Scenarios Research and Cognitive Reframing: Implications for Strategy as Practice

Mukherjee, Malobi, Ramírez, Rafael and Cuthbertson, Richard (2016) Scenarios Research and Cognitive Reframing: Implications for Strategy as Practice. Saïd Business School Working Paper.

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This paper makes two contributions to strategic management research. It positions scenarios research as a way to connect micro, meso, and macro level cognitive framing (Cornelissen and Werner, 2014) regarding environmental uncertainties. This extends the boundaries of strategy as practice by involving extra organizational actors in strategy praxis to ascertain macro level uncertainties (Vaara and Whittington, 2012, Floyd, 2011) and by linking the complex connections between the micro, meso and macro praxis (Jarzabowski and Spee 2009).

The paper considers the role of a scenarios methodology in strategic management with respect to two unrelated case studies – a real estate firm, and a trade association, with and about whom two of the researchers have a detailed knowledge since 2009. While the findings we report here must be treated as exploratory, they do conform to a pattern of findings that a broader six year old research effort has been producing (Ramirez et al, 2015). The findings also conform to the way sociology has been treating the ‘framing’ of issues since Goffman (1974) popularized the construct. As Cornelissen & Werner’s (2014) recent review of framing suggests, the field includes ‘micro’ (individual) level research concerning the cognitive frame, frame of reference, and the framing effects involved; ‘meso’ organizational) level research about what strategic frame, technological framing, and collective action framing take place; and ‘macro-level’ research at the field level including institutional frames as well as framing contexts. This paper establishes that scenarios research allows management to clearly connect what Pierre Wack (1985) famously called the 'microscope of the mind to the 'macroscope- of the world accessed with scenarios; it does so by respectively reframing roles and relationships at the micro and meso levels.

This paper is also a response to the call made by Vaara and Whittington (2012) to broaden the analyses of strategy-making, moving away from a strong emphasis on the ability of individual managers or management teams to steer an organization to instead become more concerned with placing agency in a web of practices. Accordingly, Whittington et al (2003) proposed that strategy be investigated as a field or social system characterised by connections between corporate elites, strategy consultants, financial institutions, state agencies, the business media, and business schools with an emphasis on understanding how these interactions contribute to the production and consumption of particular kinds of strategy discourse. This paper establishes that taking a scenarios approach can help strategists in firms in turbulent environments (Emery and Trist, 1965) to host diverse views without having to reach agreement, and so more readily comprehend the relevance, complexity, and potential impacts of such a web of practices. By having a small set of scenarios that disagree with each other but do so within different futures, the views of “the other” (Habermas, 2000) and the connections between the web of practices can be safely explored within a “safe” transitional space (Amado and Ambrose, 2001).

Item Type: Oxford Saïd Research Paper
Keywords: Strategy, scenario planning
Subject(s): Strategy
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2016 17:32
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2018 09:55

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