Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 1212–1230

Beyond Gaussian averages: redirecting international business and management research toward extreme events and power laws


DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400324

Cite this article as:
Andriani, P. & McKelvey, B. J Int Bus Stud (2007) 38: 1212. doi:10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400324


Practicing managers live in a world of ‘extremes’, but international business and management research is based on Gaussian statistics that rule out such extremes. On occasion, positive feedback processes among interactive data points cause extreme events characterized by power laws. They seem ubiquitous; we list 80 kinds of them – half each among natural and social phenomena. We use imposed tension and Per Bak's ‘self-organized criticality’ to argue that Pareto-based science and statistics (based on interdependence, positive feedback, scalability, (nearly) infinite variance, and emphasizing extremes) should parallel the traditional dominance of Gaussian statistics (based on independent data points, finite variance and emphasizing averages). We question quantitative journal publications depending on Gaussian statistics. The cost is inaccurate science and irrelevance to practitioners. In conclusion, no statistical findings should be accepted into business studies if they gain significance via some assumption device by which extreme events and (nearly) infinite variance are ignored. Accordingly, we suggest redirecting international business studies, and management research in general.


power laws fractals Gaussian Pareto interdependence extremes 

Copyright information

© Academy of International Business 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Durham Business SchoolDurhamUK
  2. 2.The UCLA Anderson School of ManagementLos AngelesUSA