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Ryan Rumble

PHD Graduate - 2021

Thesis title

revisiting business model ontology: a critical realist perspective

Areas of expertise

  • Cognition and Innovation
  • Strategy as Practice
  • Knowledge Management

Ryan studies Business Models as both social phenomena and cognitive tools. He is interested in the effects of institution, crime and deviance on Business Model emergence and innovation.

Despite its growing popularity, the business model concept remains theoretically underdeveloped. Much of the scholarly criticism directed towards it can be traced back to an implicit conflation between actual businesses and the models that represent them. The thesis concurs with Massa et al.’s (2017) recommendation that an explicit distinction between business and model is necessary to overcome many of these critiques. Moreover, the thesis goes on to argue that a simple acknowledgment of their differences is insufficient, since a business and its models are co-constructed and interdependent. Building upon critical realist insights, a meta-framework for business model research is presented that proposes relationships between businesses and models. This meta-framework opens up new research avenues that go beyond descriptive analyses of business structure, towards the identification of enduring mechanisms which may not yet have even been observed – a ‘theoretical physics’ of business. This thesis focuses on three key implications of viewing business models through a critical realist paradigm. First, it explains how treating business models as ideal types (and not businesses themselves) is a valuable analytical technique. Article one outlines a methodological innovation developed for this purpose, entitled reverse qualitative comparative analysis (rQCA), which enables researchers to identify potential mechanisms that influence business structure. Second, this thesis shows that by treating models and businesses as analytically distinct, we can begin to infer how the relate to one another. Article two shows how, by treating the former as an antecedent of the latter, we can identify how management schema and business model tools influence business structure (Rumble & Mangematin, 2015). Third, this thesis shows that although businesses and their models are related, they are not mirror images of one another, and that the same business is modelled in numerous ways. Article three outlines how managers can develop multiple models from the same business as a creative means to overcome cognitive biases. (Rumble & Minto, 2017) The thesis concludes that these three implications are far from comprehensive. It proposes future research avenues for scholars wanting to further explore the relationships between model, structure, and mechanism in strategy and business administration.
    • Innovation Management - Licence - from 2016 to 2016