SMJ CfP: History & Strategy Research

Call for Papers for a Special Issue – Strategic Management Journal


History and Strategy Research: Opening Up the Black Box

Submission Deadline: September 30, 2017


Guest Editors

Nicholas S. Argyres, Washington University in St. Louis

Alfredo De Massis, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano and Lancaster University

Nicolai J. Foss, Bocconi University

Federico Frattini, Politecnico di Milano

Geoffrey Jones, Harvard University

Brian S. Silverman, University of Toronto

SMJ Advising Editors

Sendil Ethiraj and Constance Helfat



Business history and strategy research have traditionally had a close relationship. Thus, Chandler’s seminal research is often seen as key input into the development of strategy as an academic research field. Historical research methods and historical data are used to study a diverse set of strategic issues including industry evolution, technology strategy, dynamic capabilities and diffusion of innovation. More recently, interest has been growing with respect to exploring the nexus between history and strategy.

Historical analysis may be broadly defined as “empirical research that uses remote sensing and a contextualist approach to explanation.” Such analysis can be highly useful in strategy research that seeks to analyze path dependence or understand the origins/evolution of contemporary phenomena, identify sources of exogenous variation, develop and test historically informed theory, and add more detail to existing theories. Historical analysis allows strategy scholars to historically embed the study of how organizations learn, innovate and make strategic decisions over time. Equally important, such analysis enables scholars to understand how actors strategically develop interpretations of historical facts that shape their present behavior and set expectations for the future, and use artifacts from the past to create the basis for strategies in the present.

Aims and Scope

This Special Issue will push forward research at the intersection between history and strategy, to further integrate these two disciplines. We welcome empirical papers that apply established and innovative research methodologies to strategy questions by using historical data and records. In particular, we encourage research that uses novel datasets that support tracing over time how organizations, groups and individuals—by acting in a particular historically embedded context, and by mutually interacting—built, implemented and modified strategies. We also call for theoretical modeling that builds on history and provides new insights into the historical implica­tions of strategy.

Below we suggest two research themes that  illustrate the intersection of strategy and historical analysis. However, many other such themes can be envisaged and would be welcome as submissions to the Special Issue.

  1.  How do firms, groups and individuals use the past to give meaning to the present, inform their expectations about the future, and make strategic decisions? Within this research theme we encourage scholars to develop a more fine-grained understanding of the way in which the past influences how organizational goals are set, how future technology and market trends are forecast, and how new business opportunities are identified, evaluated and exploited. Path dependence suggests that the decisions an organization makes are influenced and limited by the decisions it has made in the past. However, we need more precise explanations of how specific and non-recurrent facts (or actions taken) in the past have led to particular strategic behaviors and to the development of organiza­tional capabilities. Such explanations of how the past somehow acquires cognitive salience and normative force can only be developed in close interplay with actual historical inquiry.
  1. How do firms, groups and individuals use knowledge and resources stemming from the past to trigger and realize acts of organizational change and innovation? Current research tends to portray the past as a constraining force that reduces flexibility and produces resistance to change, thus leading to organizational inertia, competence lock-ins, and escalating commitments to past actions. However, research suggests that firms can create competitive advantage through acts of innovation and organizational renewal by searching for, accessing, and using knowledge created at different points in the past, i.e., through “temporal search.” This opens up a set of timely and relevant research questions. What are the firm-, individual- and group-level capabilities required to successfully search, identify and recombine knowledge resources acquired in the past? How do firms learn to make innovations in their products, services, business models, procedures and strategies from the past? How do innovation processes and practices evolve over time, and how are they shaped by the interactions between firms and the past?

Submission Process

Submitted papers must be in accordance with the requirements of the Strategic Management Journal. Original manuscripts are due by the Submission Deadline of September 30, 2017, and must be submitted using the SMJ Submission system at Authors should indicate that they would like the submission to be considered for the special issue “History and Strategy Research: Opening Up the Black Box”. Authors of papers invited to be revised and resubmitted will be expected to work within a tight timeframe for revisions.

Further Information

Questions concerning pertaining to this special issue may be directed to:

For questions about submitting to the special issue contact the SMJ Managing Editor, Sara DiBari ( or visit