Philosophies of Research in Business and Management. A Discussion of Social Science Issues in Terms of Truthfulness, Integrity and Authenticity

Scientific Study, 2020

31 Pages


I Table of Contents

I Table of Contents

II. List of Abbreviation

III. List of Figures

1. Introduction

2. Philosopy, methodology and methods
2.1 Philosophical Issues in Business and Management
2.1.1 Ontology
2.1.2 Epistemology
2.1.3 Axiology
2.1.4 Different position in research
2.2 Methodological approaches in business and management research
2.2.1 Quantitative
2.2.2 Qualitative
2.2.3 Reflexive
2.2.4 Reflective

3. Own Research
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Context
3.3 Research Questions and Aims
3.4 Actual Research Streams and Gaps
3.5 Research Design
3.5.1 Empirical Research Methods
3.5.2 Theoretical Research
3.5.3 Subject Limitations
3.6 Reflection
3.7 Proposed Literature

4. Discussion

5. Conclusion

IV. List of References

II List of Abbreviation

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

III List of Figures

Figure 2-1 Philosophy, Methodology, and Methods (cf. McAuley, 2018)

Figure 2-2 Different ontological/epistemological positions in research (cf. Johnson & Duberley, 2000)

Figure 3-1 Timeline of Enterprise Creations in Germany (cf. OECD, 2017)

Figure 3-2 Bankruptcies in Germany (cf. OECD, 2017)

Figure 3-3 Average Size of Employer Start-Ups (cf. OECD, 2017)

Figure 3-4 Mayor Agile Mainstreams and Spin-Offs (Own Diagram)

Figure 3-5 Mayor Agile Mainstreams and Spin-Offs incl. placed Research (Own Diagram)

Figure 3-6 Scrum Process (cf., 2017)

1 Introduction

In the context of Philosophies of Research in Business and Management (MBS), the pre-sent paper is a critical assessment about problems related to research in business and management, in order to reflect the topic, which are to develop critical interpretation and analysis of key issues in debates in undertaking research in the Social Sciences and in par-ticular Business and Management. This will enable students to critically comprehend on-going debates in management theory and research that are at the forefront of academic knowledge so that they can conceptualise how taken-for-granted assumptions and values (both by lay people and scientists) influence the ways in which different versions of reality are socially accomplished both in business and management research and organisation and management theory.

This process supports the module learning outcome, which are to Identify, explore and interpret the various approaches to the understanding of epistemological and ontological issues that are at the forefront of business and management research and theory. Evaluate the appropriateness and develop an informed critical awareness of the range of epistemologies and ontologies represented in the current spectrum of advanced organizational research in order to develop new insights into them. Appreciate the conceptual and meta-theoretical bases for critical reflexive/reflective competence in order to evaluate the factors, personal and external, that impact on the development of research capability. Develop critical awareness of the modes of engagement the researcher deploys in undertaking management and organizational research in complex and ambiguous situations and their ethical implications.

Due to the implied transfer of the own research and personal experience, the structure was chosen to give first of all a brief overview of the theoretical idea of the ontology and epistemology mindset and their associated methodological issues and methods, followed by the introduction to the own research topic, which is to understand business agility and associate measures in a better way, and closed by a discussion and conclusion.

2 Philosopy, methodology and methods

As conceptional framework to discuss the topics philosophy, methodologies and methods the presented concept during the module was chosen.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2-1 Philosophy, Methodology, and Methods (cf. McAuley, Coursematerial Philosophies of Research in Business and Management (MBS), 2018)

This conceptional framework distinguishes between the different philosophical issues in business and management, ontology and epistemology. This leads to different possible methodological issues like positivism, pluralist, and interpretation. Furthermore, possible methods are deriving from positivism like experiments, surveys, questionnaires and structured interviews. On the other hand, from and interpretative stand there are methods associated like thematic structure, unstructured interview and ethnography

2.1 Philosophical Issues in Business and Management

Usually in business and management there will be philosophically distinguished between ontology and epistemology. To understand the position and their differences is quite important to understand social science and the development of organization theory (cf. McAuley, Coursematerial Philosophies of Research in Business and Management (MBS), 2018).

Epistemology and Ontology, as well as Axiology addresses the often-unspoken assumptions about knowledge, people and society and values that rest beneath the surface of the research and theory we read and conduct. Since the terms are abstract because the subjects are abstract most researcher don’t write directly about their underlying assumptions, which cause an implied Epistemology and Ontology positioning. The reason why it is important to understand the position of an author is to understand and appreciate research on a more sophisticated level.

2.1.1 Ontology

Ontology describes the way we think the world is, also described as science of being and is looking what really exists or how it looks like (cf. Fleetwood, 2005). The main assumption of a realist is that something really exists, it is real and it is always discovered by us, even we don’t know the its characteristics. An idealist and subjectivist assume that the social reality in a created imagination of our cognition and consciousness (cf. Blaikie, 2007).

Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of human beings’ existence as individual, in society, and in the universe. The main ontological questions are “Who are we?” and “What are we here for?”. For example, we could ask “Do we make real freewill choices?”, “Do we make decision that influence the outcome?” or “Are there external forces controlling our outcome?”. We could also ask “Are humans best understood as individuals?” or “Are we best understood as existing in a group social system?”.

In order to understand the main understanding about reality it is important to differentiate between the contrary position’s idealism and realism. The radical idealism negates the existing of an outside world. Everything what a human being recognizes is only a brainchild. The critical idealism relativities this position by not excluding the fact of an existing outside world but doubts that the human being is able to recognize it proper. On the other hand, proponents of realism things that there is a materiel outer world which a human being is able to recognize. The strict realism states that the human being observes the world exactly how it is. Within the critical realism a human fallibility will admitted by bringing to mind that the world can only be approximately captured. In contradiction to idealism, realism should be the reflection of the reality.

Another good example which determines the ontology issue is the movie so called “I, Robot” with Will Smith. In this story there is a robot named Sony and he is very sophisticated. It seems that he figured out why the man how build him did this in order to answer the ontology question what the purpose of the robot actually is.

For me the ontological assumption beneath research and theory are pretty easy to spot. For example, if there is a study of individuals like a personality test, the researchers are most likely approaching as individuals within society. If they are studying groups and relationships, they are most likely approaching us in groups and relationships like through the communications field or sociology

Another look at this is how we are situated in society in terms of larger forces we face. For example, does a theorist cheat people if he is at the mercy of a system which is out of control. Or do they focus on the agency that people have to influence change. Depending upon their position they are taking different ontological positions or assumptions about their research, which I could recognize during my research of articles for my respective field very easily.

2.1.2 Epistemology

Epistemology describes how we distinguish what is real from what is mistaken. How we act in a social and individual way is driven by the way we see reality and what meaning we give to events. It is knowledge to know that knowledge is somehow available, without the knowledge itself. This allows as to determine what is scientifically allowed and what not, what is rational and what not or to assess the guaranteed from the uncertain (cf. Johnson & Duberley, 2000).

Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that studies knowledge or knowing and ask classical question like “How do we know what we claim to know?”. Theorists have different epistemological assumptions like knowledge is out there waiting to be discovered rather uncovered in terms of universal, unchanging and absolute truth by the researcher. On the other hand, researcher believe that people develop knowledge based upon based on how they perceive the world and through their experiences. Furthermore, there is this relativistic view that believes that knowledge is a mere social construction. In essence whatever we treat as knowledge is knowledge. There is no absolute or universal truth.

Also, within Epistemology the question rises how to recognize reality in a proper way, which leads to two approaches, the empiricism and the rationalism. On one hand the source of empiricism is the sensual experience. Based on those experiences it is possible to generate theories, which reflects the collected observations (Induction). On the other hand, rationalism has the path of finding within the idealism. In order to get to the truth, the main way is to go over thoughts and the mind. Generated theories arise deductive, which is first hypothetical and will be den verified empirically.

During the studies of relevant articles, I recognized that most researcher don’t come right out and state their Epistemological assumption directly. Their work leaves clues, especially how they approach their research methods to conduct their research. In other words, if they assume an objective reality, objective knowledge exists out there they will approach it that way. For instance, some organizational researchers do climate surveys, which are quantitative surveys, driven by statistical analysis. The idea here is, if you ask the right questions, you get reliable and valid answers. The results meant to give you a snap shot of how things really are. In other words, it is an objective reality out there and the objective survey is trying to show it. In contrast there are other ways to get acknowledge of the believes about the best way to know something. For example, the Ethnographic method believes that there is a real understating to experience something for yourself. You cannot study culture from an ethnographic point of view from a distance. Firsthand knowledge gain through experience is the best way to know epistemological issues.

2.1.3 Axiology

Axiology is a branch of philosophy that studies values and ask questions like “What do we value?” or “What values should guide our research?”. Furthermore, Axiology askes what value or outcome will result from our research? Axiology also challenges if our research is neutral or do the personal values and opinions of the research affect the shape how we do research. Also is the question being interesting if we should seek our research just to understand it or to seek to change the world for the better. If we want to change the society, what do we consider better, what do we value, economic quality, better health or deeper relationships? During my studies I could recognize sometime the obvious axiology orientation of an author within a so called “I-THOU” communication but sometime not.

2.1.4 Different position in research

Johnston and Duberley differentiating between different positions you can choose of embody in a research.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2-2 Different ontological/epistemological positions in research (cf. Johnson & Duberley, 2000)

Based on the individual epistemological or ontological position and the subjectivist and objectivist approach you are consequently choosing to occupy a specific position in you research like being a positivist, pragmatist, critical realist, interpretivist, conventionalist, member of the critical theory or of the postmodernism.

Looking at the different main ontological and epistemological position in research we can discuss positivism in terms of ontology as only one available reality which leads to the recognition that reality can be measured in terms of epistemology. On the other hand, interpretivism results in multiple realities in an ontology approach and in terms of epistemology the realness depends on subjective interpretations. Furthermore, pragmatism provides from an ontology point of view different realities bases on situation orientated interpretations and the fact that subjective interpretations and/or objective phenomena can convey knowledge as part of the epistemology view.

2.2 Methodological approaches in business and management research

In business and management research you are able to choose between a qualitative and quantitative approach as well as a reflective and reflexive approach which is based on the authors mindset and research position.

2.2.1 Quantitative

The quantitative approach is also called a deductive approach and describes the creation of theory by testing theory through observing the empirical world. From that different research methods can be derived like surveys, questionnaires, experiments, structured interview and so on (cf. Gill & Johnson, 2010).

The learning cycle of the deductive process is a closed circle and includes the elements theories, hypotheses, observation and empirical generalization. At some point the researcher has to create a hypothesis based on available theories. This leads to an observation of the subject of research. The results provide the possibility to develop an empirical generalization in order to support the confirmation, rejection or adoption of the existing theory (cf. Gill & Johnson, 2010).

2.2.2 Qualitative

The qualitative approach is also called an inductive approach and describes the creation of individual understanding by observing the empirical world. From that different research methods can be derived like ethnography, grounded theory, unstructured theory, conversation, observation and so on (cf. Gill & Johnson, 2010). The main idea is to have a relation with the subject of research by the researcher, consider human aspects, to be open in changing methods over the time and having written or spoken text provide the information and content instead of theory (cf. Cassel & Symon, 1994). It is difficult rather not achievable to find cause and effect due to the simultaneously changing of actors in der behavior. Therefore, generalization only can be made for a specific content and time frame. Also, reality is individually created by their actors and the associated knowledge is bounded to their owner (cf. Gill & Johnson, 2010).

The learning cycle of the inductive process starts with a pre-understanding of researcher by tanking the knowledge and intellectual pre-assumption into account. Then the observation starts of a specific issue by using methods mentioned before, which leads to hunches in order to outline some theories. This provides the ability to indicate a broader implication of the researched issue. With that knowledge the observation can be adjusted and also the pre-understanding will be influenced in that iterative process (cf. Gill & Johnson, 2010).

2.2.3 Reflexive

Alvesson and Sköldberg provide a differentiation between four different levels of reflexivity. The first one is the interaction with the research subject itself by conduction observation, interviews and other. Within the second level the researcher tries to understand the collected data in a fundamental way. This stage is followed by a critical interpretation in order to identify the ideology, power and social reproduction. On the last and fourth level a deep reflection occurs by examination of the own written text in terms of authority and transported voice in the text (cf. Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2009). In the context of organizational matters, it is possible to adopt behavior, thoughts, communication, emotions, culture and language, which might also cause a shattered organization due to the deepness of the research. Those insight provide also a deep insight of the manner of management as well as leadership which can support to avoid misunderstandings in communication (cf. McAuley, Johnson, & Duberley, 2014).

2.2.4 Reflective

In contrast to reflexive research, the reflective research aims to provide an empirical based theory about the kind we develop meaning through symbols and stories. This allows the organization reflect on the process of reflectiveness and self-examination in order to develop a change in intellectually thoughtful way. Doing so it needs to understand the empirical information in order to extract relevant knowledge. The researcher has to consider that from that particular different views on the issue can be derived, due to the organizational complexity. This raises the recognition that there is not only one reality and understanding available to and issue. This process is also influenced by common sense, which blurry the reality, as well as the spoken language differ between the members (cf. McAuley, Johnson, & Duberley, 2014)

3 Own Research

3.1 Introduction

In the authors doctoral studies (DBA program) in business administration at Sheffield Hallam University in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences Munich Business School the present research proposal sets the fundamental framework of the planned research and dissertation. The assigned supervisor to support the authors research has to be defined after the successful admission.

The working title summarises the main idea of the research proposal and reads as following:

Agile Management Methods as a Necessary Strategic

Success Factor in the Context of German Start-Ups

The key elements are “agile management methods”, “strategic success factor” and “start-ups”. Following this topic, we are talking about start-ups in a German environment which are in a broad sense basically young companies, notwithstanding of the nature of the products and service provided, which is situated just in the pre- or set-up phase of a business and is reaching out for financing funds. Nevertheless, often applied in common language use is the start-up term in a narrow sense to be defined as young growth companies, which has special innovation potential and is willing to take up activities in the growing field of software development, finance, biotech, nanotech, online trading, new production processes, industry 4.0 as well as aerospace technology (cf. Hahn, 2014, p. 4).

Another form of start-ups are so-called lean start-ups which are originated in 1999. They are driven to develop frequently very fast a very rudimentary product and to bring it to market. Afterwards an intense marketing hype is necessary to provide a desired cash cow. This form is nowadays considered as an unhealthy and unsuccessful way to start a business. A stronger focus on the customer and their needs are these days mandatory to develop a substantial business model (cf. Andreessen, 2013).

The topic also refers to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The European Union (EU) recommend to define micro enterprises with less than ten employees and a maximum annual revenue of two million Euro. Small businesses pertain to companies with less than 50 employees and up to ten million annual turnovers. Whereas medium sized enterprises are characterized with less than 250 employees and maximum 50 million revenues (cf. European Union, 2017).

The interest to provide the research in this field was awoken by the authors master thesis which provided a practical contribution to company founders in the field of financial planning. The examination of the start-up environment revealed that this field is not that much elaborated as management issues and topic for existing big companies.

This topic seems to be scientific relevant due to the increasing failure and decreasing number of start-ups in Germany which is discussed in a scientific discourse. It also does tangent to business efficiency, business agility and business planning.

3.2 Context

Entrepreneurship is enjoying ever growing popularity, most likely due to the idea that it is only possible to develop the own personality through a self-determining activity. A business start-up establishes for the founder the highest degree of individual personal development and complacency. Thus, it is not surprising that especially for the younger generation this topic become more and more in the centre of attention (cf. Hahn, 2014, p. 3). Furthermore, independent or freelance activities may provide both personal fulfilment and an opportunity of more income (cf. Maschmeyer, 2016, p. 279).

All companies require capital, to invest in plant, machinery, inventories, accounts receivable, and all the other assets it takes to run a business (cf. Brealey, Myers, & Allen, 2013, p. 749). The topic finance planning has an essential importance in the context of business planning. It summarizes all textual descriptions of the business plan into clear interpretable numbers. Potential and value of a business idea has to be clearly visible and identifiable. Based on a detailed planning the capital requirements arise, which is needed to derive the necessary type of funding (cf. Küsell, 2006, p. 379).

Due to the fact that most start-ups are characterized by relatively high risk of fail (cf. Andreessen, 2013) and a huge need of capital by the founder, which can cause an existential personal threat, a detailed and realistic finance plan is mandatory (cf. Vogelsang, Fink, & Baumann, 2013, p. 49). For the existence of a start-up, it is essential to have always available and sufficient liquidity and it constitutes therefore a fundamental motive for a corporate financing (cf. Hahn, 2014, p. 5).

Also, a recent study indicated that for financial funding and success with a start-up, passion and enthusiasms of the funders doesn’t matter as much as a detailed preparation about the business idea and the finance planning (cf. Dholakia, 2015, p. 11).

The actuality of this topic in general can be foreseen from the fact that in Germany in year 2015 roundabout 388,000 companies were launched, unlike 422,000 start-ups in the year 2014 (cf. BMWI, 2016, p. 4). The spread is even larger when you receive attention to the fact, that we had in the year 2011 round about 835,000 start-ups and in the year 2003 even 1.5 million (cf. Opoczynski & Horn, 2012, p. 13). The developing of enterprise creations can be seen in the following chart.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 3-1 Timeline of Enterprise Creations in Germany (cf. OECD, 2017)

In the following chart the bankruptcies in Germany are shown which is declining. Nonetheless, the decreasing shouldn’t be interpreted as a positively trend due to the fact that it correlates with the decreasing numbers of enterprise creations in the chart above.


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Philosophies of Research in Business and Management. A Discussion of Social Science Issues in Terms of Truthfulness, Integrity and Authenticity
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Patrick Lukasiak (Author), 2020, Philosophies of Research in Business and Management. A Discussion of Social Science Issues in Terms of Truthfulness, Integrity and Authenticity, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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