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Making sense of theory construction: Metaphor and disciplined imagination

By J.P. Cornelissen


This article draws upon Karl Weick’s insights into the nature of theorizing, and extends and refines his conception of theory construction as ‘disciplined imagination’. An essential ingredient in Weick’s ‘disciplined imagination’ involves his assertion that thought trials and theoretical representations typically involve a transfer from one epistemic sphere to another through the creative use of metaphor. The article follows up on this point and draws out how metaphor works, how processes of metaphorical imagination partake in theory construction, and how insightful metaphors and the theoretical representations that result from them can be selected. The paper also includes a discussion of metaphors-in-use (organizational improvisation as jazz and organizational behavior as collective mind) which Weick proposed in his own writings. The whole purpose of this exercise is to theoretically augment and ground the concept of ‘disciplined imagination’, and in particular to refine the nature of thought trials and selection within it. In doing so, we also aim to provide pointers for the use of metaphorical imagination in the process of theory construction

Publisher: Sage Publications
Year: 2006
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