Why the Candidates Don’t Talk Specifics

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If you noticed a lack of specifics from either candidate in Wednesday night’s presidential debate, you’re not alone. A study published in the Journal of Management Inquiry October issue posits that in politics, as in many organizations undergoing strategic change, vagueness is a virtue:

The received wisdom, repeatedly validated in politics, is that specific policy proposals are usually ineffective in winning votes because they appeal to relatively narrow audiences and often alienate groups needed to forge consensus (Levine, 1985). Alienating as few constituents (politically) or stakeholders (organizationally) as possible is crucially important—a position on either extreme is counterproductive, whereas a position in the middle satisfies no group adequately. Thus, the most effective approach is to avoid divisive issues by placing little emphasis on them and, instead, pursuing matters on which consensus can be achieved—thus implying the need for stating positions ambiguously.

Read the article, “Visionary Ambiguity and Strategic Change : The Virtue of Vagueness in Launching Major Organizational Change,” by Dennis A. Gioia of Pennsylvania State University, Rajiv Nag of Georgia State University, and Kevin G. Corley of Arizona State University. Follow this link to learn more about the Journal of Management Inquiry and this one to receive e-alerts about new articles that explore ideas and build knowledge in management theory and practice, with a focus on creative, nontraditional research, as well as key controversies in the field.

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