Reversing the Spirituality Lenses:
Challenges and Opportunities for
Developing a Spiritual Perspective on Strategy

J. B. Arbaugh

Ben ArbaughJ. B. Arbaugh
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
College of Business Administration
800 Algoma Blvd.
Oshkosh, WI 54901
Tel: (920) 424-7189
Fax: (920) 424-7413

Paper submitted for the 2001 Academy of Management Meetings Management, Spirituality, and Religion Interest Group


This paper examines some issues with considering the integration of spirituality with the field of strategy. The possibility of integration of these two areas is becoming increasingly desirable because of the limiting nature of economic explanations of firm behavior and recent calls for the use of more pluralistic perspectives in strategy research. Specifically, the paper examines some challenges and opportunities for viewing strategy through the lens of the Christian faith tradition. Two challenges examined are gaps in organizational levels of analysis that are not directly addressed in Christian scripture and the reliance upon unobservables found in both Christian scripture and some theoretical streams of strategy research. Opportunities include broadening the conception of the firm to allow easier consideration of alliance opportunities and not-for-profit settings, examining theoretical perspectives of strategy that incorporate multiple levels of analysis, and considering fields that are closely related to strategy that reflect levels of analysis directly covered in Christian scripture. The paper concludes by identifying several questions that could be addressed as starting points for integrating spirituality and the field of strategy.

Spirituality and religious influences on personal and organizational practice are receiving increasing attention as an area of organizational research (Cavanaugh, 1999; Daniels, Franz, & Wong, 2000; Dehler & Welsh, 1994; Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Porth, McCall, & Bausch, 1999). The fact that the Academy of Management has created a Management, Spirituality, and Religion Interest Group reflects the burgeoning research interest in this area. Since this is a relatively recent trend, there are abundant opportunities for researchers to build the initial groundwork for this field of research.

Initial organizational research in this area has tended to examine the issues of spirituality and/or religion through the lenses of organization and management theory (Biberman & Whitty, 1997; Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Neal, Lichtenstein, & Banner, 1999). However, work that attempts to invert these lenses and examine organization and management theory from the perspective of spirituality and/or religion is still quite limited (Daniels et al., 2000; Mitchell, 1997). To invert the lenses, one must begin with the question: Do perspectives of spirituality and/or religion provide insights into organization and management theory?

Management researchers may be hesitant to ask this question for several reasons. First, management researchers may lack interest in the topic. Second, the lack of consensus on a definition of spirituality and whether or not it is distinct from religion makes it difficult to determine which spiritual perspective or combination of perspectives one might use to examine management and organization theory (Barnett, Krell & Sendry, 2000; Cash & Gray, 2000; Marcic, 2000). Third, while some organization and management researchers may have interest in inverting the lenses, they might feel as though they lack a sufficient level of knowledge of a spiritual/religious perspective to use it to examine their field. While each of these reasons may be valid, the very examination of spirituality in organizations warrants that an intellectually honest inquiry will welcome using the lenses to examine each phenomena from the perspective of the other. This approach is consistent with recent calls for increased consideration of pluralist perspectives in management research (Glynn, Barr, & Dacin, 2000; Lewis, 2000). Economic sociologist Robert Wuthnow (1994) has contended that rather than being examined as an entity unto itself, economic behavior must be considered as a dimension of social behavior, and spirituality and/or religion can and often do have significant influence on that behavior. Also, some commonly agreed upon aspects of spirituality include the presence of guiding forces or principles outside ourselves and interconnectedness of individuals and their settings (Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Neal et al., 1999; Polanyi, 1962). Therefore, is it unreasonable to consider whether these behaviors, guiding forces, and principles might have some influence on organizations and how we view them?

This paper seeks to raise issues that need to be addressed when attempting to invert these lenses in management research. To keep the scope of the paper manageable, I will focus on the areas of religion and/or spirituality and organization and/or management theory with which I am most familiar, that of the Christian faith tradition and strategic management respectively. In this paper, I seek to show that, rather than being mutually exclusive there are several areas where Christianity and the field of strategy are complementary and the integration of the two will allow us to see both in new ways. This does not mean I seek to exclude other religious and/or spiritual perspectives or other realms of organization and/or management theory from consideration. In fact, I hope that this paper will spur adherents of other spiritual perspectives to examine the field of strategy from those perspectives, that Christians will examine other areas of organization/management theory, and that all areas of management theory will be examined from a myriad of spiritual/religious perspectives. As a result, I hope that this effort encourages others to examine these phenomena from their point of view that may result in defining areas of overlap, which could then be used for further reflection and cooperation toward developing a more generalizable view of spirituality and the field of strategy (Dyck & Schroeder, 1999).

The remainder of this paper is arranged into four sections. First, I review the extremely limited literature where there is some linkage between Christianity and strategy to provide some background as to why this integration is so challenging. Next, I identify some challenges in developing a Christian view of strategy and suggest some ideas for navigating these challenges. Then I build on these ideas using a review of recent literature in strategy with a particular emphasis on alliance behaviors, resource-based perspectives, and the knowledge-based view of strategy and introduce other areas as potential opportunities for reversing the strategy lens. Lastly, I identify some potential "next steps" for the development of theoretical and empirical work in the area of spirituality and strategy in general, and more particularly from a Christian perspective.

Previous Work on Christianity and Strategy

Despite the impact of religion on economic life in contemporary society (Wuthnow, 1994), Christianity or its tangible manifestations have received very limited attention in strategy research. Although some researchers have contended that not-for-profit settings in general, and churches in particular, could be interesting research contexts (Kohl, 1984; Odom & Boxx, 1988), strategy research in this area has been almost dormant since the late 1980s. One of the reasons for this limited attention could be the lack of a framework that adequately integrates both strategy theory and Christian scripture. The work that is available tends to focus either on one side or the other. In an examination of variables influencing organizational effectiveness, Webb (1974) studied a sample of primarily urban Presbyterian churches. He identified four characteristics that were significant influences on church effectiveness. These characteristics were: (1) cohesiveness, indicated by the presence of positive working relationships and common interests; (2) efficiency, or producing desired results while minimizing the expenditure of time, effort, or expense; (3) adaptability, or the organizationís willingness to accept change and their ability to respond effectively to changes; and (4) support, the degree to which the parishoners stand behind their minister and the minister(s)ís interest and concern for the congregation membersí welfare. In another study of churches, Odom and Boxx (1988) examined Southern Baptist Churches in the state of Arkansas to study the relationship between these churchesí size, location, and environmental perceptions and the relationship between size, location, those environmental perceptions and the sophistication of their planning process. Their primary findings were that church leaders who perceive their environments as relatively complex tended to use more formal planning processes and that large and/or growing churches tend to be more formal planners. The relationship between location and church size in the study was not significant, which suggests that organizational factors may have played a prominent role in determining the size of these churches. However, outside of an allusion to the possibility of factors other than church size influencing environmental perceptions, neither Webb nor Odom and Boxx considered the role that spiritual factors may have played in the environmental perceptions or performance of these organizations.

Other work has attempted to explain how the concepts of strategic management should be applied in a Christian manner. Musser (1990) developed some ideas on how Biblical principles might be applied to areas of strategy such as an organizationís mission, environmental and SWOT analysis, and strategy implementation. Musser made two primary observations as a result of his inquiry: (1) that a Christian model of strategy should focus on how an organization can serve its various stakeholders as it seeks to operate in a profitable manner (Jones, 1990); and (2) that the organization is capable of both adapting to and influencing its environments. While these ideas are helpful as a starting point, Musserís work did not consider emerging trends from the strategy literature at the time. There was no mention of the state of strategic management research at the time, such as work on the structure-conduct-performance paradigm (Dess & Davis, 1984; Miles & Snow, 1978; Hambrick, 1983; 1984; Miller, 1988; Porter, 1980); extentions to Rumeltís (1974) work on diversification (Bettis, 1981; Hill & Hoskisson, 1987; Ramanujam & Varadarajan, 1989); strategic process (Fredrickson, 1983; Mintzberg & Waters, 1985; Huff & Reger, 1987); strategic groups (Cool & Schendel, 1987; Hatten & Hatten, 1987; Hatten, Schendel & Cooper, 1978; Thomas & Venkatraman, 1988); or the initial work that developed into what we now know as the resource-based view of the firm (Barney, 1986; Hitt & Ireland, 1985; Snow & Hrebiniak, 1980; Wernerfelt, 1984).

These shortcomings suggest that subsequent efforts to examine Christian principles and the field of strategy must do a more comprehensive job of examining both before making prescriptions for either. The next two sections of this paper represent an initial attempt in this direction.

Some Challenges for Developing a Christian Perspective of Strategy

Gaps in Levels of Analysis

One of the biggest challenges in developing a Christian perspective of strategy centers on the fact that the field of strategy didnít begin to develop until around 1900 years after the completion of the Bible. This is important because while there are philosophical differences along denominational lines, Christians generally agree that the Bible is the foundation for the Christian faith. As a result, there are several areas within the domain of strategy that are not directly addressed in Christian scripture. Some examples of these gaps can be seen in Table 1. While the selected scripture references are not intended to specifically address the strategy-related topics listed in the table, it is evident that specific Biblical examples for parallels to levels of organizational analysis drop dramatically after the business-unit level, and there are no direct parallels to the industry level of analysis. This is potentially disconcerting considering that the firm has historically been the primary level of analysis in strategy research (Coase, 1937; Rumelt, Schendel, & Teece, 1994). Therefore, topics such as diversification (Hoskisson, Hitt, Johnson, & Moesel, 1993; Markides & Williamson, 1996; Palich, Cardinal, & Miller, 2000), mergers and acquisitions (Hitt, Hoskisson, Ireland, & Harrison, 1991; Sirower, 1999), strategic alliances (Barringer & Harrison, 2000; Gulati, 1999), industry structure (Dess, Ireland, & Hitt, 1990; Porter, 1980), and competitive dynamics and interfirm rivalry (Chen, 1996; Ferrier, Smith, & Grimm, 1999) may not be able to be examined directly from a scripturally-based perspective. Considering the relative lack of large organizations mentioned in the Bible other than the Israelitesí Exodus from Egypt, the beginnings of the early Christian church (Acts 2), and various military forces battling over the territory of Israel, the fact that these levels of analysis arenít directly addressed in Christian scripture is not surprising. This lack of Biblical examples of higher levels of analysis has been raised by theologians (Packer, 1990) and other writers on organization theory (Dyck & Schroeder, 1999) as a concern for trying to prescribe Biblical principles directly to organizational practice. While this does not mean that attempts to integrate the Bible and the field of strategy should necessarily be abandoned, it does suggest that rather than providing direct commentary from scripture, researchers seeking to think Christianly about strategy will have to develop their thinking in these areas via a potentially more circuitous route.

Table 1

Levels of Organizational Analysis, Strategy-related Topics, and Examples from The Bible

Level of Analysis

Selected Topics Related to Strategy

Selected Scripture References Reflective of the Level


CEO characteristics and firm performance

Executive Selection and Compensation

Knowledge Management

Creation (Genesis 1,6)

Joshuaís succession of Moses (Numbers 27:12-23; Deut. 31:1-8)

Selection of King Saul (I Samuel 9-10)

Solomonís succession of David (I Kings 1-2)

Jesusí calling and training of the disciples (Matt. 4:18-22; 9:9-11; 10:1-41; Mark 1:14-20; Luke 6:12-16)

Saulís conversion (Acts 9:1-31)

Groups of Individuals

Ownership Concentration

Top Management Teams

Boards of Directors

Strategic Leadership


Jethroís counsel to Moses (Exodus 18)

Jesusí focus on Peter, James, and John (Mark 9:2-12; John 21:15-25)

The Apostles (Acts 1:12-26; 15:1-41)

Spiritual Gifts (I Cor. 12)

Slaves and Masters (Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-4:1)

Firm: Business Unit

Generic Strategies

Cooperative Strategies Capabilities

Organizational Structure

Strategic Planning

The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9)

Construction of the temple and Solomonís palace (I Kings 6-8; II Chronicles 2-7)

Rebuilding the temple and temple wall (Ezra 3-6; Nehemiah 1-6)

Jesus, John the Baptist, and their disciples (Matt. 11:1-15; Luke 1:39-45; John 1:19-28)

The sending out of seventy-two (Luke 10:1-24)

Development of the early church (Acts 2:42-47; 6:1-7)

Firm: Corporate Level


Mergers and Acquisitions Cooperative Strategies

Core Competencies

M-Form Organizational Structure

Strategic Planning

Parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16:1-14)

Ministry broadened to include Gentiles (Acts 15:1-35)

Exhortations to various churches (Revelation 2-3)


Competitive Dynamics and Interfirm Rivalry

Strategic Groups

Five Forces Model

Environmental Analysis



International Strategy

International Diversification

Egypt and Israel (Exodus 4 Ė 14)

Israel and the Philistines (I and II Samuel)

The Problem of Unobservables

Another challenge common to strategy, spirituality and religion in general is the role that unobservables may play in explaining the phenomena (Fornaciari & Dean, 2000; Godfrey & Hill, 1995). This problem has gained increasing attention in the field of strategy largely due to the increasing attention given to the resource-based view (RBV) of the firm (Barney, 1991), and accentuated by the emerging role that knowledge-based advantages play in the development of this view (Grant, 1996b; Nonaka, 1994). Resource and knowledge-based perspectives have contended that competitive advantage is gained by combining tangible resources with intangible or tacit resources (Polanyi, 1962) in such a manner that produces capabilities that are valuable, rare, inimitable, and non-substitutable (Barney, 1991, 1995; Grant, 1991). Therefore, there is both an observed (superior performance, presence of certain resources) and an unobserved dimension (capability development process, application of individual knowledge, etc.) of the phenomena. While this view has been criticized for using tautologous definitions and imprecise construct validity (Priem & Butler, 2000; Williamson, 1999), recent work suggests that these concerns can be addressed. Some of these suggestions from this recent work include examining the common use of dynamic capabilities among firms and examining idiosyncratic details of the building and application of those capabilities to determine possible sources of competitive advantage (Cockburn, Henderson, & Stern, 2000; Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000).

Reliance upon unobservables is also a tenet of Christian scripture. Biblical characters and believers are exhorted to exercise faith when pursuing a course of action while external circumstances do not necessarily warrant such confidence (Numbers 13:26-33, 2 Cor. 5:1-10). Like resource and knowledge-based perspectives, this faith combines an observable activity (human behaviors and/or application of physical resources) with an unobservable element (angelic or divine intervention), with the key difference being the possible attribution to the source of the unobservable activity (Polanyi, 1962). Since this observable-unobservable combination seen in strategy theory is comparable to that in Christianity, it does raise a key question. With the concerns already present about the inability of strategy researchers to measure tacit knowledge (Godfrey & Hill, 1995; Williamson, 1999), is it prudent for the field to rely even more on unobservables by developing their discipline based on a spiritual tradition so highly dependent upon them?

This concern is mitigated by the fact that strategy by its nature is concerned with the future of the organization (Rumelt et al., 1994). The concepts of trying to create sustainable competitive advantage (Barney, 1997), responses to competitive actions (Chen, 1996; Ferrier et al., 1999; Mosakowski & Earley, 2000), and strategic change (MacIntosh & MacLean, 1999; Zajac, Kraatz, & Bresser, 2000) are all driven by the possible attainment of some desired future state, or vision, for an organization. And while organizations may desire certain future conditions, they canít say with complete confidence that present actions will produce them. So in essence, by pursuing actions in an attempt to secure a positive future, organizations are demonstrating faith through acting upon their strategies much like the Christian does, it is only the objects of that faith that may be different (Neal et al., 1999). Therefore, while the reliance upon unobservables may be uncomfortable for some, it does not by itself rule out the possibility of observing and critiquing strategy from a Christian perspective.

In the next section of this paper, I suggest some possible ways that strategy may be observed and critiqued from a Christian perspective. These ideas include the possibility that the firm may not always be the most appropriate level of analysis, the use of theories that incorporate multiple levels of analysis to examine phenomena, and the consideration of fields that intersect strategy that also have a spiritual dimension.

Some Opportunities for Developing a Christian Perspective of Strategy

Just what constitutes a firm these days anyway?

One of the current issues that simultaneously makes strategy research both more challenging and more interesting is the impact of the blurring of traditional organizational boundaries (Lewis, 2000; Lowendahl & Revang, 1998). This impacts the field of strategy by bringing into question whether the firm should continue to be the focal level of analysis (Rumelt et al., 1994). For instance, having the firm serve as the focal level of analysis has impeded consideration that resources and capabilities necessary for advantage could be derived from outside the firm since networks can serve as a base for a much wider diversity of knowledge (Dyer & Singh, 1998; Gulati, 1999; Gulati, Nohria, & Zaheer, 2000). This blurring of organizational boundaries is making it increasingly difficult to define a firm and establish organizational identity (Albert, Ashforth, & Dutton, 2000; Gioia, Schultz, & Corley, 2000). As a result, the idea of what constitutes the firm is increasingly reliant upon the perspective of various stakeholders (Pratt & Foreman, 2000; Scott & Lane, 2000). Since external stakeholders are increasingly driving the definition of organizational identity, levels of analysis below the firm level may now be considered as the firm, or at least as a representation of it (Pratt & Foreman, 2000).

In the context of the concern over levels of analysis discussed earlier in this paper, this re-conceptualization of organizational identity allows for the relatively rich base of normative characteristics of individual and group behavior provided by scripture to be incorporated into analysis at the firm level. Scripture addresses issues related to strategy such as conduct at the individual and group levels (Eph. 4:25-32; Acts 15) superior-subordinate relationships (Col. 3:22-4:1), interpersonal communication/conflict resolution (Proverbs, Acts 15; Muehlhoff, 2000), conduct based beyond self-interest (Phil 2:5-8), conduct that reflects positively upon God (I Cor 10:31, I Thess. 4: 11-12), striving for continuous improvement (Gal. 6; Phil 3:7-16 Ė addresses the concerns of the satisficing principle of learning (Winter, 2000)), encourages diversity (Acts 10: 27-28; 34-35; Col. 3:9-11), acknowledgement and valuing of differing individual talents and gifts (I Cor. 12; Rom. 12:3-7; Eph. 4:11-13), and leadership selection and succession (Numbers 27:12-23; Deut. 31:1-8; I Samuel 9-10; I Kings 1-2). Another implication of this reasoning is that scriptural perspectives can also be considered in the field of strategy by examining lower level of analysis components of higher level of analysis topics, such as individual and group behavior in alliances and networks (Gulati et al, 2000; Kale, Singh, & Perlmutter, 2000; Tsai & Ghoshal, 1998) or senior management behavior in mergers and acquisitions (Datta, Narayanan, & Pinches, 1992; Hitt, Hoskisson, & Ireland, 1990; Johnson, Hoskisson, & Hitt, 1993). Therefore, while scripture may not directly speak to all levels of organizational analysis, there are ample areas within these levels of analysis that can be considered scripturally.

This reconceptualization of the universally appropriate level of analysis would likely carry at least one benefit from a spiritual perspective. While not absolutely required (Rumelt et al., 1994) the focus on the firm has tended to concentrate the traditional domain of strategy on for-profit organizations since measures of competitive advantage tend to be more defined and explanations for performance-based differences between firms has long held interest of strategy researchers (Dyer & Singh, 1998). However, these characteristics are not usually associated with the organizational embodiments of the Christian faith, churches and parachurch organizations. While competition between churches for members and other resources may exist, an environment of co-opetition (Afuah, 2000) may better describe relationships between churches given that they operate from common scriptural commands as to their role within society (Matt. 28:18-20; I Cor. 11; Eph. 4: 1-16). Moving to other focal points such as senior leadership teams, networks of churches, or a combination of these two points would allow for the consideration that resources and capabilities necessary for advantage could be derived from outside the firm. Therefore, since networks serve as a base for a much wider diversity of knowledge (Dyer & Singh, 1998; Dyer & Nobeoka, 2000; Guillen, 2000; Gulati, 1999; Gulati et al, 2000; Human & Provan, 1997), they may be a more appropriate research focal point since they would allow churches to simultaneously pursue both their individual and collective objectives.

Theoretical perspectives that "roll up" levels of analysis

Another way that scriptural level of analysis concerns could be addressed is by considering theoretical perspectives that encompass multiple levels of analysis. In the field of strategy the perspective that best captures this characteristic is the RBV (Barney, 1991; Grant, 1991). Traditional resource-based theory holds that all firms are idiosyncratic and are comprised of somewhat Ďstickyí bundles of resources, with resource heterogeneity and inimitability leading to inter-firm performance differences (Amit & Schoemaker, 1993; Barney, 1991; Conner, 1991; Penrose, 1959; Szulanski, 1996). Successful firms are able to arrange and combine their resources in ways that create unique value-adding capabilities. This added value often translates into competitive advantage and, therefore, abnormal returns (Amit & Shoemaker, 1993; Grant, 1991, 1996a; Peteraf, 1993).

Resource-based theorists have argued that resources are "bundled" from an individual level up to the organization level (Conner & Prahalad, 1996; Grant, 1996a; 1996b). At the individual level of analysis, resources consist of the skills and primarily the knowledge of the individuals within the organization. Knowledge-based theory contends that firms are a collection of tacit and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is knowledge that cannot be explicated fully even by an expert and can only be transferred from one person to another through a long process of apprenticeship (Polanyi, 1966). Explicit knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge that is relatively easy to articulate and communicate (Nelson & Winter, 1982; Nonaka, 1994). Whereas tacit knowledge is firm or person specific, explicit knowledge is relatively easy to transfer between individuals and organizations. Explicit knowledge resides in a firmís policies, operating procedures, and technical documents (Nelson & Winter, 1982). These individuals and their knowledge are then combined with tangible resources to form integrative knowledge and capabilities (Brush & Artz, 1999; Miller & Shamsie, 1996; Teece, Pisano, & Shuen, 1997) at the sub-firm or groups of individuals level of analysis. If these capabilities meet the criteria of being valuable, rare, costly-to-imitate, and nonsubstitutable (Barney, 1995), then the capability becomes an organizational level core competence (Lei, Hitt, & Bettis, 1996; Prahalad & Hamel, 1990).

When reversing the spirituality lenses, it becomes evident that several aspects of resource-based theory are highly consistent with Christian scripture. In fact, Polanyiís (1962) seminal work on personal knowledge likened the pursuit and development of tacit knowledge to Christian themes such as miracles (p.284), personal calling (p. 322), the process of the fall and redemption (p. 324) and to a Christian worshipping God (pp. 198-99, 405). The resource- and knowledge-based viewsí emphasis on the value of individual knowledge, collective knowledge (routines), resource hetereogeneity, and intangible resources (particularly in turbulent external environments (Miller & Shamsie, 1996) reflect a strong emphasis on the value of people in an organization. This value and emphasis upon the uniqueness of individuals is emphasized in scripture by the exalted position of people in general (Genesis 1; Psalm 8), Godís handiwork in creating the uniqueness of each person (Psalm 139; Matt. 10:29-31), that personal transformation begins internally and manifests itself externally (Matt 15:10-20; 23:25-28), and the knowledge with which God has entrusted to believers (Eph. 1, 1 Cor. 2:10-16). In addition, the idea of bundling and organizing resources implies the need for people involved in these processes to have some sense of trust and community if these efforts are to result in the development of capabilities (Barney & Hansen, 1994; Daniels et al., 2000; Dyck & Schroeder, 1999; Gulati, 1995a: 1995b; Helfat & Raubitschek, 2000; Kogut & Zander, 1996; Leonard & Sensiper, 1998; Nonaka, 1994; Polanyi, 1962; Tsai, 2000; Tsai & Ghoshal, 1998). Scripture provides several prescriptions for orderly living in community with others in organizational contexts (Nehemiah; Acts 15; I Cor. 14; Eph. 4:1-16). Some of these prescriptions include coordination of activity (Nehemiah 3; I Cor 14:26-39), the positioning of people in the organization according to their skills and abilities (Eph. 4:11-16), and development of a sense of community within the organization (Acts 2: 42-47).

The consistency of the underlying assumptions of resource-based theory with scripture raises some interesting implications for evaluating other perspectives of competitive advantage from a scriptural perspective. For instance, resource-based theory is often compared with either transactions-based (Combs & Ketchen, 1999; Conner & Prahalad, 1996; Williamson, 1999) or industry structure-based (McGahan & Porter, 1997; Peteraf & Shanley, 1997) perspectives and the result has prompted calls for further research that integrates these perspectives (Combs & Ketchen, 1999; Gulati et al., 2000; Henderson & Mitchell, 1997; McEvily & Zaheer, 1999). From the Christian perspective, these attempts at integration and/or convergence suggest that these other perspectives should be examined on the basis of their consistency with Christian scripture, either directly or from inference based on the elements of levels of analysis embedded into them which are addressed directly by scripture.

Examine Research Streams that Intersect with Strategy

Another way strategy could be examined from a Christian perspective is by examining the intersection of the field with other research literatures that focus more on the levels of analysis directly addressed by scripture or whose characteristics are highly consistent with scriptural principles. One example is the burgeoning literature on entrepreneurship. Strategy and entrepreneurship are increasingly intersecting in their domains in areas such as innovation, organizational networks, top management teams, and growth and change (Hitt & Ireland, 2000). Entrepreneurshipís focus on issues such as new venture initiation (Gartner, 1985; Shaver & Scott, 1991; Vanderwerf, 1993) corporate entrepreneurship (Barringer & Bluedorn, 1999; Zahra, 1996), entrepreneurial behavior (Covin & Slevin, 1991; Lyon, Lumpkin, & Dess, 2000; Miller, 1983) and the management of growth (Hambrick & Crozier, 1985; Fombrun & Wally, 1989; Galunic & Rodan, 1998) provide areas that could also be considered from a Christian perspective.

Whether examined in the context of new ventures or as corporate venturing, the concept of entrepreneurship has historically been driven by the ideas of creation and/or renewal (Penrose, 1959; Kirzner, 1973; Schumpeter, 1934). The themes of personal and societal creation and renewal also are mentioned throughout scripture (Genesis 1, 6; Nehemiah; Ezra; Luke 6: 12-16; Acts 2; 2 Cor. 5:11-6:2; Rev. 21). This suggests that the idea of continuous organizational renewal fueled by the embrace of paradox and pluralistic perspectives as advocated in recent works (Eisenhardt, 2000) may well be consistent with scripture. These perspectives suggest that organizations need to have a plurality of knowledge in content and forms rather than focusing on a single stream because diversity in these areas will yield multiple perspectives on the road to long-term competitive advantage (Glynn et al., 2000; Leonard-Barton, 1992; Miller & Chen, 1996). Therefore, simultaneous exploration and exploitation for all organizations may be a necessary condition of long-term competitive advantage and survival (March, 1991; Tushman & OíReilly, 1996).


This paper has attempted to open the door for the discussion of spirituality within the field of strategy, with particular emphasis on the Christian faith tradition. As a result, there are numerous future directions that this discussion can take. I will identify some of these directions below with suggestion for the topic of spirituality in general and for Christianity in particular.

In terms of the domain of the topic of spirituality, this dialogue needs to be encouraged to include a broader view. This broadening could be done by examining the field of strategy from both other religious perspectives (ConsultingSpirit, 2000; Marcic, 2000) and non-religiously oriented perspectives of spirituality (Harlos, 2000; Schmidt-Wilk, Heaton, & Steingard, 2000). This view can also be broadened to include input from other disciplines such as philosophy, theology, and the physical sciences (Wilber, 2000). If for no other reason than to ensure that thinking on the field of strategy will not be conducted exclusively through the lens of economics (Rumelt et al., 1994), broadening this dialogue serves a useful purpose.

While broadening the dialogue is a useful next step, there is also value in deepening thought toward further development of a "Christian" perspective of theory in strategy. Since this paper has identified some ways in which Christian thought might be used, just what might a Christian theory of strategy look like? There are a number of questions that can be addressed from this line of inquiry. For instance, does the primary unique characteristic of Christianity, the contention that a relationship with God is based upon grace due to the substitutionary death of Christ rather than the deeds of the individual (Eph. 2:1-10; Gal. 3:10-14; Rom. 5), have any unique implications for how we view strategy? If not, then the effort to integrate spirituality into strategy becomes much more generalizable, and the relationship between spirituality and strategy could be examined in a more generic sense (Barnett et al., 2000; Mitroff & Denton, 1999). However, if this uniqueness does make a difference, then a full-fledged equivalent of a comparative religions course could be waged in strategy research, where the tenets of a variety of faiths would need to be operationalized so that comparisons could be conducted to determine which, if any, faith perspectives are most associated with competitive advantage and organizational performance.

There are also a number of questions that can be addressed within the present domain of strategy. Is strategy from a Christian perspective purely resource and knowledge-based, or do other variables such as opportunism or industry forces need to be included? If so, how should they be addressed? Since resource-based theory appears to have many consistencies with scripture, how might it be used to explain variations in performance between churches or parachurch organizations? Is it possible to develop a Christian perspective on interfirm rivalry? Does a Christian perspective result in different conclusions on rationale for diversification or acquisition decisions? How does a Christian view go beyond other views on corporate social responsibility?

Lastly, are there more effective ways to manage the problem that "unobservables" bring to strategy research (Godfrey & Hill, 1995)? Consideration of these questions will almost certainly encourage the use of combined quantitative and qualitative research methodologies that have recently been called for by strategy researchers (Hitt, Gimeno, & Hoskisson, 1998; Hoskisson, Hitt, Wan, & Yiu, 1999). Overall, these questions suggest that there is an abundant field of research for those interested in pursuing these topics.


This paper has considered the possibility that spirituality might be a valuable perspective to be considered in strategy research. After addressing two initial concerns, lack of direct coverage in all levels of analysis and a reliance upon unobservables, I then identified some areas where the Christian faith tradition may share commonalities with various streams of strategy research. The idea of examining strategy from a spiritual perspective is a new one, but there is certainly rationale for it from historical works that are driving recent research in the field (Polanyi, 1962).

The paper certainly suggests that consideration of spirituality would be a welcome addition to strategic management research. If just looking at one perspective of spirituality, as I did in this paper, could generate so much potential inquiry, just imagine the research opportunities that would result from considering multiple perspectives of spirituality. A broader, richer conceptualization of strategy would be the likely result.


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