Methods for Qualitative Management Research in the Context of Social Systems Thinking


  • Patricia Wolf ETH Zurich
  • Jens O. Meissner Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • Terry Nolan Auckland University of Technology
  • Mark Lemon De Montfort University
  • René John Leibniz Universität Hannover
  • Evangelia Baralou ALBA Graduate Business School Athinas
  • Silke Seemann Universität Innsbruck



social systems theory, qualitative research methods, management research


The purpose of this article is to provide the reader with an introduction into the FQS special issue "Methods for qualitative management research in the context of social systems thinking." While reviewing papers of this special issue, the editors recognized three thematic threads that seem to be of particular importance to qualitative management research from the stance of systems theory. The first of these themes relates to observation, i.e. the observable, in management research, the second to methods and the design of studies for application in empirical research using systems theory, and the third to the implications of those studies on what was studied, i.e. management in organizations. The positions of the authors of this Special Issue regarding these three themes are reflected and discussed in this article. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs100334


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Author Biographies

Patricia Wolf, ETH Zurich

Patricia WOLF, Prof. Dr. rer. pol., is Professor of General Management and Research Director of the Institute of Management and Regional Economics at Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Switzerland). At the same time, she is guest senior researcher at ETH Zurich (Switzerland). Patricia holds a doctor degree in Business Administration from University Witten/Herdecke, Germany and is recently finishing her studies on Sociology, Philosophy, and Literature at FernUniversität Hagen, Germany. Her main research interests cover knowledge transformation and innovation management in social systems (regions, organizations, groups).

Jens O. Meissner, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts

Jens O. MEISSNER, Prof. Dr. rer. pol., is professor for Organization Studies at Lucerne's University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Switzerland). He is visiting lecturer at the University of Hanover and partner of the Institute for Economic Studies in Basel. He received his doctoral degree in Organizational Communication from Basel University. Jens studied economics and management at Witten/Herdecke's Private University and worked for E.on Energie in Hanover and Munich, for the Berlin-based e-government consultancy Public One and as e-learning consultant in Washington, D.C.

Terry Nolan, Auckland University of Technology

Terry NOLAN, PhD, is a Senior Lecturer Management and Information Systems at the Auckland University of Technology. His research focuses on the complex nature of organizational and human relations. Using critically systemic thinking he examines the effects of power and influence across various fields of study including organizational psychology, information systems and public policy. Current research projects include: Social Networking for Innovation; Decision Making in Times of Crisis, Organizational Evil; SARTRE, Leadership and Complexity and Knowledge Intensive Service Systems.

Mark Lemon, De Montfort University

Mark LEMON, PhD, is a social scientist with a background in community development and the construction industry. His research over the past twenty years has covered a range of policy relevant issues relating to the human—technical interface particularly as it affects the natural environment and sustainable development. Within this broad area he has focused on the factors that influence organizational culture, knowledge management and the way that multi-disciplinary and multi-agency teams define and respond to complex environmental problems. He has a particular interest in the characteristics of integrative research and the development of trans-disciplinary, cross-cutting, skills and has published extensively in this area.

René John, Leibniz Universität Hannover

René JOHN, Dr. rer. soc., is a social scientist at the Institute of Educational Psychology of the Leibniz University of Hannover. Currently he works on problems of personal identity management in intercultural contexts. Further he works on problems of innovation, organization and social change at the Institute for Social Innovation (ISInova) and is concerned with problems of gender and nutrition as well as problems of system theory-informed empirical research within the Arbeitskreis Funktionale Analyse (AKFA, Study Group Functional Analysis).

Evangelia Baralou, ALBA Graduate Business School Athinas

Evangelia BARALOU, PhD, is assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources in ALBA Graduate Business School in Athens, Greece. She holds a B.Sc. Hons. in Computer Science, a M.Sc. in Business Information Technology Systems, and completed her PhD in "Organizational Knowledge Creation in Virtual Teams." Her main research interests are in the areas of knowledge management, organizational learning, new organizational structures and social identity.

Silke Seemann, Universität Innsbruck

Silke SEEMANN, Dr. rer. soc. oec., is lecturer at the Innsbruck University School of Management and at the University of Salzburg, Faculty for Law, Economics and Labor. She received her doctor's degree in "Organizational Gaming put into Form" promoted by Dirk BAECKER. She is member of the Formlabor, a research circle working on Formtheory. Her research interest observes the oneness of diversity in form theory, organization, new forms of labor, innovation and health.




How to Cite

Wolf, P., Meissner, J. O., Nolan, T., Lemon, M., John, R., Baralou, E., & Seemann, S. (2010). Methods for Qualitative Management Research in the Context of Social Systems Thinking. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(3).

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