QCA Methodology and Causal Complexity of Management Studies in China

Call for papers for: Chinese Management Studies

“Numerous dimensions of environments, industries, technologies, strategies, structures, cultures, ideologies, groups, members, processes, practices, beliefs, and outcomes have been said to cluster into configurations...” (Meyer, Tsui, & Hinings, 1993: 1175). In other words, management elements often depend on each other and work together as conditions combining to lead to outcomes (De Crescenzo et al., 2020; Furnari et al., 2020; Du & Jia, 2017; Du & Kim, 2021). However, based on an assumption of independence between independent variables, a linear relationship and causal symmetry, traditional statistical methods generally analyze the “net effect” of independent variables by controlling the effects of other factors. Hence, they cannot effectively explain causal complexity. Use of a holistic perspective, a configurational perspective and set-theoretic fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) can analyze causal complexity fully by treating cases as configurations of conditions and provide an appropriate tool for explaining complex and dynamic Chinese management phenomena.

Set-theoretic QCA is becoming a new template due to its advantages in explaining causal complexity, and it is used across a variety of management fields, including strategic management, ecosystems of doing business, innovation ecosystems, marketing, HRM, business models, public management, and information systems (Ragin, 2008; Rihoux & Ragin, 2009; Jia et al., 2012; Greckhamer et al., 2018; Dusa, 2019; Fainshmidt et al., 2020; Linder et al., 2020; Du et al., 2021).

Although management scholars are interested in the theories explaining the complexity of causality, several factors make it difficult to theorize the complexity of causality by way of the existing analyzing framework. First, a complex explanation of causality requires the theory to consider multifaceted interdependence rather than duality (Furnari et al., 2020). Scholars have realized that the driving factors of management phenomena do not act in isolation, but interact with each other (Razmdoost, Alinaghian, & Linder, 2020). However, existing research has not systematically and comprehensively elucidated the multiple, interrelated factors in management phenomena. For example, the classical theory of entrepreneurship focuses on entrepreneurs or organizations in order to identify, evaluate and use opportunities, while the trend towards entrepreneurial platforms involves a process of multi-agent interaction, calling for holistic thinking (Nambisan, Siegel, & Kenney, 2018; Kim et al., 2016).

Second, while many management theories explicitly or implicitly acknowledge the causal complexity behind the phenomena they focus on, they often fail to explain the complexity behind the phenomena because of the methods they employ. These methods only focus on the average net effect of independent variables and outcome variables. As a result, existing management research mainly perceives the social world from the perspective of linear relationships (Delbridge & Fiss, 2013; Du & Jia, 2017; Sun et al., 2020; Sun, 2021). However, the real business world is boundless and non-linear, and this challenges the traditional opportunity view that advocates a linear entrepreneurial process (Fisher, 2012).

Finally, there is a causal asymmetrical relationship between many management phenomena. For example, in recent years, scholars have begun to pay attention to the different antecedent conditions of enterprise growth and decline, and the different mechanisms of entrepreneurial success and failure (Du & Jia, 2017). Due to the mismatch between the causal asymmetry relationship and the traditional symmetric regression method, existing research on management cannot readily explain its causal complexity. Faced with management phenomena that are characterized by Chinese management practices and rapid changes in Chinese digital technology and environment, it is helpful to develop configurational theorizing and methods from a complex and dynamic perspective to determine how these multiple factors co-evolve to shape the conjuncture of multiple trajectories (Fiss, 2007, 2011; Misangyi et al., 2017;Du et al., 2021; Su, Fan, & Nicholson, 2019).

In view of this, Chinese Management Studies will publish a special issue entitled “QCA Methodology and Causal Complexity of Management Studies in China”. This calls on scholars in relevant fields to pay attention to theoretical research and the practice of management in China’s dynamic and complex environments, and to apply existing QCA techniques or develop new QCA methodology to analyze configuration problems and causal complexity of Chinese management. We encourage researchers from multiple fields (e.g., strategy, innovation, entrepreneurship, organization behavior, marketing, etc.) through the fusion of multiple perspectives to explore management phenomena that exist in complex causal relationships in China. We provide the following topics for your consideration. We are also looking forward to contributions from other topics related to the topic of the special issue.


The research questions include, but are not limited to:

- Entrepreneurial ecosystems and entrepreneurial activity

- Strategy configurations and firm outcomes in complex environments

- The causes or outcomes of innovation ecosystems

- Ecosystems for doing business and their effects

- Research on digitalization strategy in China

- Entrepreneurial motivations and entrepreneurial wellbeing in an emerging economy

- High Performance Work System(s) (HPWS)

- Internationalization of Chinese firms in an environment of institutional complexity

- Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable development of Chinese firms

- Analyzing dynamic complex growth patterns by developing QCA methodology

- Marketing strategy, patterns of platform enterprises and other complex management issues.


Contributors should note:


Guest Editors:

Yunzhou Du, School of Economics & Management, Southeast University, China

Email: [email protected]


Liangding Jia, School of Management, Nanjing University, China

Email: [email protected]


Yiyi Su, School of Economics and Management, Tongji University, China

Email: [email protected]


Yang Sun, School of Business Administration, Northeastern University, China

Email: [email protected]


Phillip H. Kim, Babson College, USA

Email: [email protected]



De Crescenzo, V., Ribeiro-Soriano, D. E., & Covin, J. G. (2020), “Exploring the viability of equity crowdfunding as a fundraising instrument: A configurational analysis of contingency factors that lead to crowdfunding success and failure”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 115, pp. 348-356.

Delbridge, R., & Fiss, P. C. (2013), “Styles of theorizing and the social organization of knowledge”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 325-331.

Du, Y. Z., & Jia, L. D. (2017), “Configurational perspective and qualitative comparative analysis (QCA): A new approach to management research”, Management World (in Chinese), Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 155-167.

Du, Y. Z., & Kim, P. (2021), “One size does not fit all: Strategy configurations, complex environments, and new venture performance in emerging economies”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 124, pp. 272-285.

Du, Y. Z., Li, J. X., Liu, Q. C., Zhao, S. T., & Chen, K. W. (2021), “Configurational theorizing and QCA from a complex and dynamic perspective: Research progress and future directions”, Management World (in Chinese), Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 180-197.

Dusa, A. (2019), QCA with R. a comprehensive resource, Springer International Publishing.

Fainshmidt, S., Witt, M. A., Aguilera, R. V., & Verbeke, A. (2020), “The contributions of qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to international business research”, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 51 No. 4, pp. 455-466.

Fisher, G. (2012), “Effectuation, causation and bricolage: A behavioral comparison of emerging theories in entrepreneurship research”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 36 No. 5, pp. 1019-1051.

Fiss, P. C. (2007), “A set-theoretic approach to organizational configurations”, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 1180-1198.

Fiss, P. C. (2011), “Building better causal theories: A fuzzy set approach to typologies in organization research”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 54 No. 2, pp. 393-420.

Furnari, S., Crilly, D., Misangyi, V. F., Greckhamer, T., Fiss, P. C., & Aguilera, R. V. (2020), “Capturing causal complexity: Heuristics for configurational theorizing", Academy of Management Review, forthcoming.

Greckhamer, T., Furnari, S., Fiss, P. C., & Aguilera, R. V. (2018), “Studying configurations with qualitative comparative analysis: Best practices in strategy and organization research”, Strategic Organization, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 482-495.

Jia, L. D., You, S. Y., & Du, Y. Z. (2012), “Chinese context and theoretical contributions to management and organization research: A three-decade review”, Management and Organization Review, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 173-209.

Kim, P. H., Wennberg, K., & Croidieu, G. (2016), “Untapped riches of meso-level applications in multi-level entrepreneurial mechanisms”, Academy of Management Perspectives, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 273-291.

Linder, C., Lechner, C., & Pelzel, F. (2020), “Many roads lead to Rome: How human, social, and financial capital are related to new venture survival”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 909-932.

Meyer, A. D., Tsui, A. S., & Hinings, C. R. (1993), “Configurational approaches to organizational analysis”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 36 No. 6, pp. 1175-1195.

Misangyi, V. F., Greckhamer, T., Furnari, S., Fiss, P. C., Crilly, D., & Aguilera, R. (2017), “Embracing causal complexity: The emergence of a neo-configurational perspective”, Journal of Management, Vol. 43 No. 1, pp. 255-282.

Nambisan, S., Siegel, D., & Kenney, M. (2018), “On open innovation, platforms and entrepreneurship”, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 354-368.

Ragin, C. C. (2008), Redesigning social inquiry: Fuzzy sets and beyond, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Razmdoost, K., Alinaghian, L., & Linder C. (2020), “New venture formation: A capability configurational approach”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 113, pp. 290-302.

Rihoux, B., & Ragin, C. C (Eds.). (2009), Configurational comparative methods: Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and related techniques, Sage, London.

Su, Y., Fan, D., and Nicholson, R. (2019), “Internationalization of Chinese banking and financial institutions: A fuzzy-set analysis of the leader-TMT dynamics”, International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 30 No. 14, pp. 2137-2165.

Sun, Y. (2021) “Case based Models of the Relationship between Consumer Resistance to Innovation and Customer Churn”, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Vol. 61, 102530.

Sun, Y., Garrett T. C., Phau, I., Zheng, B. (2020), “Case-based models of customer-perceived sustainable marketing and its effect on perceived customer equity”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 117 No. 9, pp. 615-622.