Translation has been established as an important theoretical perspective for studying the flow of management concepts. Yet, despite its potential, we find limited reflection on the various ways in which the perspective is understood and used. As the under-theorized and fragmented discourse may hamper the progress of translation research as an academic field, it is in need of closer examination. The purpose of this paper is to explore the different conceptualizations of translation, in terms of their key foci and base assumptions, and to review the work that has accumulated into different sub-streams. Based on a systematic literature review of 150 publications, we identify two theoretically relevant dimensions that mark important differences between these different streams of research: (1) the source of variation; and (2) the object of variation. With these dimensions, we develop a typology of four alternative approaches to translation and show how these are associated with institutional, rational, dramaturgical and political perspectives. We draw on these broader theoretical lenses to contextualize and deepen our understanding of the specific possibilities and limitations of alternative translation approaches, and we highlight the potential for further connections and integration between them.