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MBA Theories

What, Why, How

MBA theories constitute an important component of the MBA degree. Getting into the MBA program means that you will find yourself instantly confronted with a constant emphasis on ‘theories’. Unless you take the time to understand why theories are important and how they need to be used they are likely to burden you relentlessly.

Your academic tutors have a very clear idea about theories because they have to work with them all the time. You don’t have to do this. This makes it harder for you. Academics have to use theories in their research. They have to explain which theory is important and relevant for when they are making their contribution to the literature.

There is a specific understanding of theories which is already integrated into academia and you desperately need to become familiar with. Our aim here is to help you prepare for when you embark on having to learn and apply the different theories. Hence, with this brief article we want to help you understand WHAT theories are, WHY  they are important and HOW they need to be used.



Theories are models which are comprised of different relationships. Their only aim is one, namely, to explain how and why a phenomenon happens. The use of a theory becomes important because it constitutes the basis on which a social phenomenon can be studied with the intention of drawing valid conclusions about it and which can be communicated with a strong sense of validity. A theory is a representation of that which we can see but we cannot explain just by what we see. A theory is based on a set of propositions that need to be defined and which organize how certain relationships are intertwined between them. A theory cannot tell us everything about a phenomenon. However, its aims is to capture the logic between certain relationships which are very important and constitute how a phenomenon occurs. Theories are based on abstract relationships. They seek to capture generalizations that can be applied to different situations and people.  A theory can seem to be a very simplistic representation that does not take into account all the different relationships that contribute to a phenomenon. For this reason, a theory can misunderstood as inadequate or inaccurate. However, a theory is not perfect and it is not completed as a set of ideas but it is under ongoing development. Theories are incomplete and yet can make valid assertions that can help us understand why a phenomenon happens.



MBA theories are not exclusive to the MBA degree. On the contrary the MBA course relies on theories found in different disciplines which include sociology, psychology, economics, anthropology. MBA theories are important because they offer the scope of generating an analytical representation of a phenomenon study. When you use a theory you need to explain how you apply certain relationships. In making this effort you need to understand relationships in an abstracted form. However, you also need to apply them within the context of a particular case scenario. In seeking to understand the different relationships you exercise your analytical capacity because you have to work with a set of connections. You might not think that the connections are relevant to the real world. However, the point is that you try to study ‘something’ in light of a ‘set of relationships’ that have validity. Their validity is based on the prior work that was done in order to identify them and establish them. The experience of doing research is a painfully slow process. Academics are never interested in the end findings. They are interested in the process that led to the finding. For this reason the study of a motivation theory for understanding why the motivation levels in employees might be weak or strong becomes relevant because you have to spend time understanding key relationships. Hence, a theory helps you to be able to draw valid conclusions because the relationships that you are using to draw your findings are not just coming out of your own limited experience. The acceptance and development of theories remains part of an academic field of study. This is what makes them particularly relevant and important. Furthermore, theories are not static but develop and can change over time. For this reason it is important to identify with how theories are used between authors and within their different time periods.



MBA tutors do not expect you just to ‘know’ the theories but also to ‘apply’ the theories. This is often perceived as particularly challenging by MBA UK students because there is not one preset way in which you are taught to apply the theory. The application of theory has three main steps.

  • First to identify the main components which are part of the theory
  • Second to identify how the components are represented within a business case
  • Third to apply how the relationships contained within the theory helps us understand and explain the business case.

Third to make suggestions for how the relationships which are found within the theory can apply to the  case example. Remember that an application of theory is considered an art rather than science. There is a predetermined way by which a set of relationships can apply to a social phenomenon. For this reason YOU as the author play an important role with creating and demonstrating the relevance of the different relationships that you create. Constantly you need to remember that your goal is to identify how the relationships situated within a theory remains relevant when seen in action. It is important to understand that a strong application of theory is ultimately dependent on YOUR analysis and interpretation of that theory.

You are probably surprised by the volume of work that you have to do and with no having an immediate explanation for how and why the above process is important for your learning experience. Why does it help you to develop your own self? Within the academic world what is considered to be the most important event is the exposition of the reasoning that leads you to a set of findings. Explaining and analyzing relationships and process is indeed a tiresome activity that all of us would like to avoid if possible. However, in producing relationships and analysis how certain issues are identified in theory and apply in action learning happens through the use of your creative and analytical mind. Here, learning is NOT comprised as a set of facts. Instead, it is comprised as a more overarching experience where you engage deeply with your own self and with trying to articulate your thoughts in writing. This is a dialectical process because it forces you to consider the knowledge that you have and the clarity with which you can communicate it to others. If you start from this learning experience as you main reference point, you can view the use of theories in a more positive light.

MBA Winner is dedicated to helping students to understand how to best apply theory within their academic assignments. Our goal is to help your development and understanding by working with you in tacking the various obstacles. You can email us with your inquiry in order to find the help and support that you need.


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