Commensurability and Collective Impact in Strategic Management Research: When Non-replicability Is a Feature, Not a Bug

Lori Rosenkopf and Daniel Levinthal, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: A persistent challenge in social science research is understanding whether and when empirical results generalize beyond a specific study’s sample or context. In strategic management, “quasireplication” examines whether results derived from particular industry, temporal, or geographic categories apply in adjacent research settings (Bettis et al 2016). We contend that the path to more robust and general theory must extend beyond quasi-replication by identifying the underlying factors driving both similarities and differences in results across research settings, which we call “basis variables.” By transforming our usual categorical representations of research settings, basis variables promote commensurability, where seemingly distinct settings become comparable, enabling middle-range theorizing as theoretical contingencies are revealed. We close with suggestions to identify and elevate basis variables in individual and collective research efforts.

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