Counter-Clock World: How Planning Backwards Helps in Moving Forward in Collapsing Environments
Research on corporate decline and turnarounds as well as the strategic use of history have so far remained two separate research fields. We integrate these two fields with a thought experiment, proposing ways in which strategists can work with, and through time in managing and turning around declines. Our thought experiment involves two very different types of analogies: a textual one from Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novels, on the one hand, and a visual one from Einsteinian relativity science, on the other hand. Inspired and informed by these different conceptualizations of the past and time, we develop four forms of backward strategizing to successfully manage a struggling corporation on the brink of environmental collapse. The strategic options, presuming that managers are historically conscious agents embedded in time, direct corporations to go back in history, in actual terms, or in a fictional or mythological one – and thus to initiate a past-related rebirth. By offering a more nuanced and complex understanding of temporality and history, our perspective urges scholars to further unpack historical dimensions in managerial cognition of time.
Agar, J. (2013). Constant touch: A global history of the mobile phone. Icon Books.
Arogyaswamy, K., Barker, V. L. & Yasai-Ardekani, M. (1995). Firm turnarounds: An integrative two-stage model. Journal of Management Studies, 32(4), 493–525. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.1995.tb00786.x
Aroles, J., Clegg, S. & Granter, E. (2019). Death and the Penguin: Modularity, alienation and organising. Culture and Organization, 25(2), 104–117. doi: 10.1080/14759551.2018.1509861
Barbero, J. L., Martínez, J. A. & Moreno, A. M. (2020). Should declining firms be aggressive during the retrenchment process? Journal of Management, 46(5), 694–725. doi: 10.1177/0149206318811563
Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120. doi: 10.1177/014920639101700108
Beyes, T., Costas, J. & Ortmann, G. (2019). Novel thought: Towards a literary study of organization. Organization Studies, 40, 1–17. doi: 10.1177/0170840619874458
Brunninge, O. (2009). Using history in organizations: How managers make purposeful reference to history in strategy processes. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 22(1), 8–26. doi: 10.1108/09534810910933889
Cailluet, L., Gorge, H. & Özçağlar-Toulouse, N. (2018). “Do not expect me to stay quiet”: Challenges in managing a historical strategic resource. Organization Studies, 39(12), 1811–1835. doi: 10.1177/0170840618800111
Child, J. (1997). Strategic analysis of action, structure, organizations and environment: Retrospect and prospect. Organisation Studies, 18(1), 43–76. doi: 10.1177/017084069701800104
Cohen, P. A. (1997). History in three keys: The boxers as event, experience, and myth. Columbia University Press.
Cooper, R. (2005). Thought experiments. Metaphilosophy, 36(3), 328–347. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2005.00372.x
Czarniawska, B. & Gustavsson, E. (2008). The (D) evolution of the cyberwoman? Organization, 15(5), 665–683. doi: 10.1177/1350508408093647
Danneels, E. (2011). Trying to become a different type of company: Dynamic capability at Smith Corona. Strategic Management Journal, 32(1), 1–31. doi: 10.1002/smj.863
De Baets, A. (2009). Responsible history. Berghahn Books.
De Massis, A., Frattini, F., Kotlar, J., Messeni Petruzzelli, A. & Wright, M. (2016). Innovation through tradition. Academy of Management Perspectives, 30(1), 93–116. doi: 10.5465/amp.2015.0017
Dick, P. K. (1967). Counter-clock world. Berkley Paperback.
Dick, P. K. (1969). UBIK. Vintage.
Dreborg, K. H. (1996). Essence of backcasting. Futures, 28(9), 813–828. doi: 10.1016/S0016-3287(96)00044-4
Einstein, A. (1905). Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper. Annalen Der Physik, 17, 891–921. doi: 10.1002/andp.19053221004
Erdogan, I., Rondi, E. & De Massis, A. (2019). Managing the tradition and innovation paradox in family firms: A family imprinting perspective. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 44, 1–35. doi: 10.1177/1042258719839712
Foster, W. M., Coraiola, D. M., Suddaby, R., Kroezen, J. & Chandler, D. (2017). The strategic use of historical narratives: A theoretical framework. Business History, 59(8), 1176–1200. doi: 10.1080/00076791.2016.1224234
Gabriel, Y. (1993). Organizational nostalgia: Reflections on “the golden age.” In S. Fineman (Ed.), Emotions in organizations (pp. 118–141). Sage.
Giachetti, C. & Marchi, G. (2010). Evolution of firms’ product strategy over the life cycle of technology-based industries: A case study of the global mobile phone industry, 1980–2009. Business History, 52(7), 1123–1150. doi: 10.1080/00076791.2010.523464
Hannan, M. T. & Freeman, J. (1984). Structural inertia and organizational change. American Sociological Review, 49(2), 149–164. doi: 10.2307/2095567
Higgins, M., Lightfoot, G., Parker, M. & Smith, W. (2001). Science fiction and organization. Routledge.
Hobsbawm, E. (1983). Introduction: Inventing traditions? In E. Hobsbawm & T. Ranger (Eds.), The invention of tradition (pp. 1–14). Cambridge University Press.
Huff, J., Huff, A. S. & Thomas, H. (1992). Strategic renewal and the interaction of cumulative stress and inertia. Strategic Management Journal, 13, 55–75. doi: 10.1002/smj.4250131006
Jacobides, M. G. (2005). Industry change through vertical disintegration: How and why markets emerged in mortgage banking. Academy of Management Journal, 48(3), 465–498. doi: 10.5465/amj.2005.17407912
Janssen, C. I. (2013). Corporate historical responsibility (CHR): Addressing a corporate past of forced labor at Volkswagen. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 41(1), 64–83. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2012.731698
Kerman, J. (1991). Retrofitting blade runner: Issues in Ridley Scott’s blade runner and Philip K. dick’s do androids dream of electric sheep? Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
Ketokivi, M., Mantere, S. & Cornelissen, J. (2017). Reasoning by analogy and the progress of theory. Academy of Management Review, 42(4), 637–658. doi: 10.5465/amr.2015.0322
Kim, H. E. & Pennings, J. M. (2009). Innovation and strategic renewal in mature markets: A study of the tennis racket industry. Organization Science, 20(2), 368–383. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1080.0420
Knott, A. M. & Posen, H. E. (2009). Firm R&D behavior and evolving technology in established industries. Organization Science, 20(2), 352–367. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1070.0332
Kotter, J. P. (1995/2012). Leading change. Harvard Business Press.
Lamberg, J. A., Lubinaitė, S., Ojala, J. & Tikkanen, H. (2020). The curse of agility: The Nokia Corporation and the loss of market dominance in mobile phones, 2003–2013. Business History. doi: 10.1080/00076791.2019.1593964 [forthcoming].
Lem, S. (1975). Philip K. Dick: A visionary among the charlatans. Science Fiction Studies, 2(1), 54–67.
Lubinski, C. (2018). From “history as told” to “history as experienced”: Contextualizing the uses of the past. Organization Studies, 39(12), 1785–1809. doi: 10.1177/0170840618800116
McKinley, W., Latham, S. & Braun, M. (2014). Organizational decline and innovation: Turnarounds and downward spirals. Academy of Management Review, 39(1), 88–110. doi: 10.5465/amr.2011.0356
Mey, T. D. & Weber, E. (2003). Explanation and thought experiments in history. History and Theory, 42(1), 28–38. doi: 10.1111/1468-2303.00227
Miller, K. D., Gomes, E., & Lehman, D. W. (2019). Strategy restoration. Long Range Planning, 52(5), 101855.
Minkowski, H. (2012). Space and time. In V. Petkov (Ed.), Space and time: Minkowski’s papers on relativity (pp. 39–56). Minkowski Institute Press.
Morrow, J. L., Sirmon, D. G., Hitt, M. A. & Holcomb, T. R. (2007). Creating value in the face of declining performance: Firm strategies and organizational recovery. Strategic Management Journal, 28, 271–283. doi: 10.1002/smj.579
Ndofor, H. A., Vanevenhoven, J. & Barker, V. L. (2013). Software firm turnarounds in the 1990s: An analysis of reversing decline in a growing, dynamic industry. Strategic Management Journal, 34, 1123–1133. doi: 10.1002/smj.2050
Pandit, N. R. (2000). Some recommendations for improved research on corporate turnaround. M@n@gement, 3(2), 31–56.
Parker, M., Higgins, M., Lightfoot, G. & Smith, W. (1999). Amazing tales: Organization studies as science fiction. Organization, 6(4), 579–590. doi: 10.1177/135050849964001
Pearce, J. A. & Robbins, K. (1993). Toward improved theory and research on business turnaround. Journal of Management, 19(3), 613–636. doi: 10.1177/014920639301900306
Petkov, V. (2012). Introduction. In V. Petkov (Ed.), Space and time: Minkowski’s papers on relativity (pp. 1–38). Minkowski Institute Press.
Raffaelli, R. (2018). Technology reemergence: Creating new value for old technologies in Swiss mechanical watchmaking, 1970–2008. Administrative Science Quarterly, 64(3), 576–618. doi: 10.1177/0001839218778505
Robbins, D. K. & Pearce, J. A. (1992). Turnaround: Retrenchment and recovery. Strategic Management Journal, 13(4), 287–309. doi: 10.1002/smj.4250130404
Rowlinson, M. & Hassard, J. (1993). The invention of corporate culture: A history of the histories of Cadbury. Human Relations, 46(3), 299–326. doi: 10.1177/001872679304600301
Sasaki, I., Kotlar, J., Ravasi, D. & Vaara, E. (2020). Dealing with revered past: Historical identity statements and strategic change in Japanese family firms. Strategic Management Journal, 41, 590–623. doi: 10.1002/smj.3065
Schmitt, A., Barker, V. L., Raisch, S. & Whetten, D. (2016). Strategic renewal in times of environmental scarcity. Long Range Planning, 49(3), 361–376. doi: 10.1016/j.lrp.2015.08.004
Schmitt, A. & Raisch, S. (2013). Corporate turnarounds: The duality of retrenchment and recovery. Journal of Management Studies, 50(7), 1216–1244. doi: 10.1111/joms.12045
Schmitt, A., Raisch, S. & Volberda, H. W. (2018). Strategic renewal: Past research, theoretical tensions and future challenges. International Journal of Management Reviews, 20(1), 81–98.
Schmitt, A., Barker III, V. L., Raisch, S., & Whetten, D. (2016). Strategic renewal in times of environmental scarcity. Long Range Planning, 49(3), 361–376.
Sinha, P. N., Jaskiewicz, P., Gibb, J. & Combs, J. G. (2020). How New Zealand’s Gallagher group used rhetorical narratives to reprioritize and modify imprinted strategic guideposts. Strategic Management Journal, 41, 557–589. doi: 10.1002/smj.3037
Skow, B. (2015). Objective becoming. Oxford University Press.
Stopford, J. M. & Baden-Fuller, C. (1990). Corporate rejuvenation. Journal of Management Studies, 27(4), 399–415. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.1990.tb00254.x
Suddaby, R. (2016). Toward a historical consciousness: Following the historic turn in management thought. M@n@gement, 19(1), 46–60. doi: 10.3917/mana.191.0046
Suddaby, R., Bitektine, A. & Haack, P. (2017). Legitimacy. Academy of Management Annals, 11(1), 451–478. doi: 10.5465/annals.2015.0101
Suddaby, R. & Foster, W. M. (2017). History and organizational change. Journal of Management, 43(1), 19–38. doi: 10.1177/0149206316675031
Suddaby, R., Foster, W. M. & Trank, C. Q. (2010). Rhetorical history as a source of competitive advantage. Advances in Strategic Management, 27, 147–173. doi: 10.1108/S0742-3322(2010)0000027009
Tangpong, C., Abebe, M. & Li, Z. (2015). A temporal approach to retrenchment and successful turnaround in declining firms. Journal of Management Studies, 52(5), 647–677. doi: 10.1111/joms.12131
Trahms, C. A., Ndofor, H. A. & Sirmon, D. G. (2013). Organizational decline and turnaround: A review and agenda for future research. Journal of Management, 39(5), 1277–1307. doi: 10.1177/0149206312471390
Vaara, E. & Lamberg, J.-A. (2016). Taking historical embeddedness seriously: Three historical approaches to advance strategy process and practice research. Academy of Management Review, 41(4), 633–657. doi: 10.5465/amr.2014.0172
Vanderbilt, T. (2019, November). Brand illusions: Why a gin maker invented its own history. The Economist, Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/1843/2019/09/06/why-a-gin-maker-invented-its-own-history
Wadhwani, R. D., Kirsch, D., Welter, F., Gartner, W. B. et al. (2020). Context, time, and change: Historical approaches to entrepreneurship research. Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 14(1), 3–19. doi: 10.1002/sej.1346
Wadhwani, R. D., Suddaby, R., Mordhorst, M. & Popp, A. (2018). History as organizing: Uses of the past in organization studies. Organization Studies, 39(12), 1663–1683. doi: 10.1177/0170840618814867
White, H. (2005). Introduction: Historical fiction, fictional history, and historical reality. Rethinking History, 9(2–3), 147–157. doi: 10.1080/13642520500149061
Wiesen, S. J. (2003). West German industry and the challenge of the Nazi past, 1945–1955. University of North Carolina Press.
Ybema, S. (2014). The invention of transitions: History as a symbolic site for discursive struggles over organizational change. Organization, 21(4), 495–513. doi: 10.1177/1350508414527255
Zundel, M., Holt, R. & Popp, A. (2016). Using history in the creation of organizational identity. Management & Organizational History, 11(2), 211–235. doi: 10.1080/17449359.2015.1124042
Copyright (c) 2021 Juha-Antti Lamberg, Antti Ainamo, Christian Stutz
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to the AIMS.