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Beyond Gaussian averages: redirecting international business and management research toward extreme events and power laws

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  • Pierpaolo Andriani

    (Durham Business School, Durham, UK)

  • Bill McKelvey

    (The UCLA Anderson School of Management, Los Angeles, CA, USA)

Abstract

Practicing managers live in a world of ‘extremes’, but international business and management research is based on Gaussian statistics that rule out such extremes. On occasion, positive feedback processes among interactive data points cause extreme events characterized by power laws. They seem ubiquitous; we list 80 kinds of them – half each among natural and social phenomena. We use imposed tension and Per Bak's ‘self-organized criticality’ to argue that Pareto-based science and statistics (based on interdependence, positive feedback, scalability, (nearly) infinite variance, and emphasizing extremes) should parallel the traditional dominance of Gaussian statistics (based on independent data points, finite variance and emphasizing averages). We question quantitative journal publications depending on Gaussian statistics. The cost is inaccurate science and irrelevance to practitioners. In conclusion, no statistical findings should be accepted into business studies if they gain significance via some assumption device by which extreme events and (nearly) infinite variance are ignored. Accordingly, we suggest redirecting international business studies, and management research in general. Journal of International Business Studies (2007) 38, 1212–1230; doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400324

Suggested Citation

  • Pierpaolo Andriani & Bill McKelvey, 2007. "Beyond Gaussian averages: redirecting international business and management research toward extreme events and power laws," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 38(7), pages 1212-1230, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:jintbs:v:38:y:2007:i:7:p:1212-1230
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Martín-González, Juan Manuel & de Saá Guerra, Yves & García-Manso, Juan Manuel & Arriaza, Enrique & Valverde-Estévez, Teresa, 2016. "The Poisson model limits in NBA basketball: Complexity in team sports," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 464(C), pages 182-190.
    3. Hélène Laurell & Leona Achtenhagen & Svante Andersson, 2017. "The changing role of network ties and critical capabilities in an international new venture’s early development," International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 113-140, March.
    4. Crawford, G. Christopher & Aguinis, Herman & Lichtenstein, Benyamin & Davidsson, Per & McKelvey, Bill, 2015. "Power law distributions in entrepreneurship: Implications for theory and research," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 696-713.
    5. Luciano PILOTTI & Maria VERNUCCIO & Andrea GANZAROLI, 2011. "Tassonomia, topologia e tipologia dei sistemi produttivi locali in Italia: un tentativo di sintesi," Departmental Working Papers 2011-22, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    6. Paul C. Nystrom & Ehsan S. Soofi, 2012. "Rare, outlier and extreme: beyond the Gaussian model and measures," International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 2(1/2), pages 6-38.
    7. Kang, Jin-Su & Downing, Stephen, 2015. "Keystone effect on entry into two-sided markets: An analysis of the market entry of WiMAX," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 170-186.

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