Conceptual translation: A metatheoretical program for the construction, critique, and integration of theory

Stuart Albert, Marc H. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Conceptual translation (CT) is a metatheoretical approach for translating one theory into another. It works by creating and applying a dictionary of translation equivalents between a source and target domain. The authors develop the process of CT and discuss how it addresses three core problems of organizational science: (1) the need to generate new theory (insights, relationships, propositions), (2) the need to critique existing theory, and (3) the need to overcome the increasing fragmentation of knowledge that characterizes social science. The article illustrates the potential contribution of CT by presenting three specific examples drawn from a translation of Michael Porter's (1980) Competitive Strategy, in which statements about competitive strategy become, in translation, statements about organizational change. Due to the convergence of two historical trends, the authors believe that CT represents a program of research that is particularly timely and represents a significant new direction in how theories will be constructed in the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-46
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010

Keywords

  • Competitive strategy
  • Conceptual translation
  • Creativity
  • Integration
  • Metaphor
  • Organizational change
  • Theory building

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