Searching for Greater Variety in Strategic Thinking

Brendan O'Rourke, Dublin Institute of Technology
Martyn Pitt, Brunel University

Document Type Conference Paper

17 th. Scandinavian Academy of management Conference, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, 2003.


This paper proposes a use of the discursive approach to explicate variety in ways of strategic thinking. Such an explication of variety is both useful managerially in increasing awareness of greater discursive resources and also theoretically in critiquing views of strategic thinking as homogenous and organizationally contained. Ways of strategic thinking have been investigated using a variety of approaches including expertise perspectives (Voss, Greene et al. 1983), cognitive mapping (Eden, Jones et al. (1979); Huff (1990) ) and upper echelon theory (Hambrick 1998). More recently the linguistic turn in organizational sciences (Alvesson and Kärreman 2000), and the study of strategy as practice (Whittington 1996; Hendry 2000) have seen the application of discursive methodologies to the study of strategy. One strand of discourse analysis has been used to analyse the impact of discursive changes on organizations (Hardy, Palmer et al. 2000). A discourse analysis approach can also be used to explicate greater variety in ways of strategic thinking (McAuley, Duberley et al. 2000). This paper argues that the potential of forms of discourse analysis has not been fully realised and may be used to critique the closed nature of organizational discourses assumed in much of the managerial literature (e.g. Sanchez 2001). The evidence that discourse analysis could produce would complement what other methodologies have had to say about the homogenous (Spender 1989) or heterogeneous (Bowman and Ambrosini 1997) nature of strategic thinking.