Microfoundations of strategic problem formulation

ArticleinStrategic Management Journal 34(2):197-214 · February 2013with551 Reads
DOI: 10.2307/23362696
Abstract
Before a strategy can be developed, the problem it is supposed to address needs to be formulated. We establish the microfoundations of strategic problem formulation by developing a theory that predicts a core set of impediments to formulation that arise when complex, ill-structured problems are addressed by heterogeneous teams. These impediments fundamentally constrain and narrow problem formulation, thereby limiting solution search and potential value creation. We establish these impediments as a set of design goals, which, if remedied by an appropriately constructed mechanism, can expand problem formulation to be more comprehensive. Finally, we consider how organizations can improve problem formulation by creating a structured process that satisfies the theoretically derived design goals and detail a specific example of this mechanism (collaborative structured inquiry).

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  • ... Taking the problem and problem definition search as the starting point, we may define exploration based upon the novelty of the problem being defined and its distance from prior problem definitions. This idea is in line with arguments in work that takes the " problem " as the critical unit (Baer et al., 2013;Hsieh et al., 2007;Leiblein & Macher, 2009;Macher & Boerner, 2012;Nickerson et al., 2012;Nickerson & Zenger, 2004;Felin & Zenger, 2015). We interpret this literature as suggesting that a central dimension of novelty in organizations reflects the novelty of the problem being solved. ...
  • ... As specialization proliferates and innovation growth suffers ( Jones, 2009;Gittelman, 2016), developing a solution-seeker role can be an important alternative for increasing innovative performance. Future research is warranted to understand the new capabilities that the solution-seeker role might encompass, such as formulating problems in ways that attract solvers from distant disciplines ( Baer, Dirks, and Nickerson, 2013;Lifshitz-Assaf, 2018) and being able to integrate these external and distant solutions ( Katila and Ahuja, 2002; Dahlander, O'Mahony, and Gann, 2014). These questions are important as part of our need to revisit and better comprehend the role of expertise in the digital age ( Collins and Evans, 2007;Eyal, 2013;Lifshitz-Assaf and Szajnfarber, 2017). ...
  • ... The problem formulation and solving represents a core activity in strategic decision making (Baer, Dirks, and Nickerson, 2013). Research in decision-making has focused on the effect of the decision problem type, and available time to make the decision. ...
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