Performative theorization: How and when feedback loops make new theories persuasive.

Melodie Carytel (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Emilio Marti (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, NL)
Jean-Pascal Gond (Cass Business School, City, University of London, UK; Currently visiting Misum, SSE)

Integral to practice change is the development of persuasive theories supporting the adoption of those practices – a process called theorization. Previous studies have illuminated the role of discourse in making theories persuasive. We argue that these studies have neglected the role of feedbacks – proofs that theories “work” – in making theories persuasive. Drawing on the notion of anomalies from the performativity literature, we develop a model of theorization that distinguishes between and articulates the distinctive roles of discourse and feedback loops. Our model explains how feedback loops can make alternative theories persuasive and when feedback will play a role in theorization. To illustrate our model, we use the case of the “carbon bubble,” where we have competing theories about whether the stocks of oil and gas companies are overvalued, driven competing investment practices. In such and similar cases, feedback loops are key to understand whether new theories become persuasive and drive the institution-alization of alternative practices.

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