Learning Opportunity for PhD Students at Copenhagen Business School

7 10 2014

AS: PhD students at other universities will have the opportunity to attend an intensive, two-day workshop at CBS this autumn. The details are below.

Using Historical Approaches in Management and Organizational Research

3 ECTS Credits



November 17-18, 2014



Per H. Hansen, Tor Hernes, Christina Lubinski, Mads Mordhorst, Majken Schultz, Daniel Wadhwani, Roy Suddaby

Course Coordinator

Associate Professor Mads Mordhorst


Prerequisites & Requirements

Each participant must submit a working paper or full-length proposal for group discussion or review. The paper should be submitted to Dan Wadhwani (dwadhwani@pacific.edu) by November 17th.  Students who do not have a working paper or full-length proposal may still take the course but will receive only 2 ECTS credits. Students should indicate whether they will be submitting a paper when they register for the course so that both credit and fees can be adjusted accordingly.


Course Description

In recent years, management and organizations researchers have begun to use historical sources and approaches in their study of organizations and organizing. Building on earlier pleas for an engagement with historical reasoning about organizations (Zald, 1993; Kieser, 1994; Clark and Rowlinson, 2004), these more recent developments have included efforts to develop historical approaches to studying organizational and institutional theory (Suddaby and Greenwood, 2009), strategy (Kahl et al, 2012; Ingram et al, 2012), innovation and entrepreneurship (Tripsas, 1997; Forbes and Kirsch, 2010; Popp and Holt, 2013; Wadhwani and Jones, 2014), international business (Jones and Khanna, 2006) and critical management studies (Rowlinson and Proctor, 1999), among other subfields. The turn towards history, however, has also raised a number of complex questions for researchers about the nature of historical knowledge, how it might be employed to address organizational research questions, and how to analyze historical sources and data (Bucheli and Wadhwani, 2014; Rowlinson, Hassard, and Decker, 2014; Kipping and Usdiken, 2014). This seminar will introduce participants to the core theoretical and methodological issues involved in using historical approaches in organizational and management research, and discuss the variety of ways in which history is being used in organization and management studies today.  The seminar will provide participants with both a broad orientation to the theoretical and practical issues involved in the use of historical approaches, and an opportunity to apply these approaches to their own research using smaller breakout groups and discussions.

Learning Objectives

The PhD seminar will be designed to allow participants to:

  1. Understand the nature of historical approaches and how they compare to other types of ways of studying management and organizations.
  2. Understand the range of ways in which historical sources, methods, and perspectives can be engaged, including the epistemological assumptions involved in these choices and their implications for the types of research questions that can be addressed.
  3. Apply these methodological issues and choices to their own research interests through focused breakout groups.


The seminar will provide a broad overview of the uses of history in management and organizational research, and then examine more closely three ways in which historical sources, methods, and perspectives can be used to address organizational research questions. The four approaches are as follows:

The first approach we will examine is the use of history to develop or test theory.  Historical sources can provide a foundation for developing and testing theories related to organizational processes in time, including such processes as institutionalization, path dependence, imprinting, and evolutionary dynamics. We will illustrate how this is done using leading examples from the organizational literature, and will discuss the assumptions, strengths, and limitations of such an approach.

Second, we will discuss the uses of history to identify and reconstruct important phenomena that extant theory elides. Theories are necessarily parsimonious abstractions of complex realities, and while theory-driven research has proven itself valuable in management and organization studies, scholars have also gained increasing appreciation for research based on the study of important phenomena, as the recent establishment of Academy of Management Discoverieshighlights.  We will show how historical approaches can be used to reconstruct organizational developments that theory has elided, and how this can in turn serve as a basis for alternative theoretical perspectives on organizations.

Finally, we will examine the use of history to provide insights into organizational meaning, cognition, and agency. Historical sources and approaches allow insights into how organizational actors understand their world, including their own position in historical time. We will examine how organizational scholars have been employing this approach to examine the uses of history by organizations and actors to formulate organizational strategy, engage in entrepreneurial action, and establish organizational identity.

Participants will not only have the opportunity to learn these approaches by examining leading exemplars of each approach, but also through discussions of the strengths and weaknesses of each and by application of the most appropriate approach to their own research.

Lecture Plan

Day 1
9:00-10:00     Origins and Development of the “Historic Turn” in Organization Studies

Discussion: What is history? How is it important in understanding organizations?

Primary Faculty: Mordhorst; Secondary Faculty: All

10:00-10:15   Break

10:15-12:00   Approach 1: Using History to Develop and Test Organization Theory

Discussion: How do we know the past?

Primary Faculty: Wadhwani; Secondary: All

12:30-1:00     Lunch

1:00-2:30       Approach 2: Using History to Examine New or Unexamined Phenomena

Primary Faculty: Hansen; Secondary Faculty: All

2:30-2:45       Break

2:45-4:00       Approach 3: Uses of History in Organizations and Organizing

Primary Faculty: Schultz & Hernes; Secondary Faculty: All

Day 2

9:00-10:30     Session 1: Student Presentations and Feedback

Primary Faculty: Mordhorst; Secondary: All

10:30-10:45   Break

10:45-12:00   Session 2: Student Presentations and Feedback

Primary Faculty: Wadhwani; Secondary: Al12:00-1:00


1:00-2:30       Session 3: Student Presentations and Feedback

Primary Faculty: Lubinski; Secondary Faculty: All

2:30-2:45       Break

2:45-4:00       Wrap Up

Faculty: All


Course Literature

Bingham, C. B., & Kahl, S. J. (2013). The Process of Schema Emergence: Assimilation, Deconstruction, Unitization and the Plurality of Analogies. Academy of Management Journal56 (1): 14-34.

Bucheli, M., & Wadhwani, R. D. (Eds.). (2013). Organizations in Time: History, Theory, Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Forbes, D. P., & Kirsch, D. A. (2011). The Study of Emerging Industries: Recognizing and Responding to Some Central Problems. Journal of Business Venturing26(5): 589-602.

Hansen, P. H. (2007). Organizational culture and organizational change: The transformation of savings banks in Denmark, 1965–1990. Enterprise and Society8(4), 920-953.

Khaire, M., & Wadhwani, R. D. (2010). Changing Landscapes: The Construction of Meaning and Value in a New Market Category—Modern Indian Art. Academy of Management Journal53(6), 1281-1304.

Rowlinson, M., Hassard, J., & Decker, S. (2013). Strategies for Organizational History: A Dialogue Between Historical Theory and Organization Theory.Academy of Management Review, amr-2012.

Schultz, M. and Hernes, T. (2013). “A Temporal Perspective on Organizational Identity,” Organization Science, 24(1): 1–21.



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