In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Strategy and Cognition

  • Introduction

Management Strategy and Cognition
J.P. Eggers, Daniel Keum
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 November 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0068


Research on cognition in strategy is the bridge between traditional firm-focused strategy research and individual-focused psychology research: it considers the role of individuals in affecting the entire organization. “Cognition and strategy” is less a field in and of itself but more like a meeting point for researchers from multiple perspectives that are interested in the role of human beings (and their cognition) in the process of strategy creation and implementation. Most of the studies discussed here apply a cognitive perspective to one of the many commonly studied strategic phenomena, such as competitive interaction, capability development, organizational structure, entrepreneurship, and adaptation. The goals of this article are twofold: to organize and present the most relevant and important literature to scholars interested in the interplay between cognition and strategy and also to establish and identify the links between research on cognition and strategy with other topics in the mainstream of research on strategy, organizations, and elsewhere. This article strikes a balance between the pioneering work in the 1980s and early 1990s that initiated significant interest in the relationship between cognition and strategy, as well as more recent works that highlight new approaches on cognition and strategy. This is especially apparent when considering the empirical methods that have been used to investigate strategy and cognition, with much of the work being qualitative (ethnographic or case-study based), but with many innovations (new and old) including experimental data, formal and simulation models, field studies, and large scale empirical work leveraging novel sources of data on cognition from top managers and organizations. Studies are not organized by method, but the bibliography points out the methodological approach for each study to highlight the creativity that scholars have shown investigating cognition. This bibliography is organized as follows. “Foundations” introduces important connections to related domains and the early calls to integrate cognition and strategy. Sections on Cognition and the External Environment and Cognition About the Organization organize cognition based on direction (the former looking outward at competition and the environment, and the latter looking inward at resources, capabilities, and innovation). Cognition in Organizations discusses how strategic cognition is affected (positively or negatively) by being situated in an organization. Outcomes focuses on strategic cognition as an explanatory variable: how does cognition affect outcomes? Together, these various perspectives provide a coherent but still-evolving picture of how the cognitive aspects of the strategy creation and implementation processes affect organizational behavior and outcomes.


This section covers the basic introductory elements to the discussion of strategy and cognition. The most important is the link with related domains in other research areas that are not directly about cognition and strategy but build an important foundation. This section also contains the original “calls to action” that motivated initial research in cognition and strategy. For reference purposes, this section also contains a summary of key methodological issues, some recent reviews of the relevant literature, a few theories that are specific to cognition and strategy, relevant journals, and a set of well-known edited volumes.

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