Strategy and the Forming of Self

    Research output: Book/ReportDoctoral thesispeer-review


    The Doctoral Thesis of Robin Holt is based on the two books Strategy Without Design (co-authored with Robert Chia, Cambridge University Press, 2009) and Judgment and Strategy (Oxford University Press, 2018). His research is a distinctive contribution to business and economics, in the field of strategy. The books embody a theoretical study of strategy practice sustained, broadly, by the humanities.
    This breadth of approach has given the books a deliberately expansive and suggestive feel: they are written to provoke, to suggest to the reader how things might be otherwise with strategy studies, to encourage exploration and speculation. As such his work is not a detailed foray into what has already been written about business strategy, nor a direct addition to, or refined rebuttal of, what has gone before. Rather, it is a philosophical opening to what it might mean to think of strategy as judgmental, that is, a process of forming something - an organizational ‘self’.
    His work was prompted by a basic question “How is it possible to have a general sight of things?”. Strategy - from the Ancient Greek office for those responsible for the protection of the city, the generals – is steeped in knowledgeable attempts to realize an overview of an organization (a firm, department, country, political party) and its environmental setting in order to ensure its survival and flourishing. Yet events have a habit of overspilling and upsetting these attempts, almost to the point where strategy becomes less a plan based on accurate and timely information, than a visionary ideal. Or, failing its being either a plan or vision, it collapses into being an instrumental expression of will power.
    Across the two books, Holt has investigated whether strategy can be understood differently: rather than a view from above, as a view from within. In this he has been inspired thinking from the humanities – notably philosophy, art and literature – into a reformulation of strategic thinking grounded in judgment rather than just knowledge. For Holt, Judgment arises through critique of the assumed pre-eminence of a knowledgeable relation to the world. In this, judgment is distinct from decision making. Rather than look to the world as calculable and coherent (and so as something made available as information upon which to base decisions), judgment arises through repeated, everyday attempts at looking at one’s self in relation to others and otherness. The upshot is a partial, not a general awareness, and one that is largely ethical and aesthetic in form. Applied to organizations, Holt argues this self-image becomes a concern for gaining a sense of purposive voice and character rather than instrumental positioning. As such, strategy becomes the practice by which an organization strives to perfect itself through critique.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Doctoral dissertation in order to be awarded the doctoral degree in economics and business administration (dr.merc.)

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