Qualitative research inmanagement: addressingcomplexity, context and persona
School of Business, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
– To contribute to improved research practices by addressing three key realities inmanagement research, all being largely disregarded by research: complexity, context and persona (thehuman and social aspects of researcher behaviour).
– Based on observations from real world cases and inductiveanalysis the article proceeds as a scientiﬁc discourse and advocacy for qualitative methodologycombined with network theory, particularly current developments in the natural sciences.
– A qualitative approach to research is required, allowing researchers to deal withcomplexity, context and persona and their multitude of factors, relationships and fuzzy phenomena;conventional statistical methods fail in all these aspects. Holistic, systemic thinking as manifested incase study research and modern network theory offers a superior mindset and techniques for mergingmodern physics and mathematics with qualitative approaches. Social and human properties, includingtacit knowledge, common sense, subjectivity and what drives a researcher need to be made part of research.
– Research in management disciplines, neither basic researchnor applied research can rely on mainstream quantitative techniques. These are two shallow as theycan harbour too few variables, do not put studied phenomena in their proper context, and sweeppersona under the carpet.
– The article is on qualitative methodology and the opportunities it offers toaddress issues not handled well by mainstream research in business. Modern natural sciences areintroduced; especially network theory, suggesting a merger between the quantitative and thequalitative and between modern natural sciences and business research. In this way the reality of complexity, context and persona can be added to the research agenda.
Qualitative research, Management research, Complexity theory
During the past few years the business press has regularly reported the developmentsof Airbus, the European manufacturer of aircraft (see, e.g.
, 2003, 2004;
, 2005). Airbus is building the A380 superjumbo that can seat 555passengers in its standard version – but 800 could be packed in. It ﬂies 14,800kmnon-stop. The new aircraft has required the gargantuan development budget of US$13billion. It not only demands an expensive and lengthy design and engineering phase,the building of new factories and the hiring and training of staff, but alsoinfrastructural investment. To transport components from other countries andfactories they had to widen highways, and build an ocean-going ferry and customisedriver barges. The project is dependent on partners; ﬁnancial solutions for the project assuch and for the customers to be able to buy; government decisions; strict securityregulations; capacity of airports; and environmental considerations. On a political
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Quality researchin management
Management DecisionVol. 44 No. 2, 2006pp. 167-179
Emerald Group Publishing Limited0025-1747DOI 10.1108/00251740610650175