Analytically Structured History Approach Using a Relational Database: Essays on the Historical Embeddedness of Strategy Formulation

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


With this dissertation, I present our analytically structured history approach using a relational database to study the historical embeddedness of strategy formulation. For more than 25 years, there have been repeated calls for more history in strategy and management research. However, the methodological divide between history and social scientific management research has been identified as the main barrier preventing the wider use of historical methods in strategy research. Management scholars tend to view historical research as descriptive, lacking theory, and methodologically opaque, whereas historians view management research's pursuit of generalizable theoretical contributions as ahistorical. I argue that our approach fulfils both the need for theoretical contribution required by strategy research and historical veracity required by historical research, thus bridging the methodological divide between the two fields. Our approach that is built around a relational database with extensive digitized archival sets has multiple methodological strengths. First, methodological transparency is established by linking all the coding steps to the original archival sources. Second, coding can be done and evaluated in real-time among multiple researchers. Third, the always available and searchable database will be highly efficient once the relatively laborious processes of digitizing the sources and setting up the database are complete. The three essays of the dissertation represent studies that utilize our analytically structured history approach using a relational database. In Essay 1, we focus on the initial emergence of a new organizational form globally by studying the two first for-profit stock exchanges in the world. This essay demonstrates how our approach supports a detailed comparison between two cases through comprehensive incident coding. We found that peer interaction contributes to the emergence of new organizational forms, particularly when new organizational forms are introduced by established organizations through organizational renewal. In Essay 2, the focus is on how the top management team of Post and Telecom Finland formulate its political strategies towards specific ends under different regulatory environments during the transformation of the telecommunications industry from 1981 to 1998. We were able to analyze multiple regulatory issues over an extended period of time under very different regulatory conditions and examine how the top management team's strategies varied with different regulatory issues. In Essay 3, my colleagues and I traced how the top management team of the fully state-owned Telecom Finland evaluated international venture opportunities starting from the first international venture in 1987 to 1998, when Telecom Finland was partly privatized. Our methodological approach enabled us to track the process of international strategy formulation as it unfolded and avoid survival and retrospective biases.
Translated title of the contributionAnalyyttisesti jäsennellyn historian menetelmä relaatiotietokantaa hyödyntäen – Esseitä strategian muotoutumisen historiallisuudesta
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Gustafsson, Robin, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-3937-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-3938-1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • historical method
  • archival research
  • qualitative method
  • stock exchange
  • telecommunications


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