The practical relevance of research is of great concern to strategy scholars. Indeed, the lack of practical relevance that traditional strategy research was widely perceived to have was one of the main factors that spurred the practice-based approach to strategy (Jarzabkowski and Whittington 2008; Johnson, Melin and Whittington 2003; Whittington et al. 2003). According to some of the proponents of the strategy-as-practice approach, the preoccupation with ‘what people do in strategy’ is the key to increasing the practical relevance of strategy research (Whittington 2006). Nevertheless, we are just beginning to understand in more detail how and in what way a practice-based approach to strategy can produce practically relevant knowledge – that is, can make a difference to management practice (Nicolai and Seidl 2010).
Traditionally, the relevance gap has been seen as resulting either from obstacles in the transfer of scientific knowledge to management practice or from problems in the production of scientific knowledge itself (for an overview of the literature, see Bartunek and Rynes 2014). In response to the former we find various suggestions for improving the mode of communication between academics and practitioners (Beer 2001), and in response to the latter there are calls for more collaborative forms of research (Gibbons et al. 1994; Van de Ven 2007) and alternative research designs (Lawler 1999). While these arguments are well rehearsed, practice-based management scholars have offered a new take on the relevance debate by examining the particular ontological and epistemological conditions for generating practically relevant knowledge in research. Practice-based scholars apply practice theory to examine the relation of the practices of management practitioners with those of management researchers. As Jarzabkowski, Mohrman and Scherer (2010: 8) put it: ‘Academics are also practitioners – of scholarly pursuit. Their practices…reflect their interests and occur within an institutional setting that they shape and from which they derive meaning.’ A common argument (Sandberg and Tsoukas 2011; Splitter and Seidl 2011) is that, although researchers and managers are practitioners, they operate in two distinct areas of practice that function according to two different modes of reasoning: the logic of management research and the logic of management practice. As a consequence, managers and researchers differ in their perceptions of the world, limiting their mutual understanding and hence the potential impact of research.