Interactions between Ideas and Behaviour in Organizations

Magnus Marmgren, Sverker Alänge, Stefan Book


Purpose: To develop and test a framework which can be used to facilitate the understanding of how ideas interact with behaviour in organisations, in ways that have practical relevance in organisational development and improvement.

Design/methodology/approach: The framework proposed in this paper is the product of an abductive research process. This process involved testing and reflecting in action, and on action when writing. The emerging framework was also challenged by theoretical input from continual literature studies and has (at
different stages of its development) been part of the theoretical framework for a PhD dissertation, research articles and master’s theses.

Findings: The framework graphically highlights the relationship between explicit (i.e., spoken or documented) and tacit ideas, and that the latter is what largely controls action. It also implies that for new explicit ideas or theories to become effective, they have to become part of the tacit guiding ideas. This is often difficult to achieve. The framework gives a perspective on why this is the
case and how it can be counteracted, including by: addressing the coherence between its parts; supporting sense-making; and seeing development as iterative and contextual.

Practical implications: The framework has been tested with practitioners and has rapidly assisted professionals in making explicit, and developing, tacit knowledge. It has also been successfully used in analyses in several papers, including studies of sustainability and process management.

Originality/value: The implications of the framework are in line with existing research, yet we believe that the graphical model adds both scientific and practical dimensions. This is partly due to the framework making it easier to differentiate between complex concepts that are often confused.


Conceptual framework; tacit guiding; change management; sustainability; naturalizing

Full Text:



Alänge, S., 1992. Total Quality Management as a Tool for Organizational Change - The case of Motorola. CIM Working Papers, WP 1992:01.

Alänge, S., Jacobsson, S. and Jarnehammar, A., 1998. Some Aspects of An Analytical Framework for Studying the Diffusion of Organisational Innovations. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 10(1), pp.3-21.

Alänge, S., Clancy, G. and Marmgren, M., 2016. Naturalizing sustainability in product development: A comparative analysis of IKEA and SCA. Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, pp.1009-1022.

Alänge, S. and Mellby, C., 2006. Insider Action Research in Innovation Systems. In: C. Mellby, 2006. Agora Research: Design interventions in interorganizational settings. (lic. thesis) Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg.

Alänge, S. and Steiber, A., 2011. Diffusion of organisational innovations: An empirical test of an analytical framework. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 23(8), pp.881–897.

Argyris, C. and Schön, D., 1996. Organizational Learning II: Theory, Method and Practice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Argyris, C. and Schön, D.A., 1978. Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective (Vol. 173). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Barley, S.R., 1986. Technology as an Occasion for Structuring: Evidence from Observations of CT Scanners and the Social Order of Radiology Departments. Administrative Science Quarterly, 31(1), pp.78-108.

Barnard, C.I., 1938. The Functions of the Executive. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Beer, M., 2001. Why Management Research Findings Are Unimplementable: An Action Science Perspective. Reflections 2(3), pp.58-65.

Book, S., 2006. Naturalizing Quality Management: A Problem of Organizing in Processes of Change. PhD. Chalmers University of Technology, Department of Technology Management and Economics, Gothenburg.

Book, S., Alänge, S. and Solly, B., 2004. Quality Management from a Company Development Perspective: The complexity of a change process. Proceedings of the 7th International QMOD Conference Management Challenge of the New Millennium in Monterrey, Mexico, 4-6 August, 2004, pp.57-70.

Book, S., Marmgren, M. and Gustafsson, B., 2014. Sustainable governance: setting direction and inspiring change in a city development corporation. 18th International Conference on Sustainable Innovation, Copenhagen, Denmark, 3-4 November 2014.

Brannick, T. and Coghlan, D., 2007. In Defense of Being ‘Native’: The Case for Insider Academic Research. Organizational Research Methods 10(1), pp.59-74.

Brunsson, N., 1982. The irrationality of action and action rationality: decisions, ideologies and organizational actions. Journal of Management Studies 19(1), pp.29-44.

Clancy, G., 2014. Assessing Sustainability and Guiding Development towards More Sustainable Products. PhD. Chemical Environmental Science, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper.

De Guerre, D.W., 2002. Doing action research in one’s own organization: An ongoing conversation over time. Systemic Practice and Action Research 15(4), pp.331–349.

Dubois, A. and Gadde, L.E., 2002. Systematic combining: an abductive approach to case research. Journal of business research 55(7), pp.553-560.

Friberg, M., 1975 and 1976. Är lönen det enda som sporrar oss att arbeta? (Is salary the only incentive for work? - our transl. from Swedish). Sociologisk Forskning, 1975(4), pp.52-65 and 1976(1), pp.24-42.

Frischer, J., 2006. The learning alliance: relational aspects of learning. PhD. Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University, Aalborg.

Gummesson, E., 2000. Qualitative Methods in Management Research. 2nd ed., Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Johnson-Laird, P.N., 1983. Mental Models: Towards a Cognitive Science of Language, Inference, and Consciousness. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kahneman, D., 2011. Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Penguin Books (in 2012).

Karlsson, U., 1979. Alternativa Produktionssystem till Lineproduktion: En utvärdering av produktionssystem i karossverkstaden vid SAAB-SCANIA Trollhättan. PhD. Department of Sociology, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg.

Keating, E., Oliva, R., Repenning, N., Rockart, S. and Sterman, J., 1999. Overcoming the Improvement Paradox. European Management Journal 17(2), pp.120–134.

Lifvergren, S., 2013. Quality Improvement in Healthcare: Experiences from two longitudinal case studies using an action research approach. PhD. Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg.

March, J.G., Olsen, J.P. eds., 1976. Ambiguity and Choice in Organizations. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget.

Marmgren, M., Alänge, S. and Book, S., 2012. Understanding management systems: A test of a conceptual framework. 15th International QMOD Conference, 6–9 September, Poznan, Poland.

Meyer, J.W., Rowan B., 1977. Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. The American Journal of Sociology 83(2), pp.340-363.

Nadler, D.A. and Tushman, M.L., 1997. Implementing New Designs: Managing Organizational Change. In: Tushman, M.L. and Anderson, P. eds., 1997.

Managing Strategic Innovation and Change. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp.595–606.

Nonaka, I., 1994. A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation. Organization Science 5(1), pp.14-37.

Polanyi, M., 1966. The Logic of Tacit Inference. Philosophy 41(155), pp.1-18.

Schein, E.H., 1984. Coming to a New Awareness of Organizational Culture. Sloan Management Review 25(2), pp.3-16.

Schumpeter, J.A., 1934. The Theory of Economic Development: An Inquiry into Profits, Capital, Credit, Interest, and the Business Cycle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Schön, D.A., 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Simon, H.A., 1992. What is an Explanation of Behavior? Psychological Science, 3(3), pp.150-161.

Steiber A. and Alänge, S., 2013. A corporate system for continuous innovation: The case of Google Inc. European Journal of Innovation Management, 16(2), pp.243–264.

Steiber, A. and Alänge, S., 2016. The Silicon Valley Model - Management for Entrepreneurship. Cham: Springer International.

Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D., 1974. Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185(4157). (republished as Appendix A, pp.421-432 in Kahneman, 2011)

Tushman, M. and O´Reilly III, C., 1997. Winning through Innovation: A Practical guide to Leading Organizational Change and Renewal. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Weick, K., 1976. Educational organizations as loosely coupled systems. Administrative Science Quarterly 21(1), pp.1–19.

Weick, K., 1995 Sensemaking in Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Worren, N.A., Moore, K. and Elliott, R., 2002. When theories become tools: Toward a framework for pragmatic validity. Human Relations 55(10), pp.1227-1250.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2016 Magnus Marmgren, Sverker Alänge, Stefan Book

ISSN 1335-1745 (print)
ISSN 1338-984X (online)
CCBY crossref cope
Covered, abstracted, indexed in:
Clarivate Analytics Emerging Sources Citation Index; Scopus; Google Scholar; IDEAS; EconPapers; RePEc; Cabells' Directories; Google Scholar