). These may be developed by managers or consultants, and often are publicized through the business and popular press. Some MIs have achieved widespread temporary popularity and adoption, spanning industries and continents. As a result, MIs have been compared to e.g. fashions or even viruses. However, unlike fashions, MIs' popularity is not due to their specific looks or colors but due to their interpretability, i.e., whether or not they allow managers from various backgrounds to interpret their goals and means as in line with those of the MI. While beneficial to inter and intra- organizational spread, interpretability presents managers in charge of widespread intra- organizational adoption with a paradox. On the one side, interpretability supports widespread adoption, on the other, it allows individual interpretation, and thus non-unified adaptation. This can be seen as challenging to the involved managers, and also the ratings agencies, and the official institutions that want to foster and assess the widespread adaptation of MIs.This thesis investigates the development of interpretability by focusing on a contemporary management idea - design thinking. Design thinking advocates an approach to user-centered innovation based on the ways designers work. Investigating the development of different textual elements that comprise design thinking, in the literature as well as in large organizations, this thesis contributes to our understanding of how interpretability develops, and theoretically resolves the paradox of interpretability.
Vasa C, Vera Sandbergs allé 8, Chalmers University of Technology
Opponent: Professor Albert David, Dauphine Recherches en Management, Univ. Paris-Dauphine in Paris, France.