Sub-theme 63: Using Heuristics in Times of Responsibility, Renewal, and Resistance ---> CANCELLED!


Call for Papers

Heuristics are important for organization research and practice in many ways (Eisenhardt & Sull, 2001; Langley et al., 1995). According to Gigerenzer and Gaissmaier (2011: 454), heuristics function “with the goal of making decisions more quickly, frugally and/or accurately than more complex methods” by ignoring some information. As heuristics can help to provide efficient guidance in dynamic environments, and decision-making research is interested in the specific heuristics that find application in management and organization (e.g., Bingham et al., 2007; Davis et al., 2009; Hodgkinson & Healey, 2011; Bingham & Haleblian 2012; Heimericks et al., 2015).
Scholars have started to explore how organizations develop heuristics to facilitate decision-making in uncertain situations (Bingham & Haleblian, 2012; Bingham et al., 2007) and add to the psychological foundations of strategy (e.g. Bingham & Eisenhardt, 2011). In addition, literature on disasters or crisis brings decision-making strategies to the fore (e.g. improvisation, bricolage; Weick 1993) that could advance our understanding as to how organizations and individuals deal with organizing for a sustainable future in times of resistance, and crisis. While this nascent body of literature has made substantial contributions to a better understanding of heuristics and has carved out their important role for organizations (see Loock & Hinnen, 2015, for an overview), it has paid far less attention to how organizations actually use heuristics to make decisions, and has focused even less how heuristics are of importance in the face of grand challenges. In the face of this, this stream of literature has devoted far less attention to the use of heuristics itself and their relevance, and mechanisms in this process of solving “intractable problems” (Bettis, 2017). Despite these fine foundations, we need to know more about the distinct ways of how heuristics help organizations and management to solve grand challenges.
With this sub-theme, we aim to further open the black box and explore how heuristics and simple rules are actually at work in organizations attempting to guide organizations towards responsibility and renewal. We are interested in the heuristics used by groups and individuals, and build on the previously organized EGOS sub-themes in 2019 on “Heuristics and Simple Rules” and in 2018 on “Heuristics: Novel Insights into Organizing and Organizations”. We therefore address with the discourse on decision-making heuristics and simple rules in turbulent environments a core topic in organization research, essential to organizing for a sustainable future.
We know that heuristics can be helpful in solving problems and challenges. We also know that problems and challenges are manifold, and we see that management and organizations face challenges ranging from technology related challenges such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) towards sustainability challenges that relate to environmental, social and economic problems.
In fact, “the world is besieged by challenges” (George et al., 2016: 1880). However, some of the core features of grand challenges make it difficult to build solutions based on established research and theories:

  • First, grand challenges are highly complex. It is difficult for organizations to focus on and process all the relevant information. While organization capability in processing complexity increases dramatically (e.g. due to novel technology such as digital technology and artificial intelligence) the acquisition of some of these capabilities is costly and organizations require novel, more efficient alternatives.

  • Second, grand challenges induce multiple dynamics and change on individual, team, organizational and market levels. While some degree of change has long been acknowledged to be consequential for organizations the magnitude of dynamics in the light of grand challenges requires strategies that are able to accommodate change but still provide sufficient guidance for organizational stakeholders.

  • Finally, grand challenges capture hard problems for which optimal solutions are either uncertain or not possible. Organizations require novel tools and theory to master such uncertainty.

How are heuristics and simple rules used on the individual, group and organizational level, in order to establish and maintain responsible actions and renewal in the light of wicked problems and grand challenges? We encourage scholars to open the black box associated with this question. We call for research that investigates how simple rules and heuristics influence processes of responsibility and renewal to tackle global problems. Further questions relate to the interaction process between the organization’s simple rules or rule regime and the decision-maker’s individual heuristics. Additionally, we also pose questions how firms embed their aspirations into simple rules and into heuristics to meet their perceived market challenges and how they deal with disruptively evolving environments that depreciate previously successful rules and heuristics. It’s the aim of this sub-theme to bridge research from strategic management with organization studies emphasizing how practices of strategic change reflect organizational and individual influences and interactions, when attempting to create change.
Thus, following questions may be addressed such as

  • How do managerial and organizational heuristics help to utilize potential of artificial intelligence but at the same time also hedge possible threats that follow from the emergence of powerful digital technology?

  • How do managerial and organizational heuristics contribute solutions to climate change?

  • How do managerial and organizational heuristics guide action in regard to climate change (e.g., usage of nuclear power)?

  • How do heuristics help solving income inequalities?

  • How does power and politics influence heuristics

  • How do different levels (organizational, team, and individual) engage with strategic decision making in terms of simple rules, heuristics, codified and articulated guidelines

  • How do simple rules and heuristics on meta-level function and lead to learning and change in the organization

  • How do heuristics help to solve conflicts and how do heuristics actually work?

  • How can heuristics help to direct the potential of AI to solve grand challenges?

  • How can heuristics be controlled and what are downsides of using them in a managerial and organizational context?

We invite and encourage contributions on a theoretical-conceptual and an empirical basis that try to tackle grand challenges by using simple rules and heuristics in general and/or open the black box associated with them. We further encourage contributions on the interactions to other topics and discussions such as routines, aspiration levels, dynamic capabilities, learning, ambidexterity, and related concepts and fields. All kinds of empirical settings, e.g., longitudinal studies, process studies, secondary data analyses, case studies, surveys, experiments, actor-centered measurements, etc. are more than appreciated. We also encourage a multi-level analysis of the topic at hand. We want to provide a home and create a platform for scholars who engage in this core field of organization research.


  • Bettis, R. (2017): “Organizational Intractable Decision Problems and the Intellectual Virtues of Heuristics.” Journal of Management, 43 (8), 2620–2637.
  • Bingham, C.B., & Eisenhardt, K.M. (2011): “Rational heuristics: the ‘simple rules’ that strategists learn from process experience.” Strategic Management Journal, 32 (13), 1437–1464.
  • Bingham, C.B., & Eisenhardt, K.M. (2014): “Response to Vuori and Vuori’s commentary on ‘Heuristics in the strategy context’.” Strategic Management Journal, 35 (11), 1698–1702.
  • Bingham, C.B., Eisenhardt, K.M., & Furr, N.R. (2007): “What makes a process a capability? Heuristics, strategy, and effective capture of opportunities.” Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 1 (1/2), 27–47.
  • Bingham, C.B., & Haleblian, J.J. (2012): „How firms learn heuristics: Uncovering missing components of organizational learning.” Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, 6 (2), 152–177.
  • Davis, J., Eisenhardt, K.M., & Bingham, C.B. (2009): “Optimal structure, market dynamism, and the strategy of simple rules.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 54 (3), 413–452.
  • Eisenhardt, K.M., & Sull, D.N. (2001): “Strategy as simple rules.” Harvard Business Review, 79 (1), 100–116.
  • George, G., Howard-Grenville, J., Joshi, A., & Tihanyi, L. (2016): “Understanding and tackling societal grand challenges through management research.” Academy of Management Journal, 59 (6), 1880–1895.
  • Gigerenzer, G., & Gaissmaier, W. (2011): “Heuristic decision making.” Annual Review of Psychology, 62 (1), 451–482.
  • Heimeriks, K., Bingham, C., & Laamanen, T. (2015): “Unveiling the temporally contingent role of codification in alliance success.” Strategic Management Journal, 36 (3), 462–473.
  • Hodgkinson, G.P., & Healey, M.P. (2011): “Psychological foundations of dynamic capabilities: reflexion and reflection in strategic management.” Strategic Management Journal, 32 (13), 1500–1516.
  • Langley, A., Mintzberg, H., Pitcher, P., Posada, E., & Saint-Macary, J. (1995): “Opening up decision making: the view from the black stool.” Organization Science, 6 (3), 260–279.
  • Loock, M., & Hinnen, G. (2015): “Heuristics in organizations: A review and a research agenda.” Journal of Business Research, 68 (9), 2027–2036.
  • Weick, K.E. (1993): “The collapse of sensemaking in organizations: The Mann Gulch disaster.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, 628–652.