Reexamining some management lessons from military history

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Ahlstrom, David, Lamond, David and Ding, Zhujun (2009) Reexamining some management lessons from military history. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 26 (4). pp. 617-642. ISSN 0217-4561 (print) 1572-9958 (online)


Military history has provided a number of useful metaphors for management, such as positioning, blue ocean strategy, defensible perimeters, and fighting the last war, among others. In spite of this rich tradition and the detailed writings on the military, management research has actually made a rather truncated use of military history. This includes the selective use of military metaphors, and a limited number of individual and comparative case studies on diplomatic and military scenarios. It is argued that much more can be learned from military history, though certain wellknown metaphors and lessons drawn from major events do not convey what military history actually teaches about those events. To learn from military history, historical events must be studied carefully so proper lessons can be derived from them. This paper examines two major episodes in 20th century military history from World War I and the subsequent interwar period, and how themes derived from these events and used in the management field are not consistent with what the historical record teaches about them.We suggest that a fuller and more careful rendering of historical events and their lessons would be potentially beneficial to management research, and suggest ways in which they can be researched.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.1007/s10490-009-9155-2
Official URL
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Historical > FOR Classification > 2103 Historical Studies
Current > Division/Research > Other
Keywords ResPubID21981. military strategy, leadership, organisational behaviour, wars, WWI, historical research, Germany, France, China, Chinese, French, German, Britain, British
Citations in Scopus 40 - View on Scopus
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