Theoretical underpinnings

Theoretical Underpinnings: Re-aligning strategies, processes and structures

Given the societal relevance of the illustrated knowledge gaps, my research builds upon and aims to contribute at the intersection of three theoretical pillars that underpin Figure 1:
  • The resource-based view (RBV) of the firm, which underpins strategic interventions in Figure 1 by explaining drivers and effects of stakeholder engagement; 
  • Theories of organizational learning, specifically dynamic capabilities and organizational entrepreneurship theories, which underpins human process interventions in Figure 1; 
  • New institutional economics (NIE) theory, specifically on hybrid organizations, which underpins structural interventions in Figure 1
The intersection of these three theories provides a combination of research questions and methods that I address in my research. The key assumption based on wicked problem theory is that, to deal with these societal challenges, agribusiness organizations need to continuously re-align their strategies, processes and structures to the dynamic nature of the issues that they face.

First of all, the RBV theory complements stakeholder theory in explaining why and when a firm engages with stakeholders (Dyer and Singh 1998; Freeman 2010). By engaging with stakeholders, a firm develops key intangible resources such as reputation, trust and social networks, which are inimitable resources leading to competitive advantage (Porter and Kramer 2011). This relationship provides business organizations with incentives to actively engage with other societal actors in dealing with wicked problems.

Second, organizational learning is crucial to continuously develop intangible resources as the organization deals with wicked problems that, by definition, change nature over time. In building upon organizational learning theories, two key concepts have been crucial for theoretical development: 1) dynamic capabilities, which entail double-loop learning in organizations (Argyris 1976) and trigger the ability to learn and adapt to continuous changes in the external environment (Teece 2007); 2) entrepreneurial processes, which involve recombining resources to seek opportunities for value creation through partnerships take place within and outside the organization (Steyaert and Hjorth 2008; Dorado and Ventresca 2013).

Finally, NIE theory is critical to understand and explain how the structure of partnerships may stimulate learning and adaptation processes. According to NIE theory, hybrid organizations describe intermediary forms between markets and hierarchies (Williamson 2002). As such, partnerships across and within organizations can be described as combinations of formal and informal mechanisms governing the management of interdependent resources (Menard 2004).


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Cummings, T. and Worley, C. (2014). Organization development and change. Cengage learning.

Dyer, J.H. and Singh, H. (1998). The relational view: Cooperative strategy and sources of inter-organizational competitive advantage. Academy of management review, 23(4), 660-679.

Freeman, R.E. (2010). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach. Cambridge University Press.

Ménard, C. (2004). The economics of hybrid organizations. Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics JITE, 160(3), 345-376.

Porter, M.E. and Kramer, M. R. (2011). The big idea: Creating shared value. Harvard Business Review, 89(1), 2.

Steyaert, C. and Hjorth, D. (Eds.). (2008). Entrepreneurship as social change: A third new movements in entrepreneurship book. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Teece, D.J. (2007). Explicating dynamic capabilities: the nature and microfoundations of (sustainable) enterprise performance. Strategic management journal, 28(13), 1319-1350.

Williamson, O.E. (2002). The theory of the firm as governance structure: from choice to contract. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 16(3), 171-195.

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