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Edited by Mélanie E. Hassett and Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki
Chapter 8: In search of generative mechanism: the grounded theory approach to process theory building
Process studies focusing on change over time are one vein within longitudinal research, and are my concern in the current chapter. As many researchers argue, the development of process theories will benefit management research (A vital 2000; Langley 1999; Barnett and Caroll 1995; Petti grew 1990, 1997), but there is an apparent knowledge gap with regard to the related challenges. Despite the growing interest in the dynamic aspects of organizational practice, few empirical studies assess how processes change or unfold over time (Langley 2007). On the basis of my earlier experiences of conducting longitudinal research on internationalization, which focused on why different processes emerge and how they work, I will elaborate on the role of generative mechanisms in conceptualizing complex organizational processes. Generative mechanisms here refer to the explanatory basis of process research, the specification of what brings relationships between variables and events into existence. Hence the focus is on why and how complex phenomena develop rather than on establishing associations between variables and events. I argue that the identification of generative mechanisms is essential for the development of process theory, and illustrate how the grounded theory (GT) approach (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Glaser 1992) enabled such explanation in my example study on foreign-market expansion (FME) processes (Vincze 2004a). Despite extensive research on longitudinal and process approaches, studies concentrating on grounded theory are scarce. Researchers rarely explicitly discuss the longitudinal and process characteristics of the methodology.
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