The embedding of knowledge in the
academy: ‘‘tolerance’’, irresponsibility or
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine why there were different representations and
research applications of Burns and Stalker’s The Management of Innovation.
Design/methodology/approach – The approach primarily takes the form of an examination of
academic journals, in particular The Administrative Science Quarterly between 1960 and 1980.
Theoretical works, in particular by Bourdieu, were also used.
Findings – Contrary to accepted knowledge, the journals were eclectic in their approaches and did not
require authors to adopt positivist approaches.
Research limitations/implications – A fuller answer to the question posed would require interviews
with journal editors and university policy makers from the 1960s-1980s. This has not been possible so
far. Although some answers have been provided, questions still remain as to why certain representations
of this book were dominant.
Practical implications – There are implications as to what counts as knowledge in academe, and how
this knowledge should be treated, given that it may only partially represent the theory above and also
other theories. This has implications for what is taught in universities and what is adopted by consultants
as bona ﬁde knowledge.
Originality/value – To the author’s knowledge such questions using this type of research have not been
examined in the detail pursued here.
Keywords Contingency planning, Knowledge management
Paper type Research paper
Ongoing research into the representation of contingency theories from the 1960s with regard
to structural change have led to questions about how certain interpretations and
applications of these theories have become embedded in the academy as mainstream
‘‘knowledge’’, while other interpretations have been ignored. This is particularly so in
organization behavior and management accounting textbooks and in much management
accounting research. Previous research has examined various interpretations, principally of
Burns (1961) and Burn and Stalker’s (1966) The Management of Innovation (Green, 2005).
Research applications of these ideas by management accounting researchers have also
been analyzed, and it has been established that the types of knowledge produced by
mainstream interpretations and research applications are in important ways different from
the original texts (Green, 2007b).
The original theorists’ work was concerned with appropriate organization systems and
structures during the rapid changes occurring in the markets and technologies with regard
to computer systems in the early 1960s (Ashton et al., 1995). As well as recommending
appropriate structures in those times of change, the theorists spent large parts of their book
analyzing the obstacles to such changes that could occur in the organizations they studied.
Human agency – people’s career and political interests, the inﬂuence of informal and
DOI 10.1108/17471110910964469 VOL. 5 NO. 2 2009, pp. 165-177, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1747-1117
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY JOURNAL
Miriam Green is based at
the University of East
London, London, UK.
The author would like to thank
David Crowther and the