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Professional Development Workshop

Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA): Logic, Theory, Methodology, and Publications

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Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2023
August 5, 2023
12:00 to 14:00
Hynes Convention Center

In this workshop you will learn how to conduct Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA) and how to publish with NCA. This emerging method was recently published in the journal Organizational Research Methods (2016, 2020) and in the Sage book Conducting Necessary Condition Analysis (2020). NCA is now used in many fields including International Management, HRM, Strategy, Organizational Behavior, Operations, and Entrepreneurship. NCA understands cause-effect relations as “necessary but not sufficient” and not as additive and average logic that is used in regression analysis. “Necessary” means that an outcome will not occur without the right level of the condition, independently of the rest of the causal structure (thus the condition can be a “bottleneck”, “critical factor”, “constraint”). In practice, the right level must be put and kept in place to avoid guaranteed failure, and to allow the outcome to exist. NCA can be used as a stand-alone tool or in combination with regression and other approaches. By adding a different logic and data analysis approach, NCA adds both rigor and relevance to theory and data analysis. This interactive session familiarizes scholars with the method and has two parts. Part 1 is a general introduction discussing the diffusing of NCA and the importance of necessary conditions, illustrated with examples from different fields. Part 2 helps participants to become the first users of NCA in their field, with a practical demonstration about the application of NCA on how to build necessity theories, and how to analyze data for testing such theories using the NCA software and how to report the research in journal publications.

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Workshop Relevance

In any organizational field, scholars often formulate necessary but not sufficient statements (for examples see Appendix 1). But until the availability of NCA no quantitative method was available to evaluate these statements. Although the logic of necessary conditions goes back to David Hume’s philosophy of science (1777), the explicit formulation and analysis of necessity statements has been rare in modern social sciences including the organizational sciences. Since Francis Galton’s (1886) discovery of correlation, the focus in theory building and testing has been on additive logic, OLS regression, and the General Linear Model (with variants like multiple regression and structural equation modeling). Consequently the current focus of research and methodology is on sufficiency logic: how does a set of predictors (X1, X2, X3, ..) produce the outcome (Y), on average. Practitioners, however, commonly adopt necessity logic: in complex multicausal situations they cannot manage all factors, and select the believed “need-to-have” (=necessity) factors or ‘critical success factors’ that must be present to reach a desired outcome (e.g., high performance). Although results of additive, average logic and regression analyses inform managers what factors may contribute to success (on average), NCA results tell managers, what (levels of) factors must be put and kept in place to prevent failure of a desired (level of) outcome. Researchers should therefore include necessary conditions in their theories, and must have tools and skills to test necessary condition hypotheses. NCA provides the tools for formulating theory and identifying/testing necessary conditions. Using NCA has several advantages that are recognized by scholars and journal editors, such as: NCA provides new theoretical insights, complements traditional methods, is relevant for practice, and is simple and straightforward (see Appendix 2).

Workshop Format

The workshop (1½ - 2 hours) consists of two parts and will be moderated by Stefan Breet.

Part 1 (60 minutes) is a general introduction to NCA. It starts with a presentation (total 45 minutes) in which we introduce NCA and its recent developments (presented by Jan Dul, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, Netherlands, founder of NCA) and a recent application of NCA in the management literature (presented by Nicole Richter, Associate professor, University of Southern Denmark). Next in an interactive part (15-30 minutes) there are discussions (depending on the number of participants in small break out groups) where participants formulate and discuss necessary condition hypotheses in their field of research.

Part 2 (45-60 minutes) focuses on the application of NCA and how NCA can contribute to better theoretical understanding of phenomena, and that necessity theories can have a large impact on recommendations for practice. Special attention is given to personal experiences with applying NCA and publishing with NCA. These applications will be presented by Tatiana Andreeva, a researcher in Knowledge Management & Human Resource Management (School of Business, Maynooth University, Ireland) who has recently started applying NCA and submitting NCA manuscripts, and by Nicole Richter, a researcher in International Business (University of Southern Denmark) who has experience with publishing with NCA in top-ranked journals.

Workshop Overview

The proposed workshop is designed to familiarize the audience with the necessity logic, theory, and its tools, and to provide them with the skills to apply the method to theory building and testing with datasets and to publish with NCA in top-ranked journals. The workshop is based on our prior NCA research published in peer-reviewed journals, and on experiences with previous NCA courses, workshops at conferences and seminars and webinars (see Appendix 3). After the introduction of NCA in 2016 in Organizational Research Methods (Dul, 2016), PDWs were held on site at AoM2016 (Anaheim), AoM2018 (Chicago), AoM2019 (Boston), AoM2021 (Seattle) and online at AoM2020 and AoM2021, which all were well attended and well-received, as were a large number of workshops at other international conferences. The basics of the method have now been further detailed and described in a recent book (Dul 2020) and advanced topics are discussed in an online book (Dul 2021). Since 2016, many scholars have applied the method in their research, resulting in more than 60 articles in peer reviewed ISI journals (See Figure).

The growing importance of NCA is demonstrated by the pace of adoption compared to two now well-established methods in the organizational sciences. A search of ISI yields more than 2,500 hits for the QCA method and more than 4,000 for PLS-SEM. Yet, usage of NCA since introduction is proceeding more rapidly than these methods. Currently, not seldom, authors in top journals recommend the use of NCA for future research (e.g., Aguinis et al. in the Journal of International Business Studies, 2020).

Part 1

In the first part of the workshop, we will provide a general overview of NCA and compare the logic of necessary conditions with traditional regression based additive logic. Specifically, we will cover the following topics:

  1. The development and diffusion of NCA in academic journals
  2. The importance of necessary conditions for theory and practice
  3. Recent advances in the NCA methodology.

Part 2

The second part of the workshop is a demonstration of the application of NCA in theory building and testing research and how to publish the work. Specifically, this part will cover the following topics by scholars with experience in NCA applications:

  1. Example 1. NCA in Knowledge Management & HRM research. This example and related experience with NCA will be presented by Tatiana Andreeva.
  2. Example 2. NCA in International Business research. This example and related experience with NCA will be presented by Nicole Richter who has experience with publishing on NCA in top journals After the workshop participants can get assistance when they apply NCA. Participants who install the NCA software (R package) are welcome to request our assistance during and after the AoM conference to perform the analysis on their dataset. Participants can also become part of the NCA community of currently more than 800 researchers (www.erim.nl/nca).

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