Reading Summary of Eric Abrahamson and Gregory Fairchild's Management Fashion: Lifecycles, Triggers, and Collective Learning Processes
Reading Summary Management Fashion: Lifecycles, Triggers, and Collective Learning Processes Eric Abrahamson and Gregory Fairchild Background Previous to this study, the primary focus of management fashion was on rhetorics (written and spoken supporting a singular technique). Institutionalized organizational forms and techniques. There has been very little research on why certain management fads become institutionalized and others do not. This research is guided by three questions; (1) what are the overall trends of the popularity curves of management fashions, and why do they take the shapes they do? 2) to what extent are management fashions' upswings and down-swings triggered and shaped by forces exogenous to the management-knowledge market, by forces endogenous to this market, or by both types of forces? (3) does fashionable management discourse evidence a pattern of real learning- carefully considered arguments triggering the onset of the fashion, with counterfactual evidence triggering its decline- or does the discourse evidence superstitious learning, emotional outbursts of unrealistic enthusiasm at the onset followed by disillusionment in the decline?
Thesis While most fads in management technique are short-lived some techniques become institutionalized and evolve and are reshaped to fits current fashions. Exogenous and endogenous forces shape the demand for management- knowledge entrepreneurs to constantly reshape and redefine rational management processes. Evidence Abrahamson and Fairchild's study yielded findings that help contextualize the concept of management fashion. Lifecycles of a management techniques typically follow a "short-lived, bell-shaped, symmetric popularity curve".
Positive feedback on management techniques increases the discourse promoting that technique, making it more diffuse across organizations. Exogenous forces facilitate or suppress fashion niches and endogenous maintain niches. Superstitious learning suggests that managers seek to find instant-results and cure-all solutions for their management approach, motivated by emotion rather than detailed studies. Whereas real-learning constitutes careful planning and evaluation of ideas to produce an effective management technique. Limitations
Abrahamson and Fairchild articulate the negative aspects of constant transience -temporal instability and cross-sectional diversity- but fail to indicate the effects these management fashions have on the institutions in which they are implemented. Do shifting management techniques stunt institution growth, do changing techniques disrupt the markets for the products of these institutions? Questions (1) What causes certain management practices to become institutionalized while others are only passing fads? (2) Are the results of "superstitious-learning" or "real-learning" more likely to be adopted? Which is more effective?
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