The Principal Contradiction: A Study in the Psychology of Strategy

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Title: The Principal Contradiction: A Study in the Psychology of Strategy
Year: 2008
Authors: Sullivan, C., & Langdon, L.

The Lack of Psychology in Strategy

By some measures, strategy has become the dominant discipline in management. The Academy of Management, management's leading professional association, lists 5,003 members in the Division of Policy and Strategy, almost 1/3 of the Academy's total membership and second only to the much more encompassing division of Organizational Behavior. In the lay press, perhaps only leadership rivals strategy as the most popular subject. And among management consultants, strategy is considered the crown jewel. The larger firms'the Monitors, McKinseys, and Boston Consulting Groups of the world'all made their names in strategy. Even among nonprofits, one cannot go too long without hearing about a 'big, hairy, audacious goal' a reference to Jim Collin's popular book on strategy, Built to Last.

Yet interestingly, strategy'compared to other areas of management'is the least informed by the ideas of psychoanalysis. Where many disciplines have dabbled in, assimilated or been influenced by psychoanalytic thinking, strategy has remained indifferent to the influence of psychology . The reluctance to make connections between the two domains appears to be mutual; despite the interest in strategy more broadly, psychoanalytically oriented scholars and practitioners have rarely engaged in its problems.

This absence of dialogue between the two fields deprives each a deeper understanding of their respective territories. Given its narrower focus on economics and finance, 'business' might find opportunities for innovation through psychoanalytic treatments of strategy. And for the psychoanalytically minded, we may benefit from examining organizational life through a strategic lens. Indeed, as we hope to show in this paper, strategy provides a powerful vantage point for exploring latent processes in organizations.

Keywords: Psychology, Strategy, policy, organizational behavior
Language: English

Date: 6/16/2008
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Name of Event/Conference: 25th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations
Sponsoring Organization: ISPSO

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