What is the most significant thing that differentiates entrepreneurs from others? Somehow, in the face of overwhelming odds that they will fail, they still manage to push forward. Rejection, almost inevitable, doesn’t deter them. The rest of us kill inventive ideas before we even test them because we fear rejection. This NPR story explores a new form of therapy where rejection is turned into a game: how many times can you get rejected in a day? Could desensitizing people to failure create more entrepreneurs? This also has important implications for academics who typically face many rejections from journals for each manuscript that gets accepted. Without “rejection therapy,” they may avoid sending papers to journals because they are concerned that the work will be rejected. Like would be entrepreneurs, they kill ideas before they have had a chance to test the waters.
Contributed by Don Hatfield
An emerging literature focuses on learning from failures — both in terms of entrepreneurship and strategy more broadly. For some recent examples, see studies by Ariño and de la Torre (1998), Eggers (2012), and Kim & Miner (2007). It might appear that learning from success should be taken for granted — the actor has done something well and will naturally repeat the behavior. However, in the complex world of strategic decision-making, causality and can be especially hard to determine. It turns out that failure tends to trigger more rigorous analysis of the causes (even if these analyses suffer from attribution biases). On balance, success may tend to trigger much less rigorous analysis (if any) that is even more biased in the attributions made. This WSJ article on a magician’s ability to dupe audiences illustrates the principle nicely. In class, this discussion might be used to discuss the role of luck and how it may skew attributions, reducing the likelihood of serial success in strategic decision-making. The magic trick described in the article (or something similar) might be a nice, and dramatic, way to introduce the topic in class — all you need is two dimes…
Contributed by Donald E. Hatfield
In this video, Henry Mintzberg presents the story behind the classic Honda B case. That is, when Honda tried to enter the traditional US motorcycle market with large machines but ran into implementation problems that pushed it toward introducing small bikes through non-traditional distribution channels. As a result of their pivots, they were able to create a new market for smaller bikes in the US. This was a startling contrast to the “A” case which implied that the strategy was intentional from the start.
Heard Through Marko Rillo
In 1993, AT&T released a series of commercials offering their vision for the future. Their predictions were surprisingly on target (ebooks, turn-by-turn GPS directions, iPads, sending documents via mobile devices, video conferencing, electronic tollbooths, on-demand videos). Someone had a good handle on technology possibilities that would transform our world. And yet, AT&T was decidedly NOT the company to bring us this future: it was effectively gone within a decade. Colbert offers some explanation for how the AT&T brand collapsed and rose again after the disappearance of the old ma bell. Mike Leiblein points out that the company may have failed to make appropriate investments or been concerned about cannibalization of their existing products. This old case about internal disruptors from Bell Labs trying to shake things up at AT&T suggests that is true – the company ejected the “disruptors” and tried to suppress the heresy that the internet would change everything. Ironically, at the time these commercials were filmed, Rebecca Henderson was writing about organizational limitations that hinder incumbents from successfully pursuing radical innovation. These ads make a nice point about the limits of scenario planning. Even if a company has people who can see the future clearly, it may be unable to execute. Here are a few slides that Charlie Williams uses to make that point.
Contributed by Charlie Williams
Sometimes no matter how strong your resources are, you still can’t win. In those cases, it’s critical to avoid conflict so you can fight another day. This classic video depicts a battleship demanding that a rival change course to avoid collision. This might be useful for competitive dynamics (game theory), entrepreneurship (failure to pivot) or strategy process (cognition & stubbornness) where it may be critical to know when to change course. Guoli Chen, Crossland, & Luo’s recent SMJ article on CEO overconfidence is a nice academic complement to this. Of course there is a large literature on escalation of commitment that is also relevant.
Contributed by Russ Coff
Quirky is a company that collects ideas on innovative products from it’s “community members.” It is governed somewhere between crowdsourcing and a holacracy (see the posts on Zappos and Valve). They have formed an alliance with the much more established and traditional, General Electric (GE). The two companies have very different strengths which can be the basis of complementarities that drive value creation in alliances. Together, they have produced Aros, a connected air conditioner that, for example, uses one’s Phone location to tell the system when to turn on and cool one’s house. This is a nice opportunity to apply the frameworks for achieving a network advantage (see Greve, Rowley, & Shipilov’s new book). For example, Shipilov describes the Alliance Radar framework which allows you to see if an alliance portfolio is balanced and identify what kinds of alliances will create the most value. Below is a video review of the resulting product. See also Henrich Greve’s blog post on the alliance for a discussion of how it has worked. While GE handled the product design, manufacturing and sales, the core idea came from Quirky.
Contributed by Aya Chacar
Stanford’s Tina Seelig describes a classroom experiment (below) where students were given $5 of “seed” funding and 2 hours to make as much money as possible. The best teams made money by working outside of the stated constraints (e.g., ignoring the seed funding & timeframe). Understanding their human capital and unique resources was critical. This really simple exercise gets at the crux of entrepreneurial opportunity.
Contributed by Russ Coff
“Network Advantage: How to Unlock Value from Your Alliances and Partnerships” is written for MBA, Masters of management, and Executive Education programs. It can be used in core strategy courses or electives on corporate strategy innovation, or strategic alliances. The book offers a step-by-step guide for how to build network advantages.
- The impact of individual alliances, partnerships and their portfolios on the firms’ competitive advantage (Introduction, Chapters 1 & 2).
- The role of complementarity and compatibility between partners for the formation of successful alliances and partnerships (Chapter 3)
- Differential impact of the “hub and spoke” alliance portfolios and “integrated” portfolios on competitive advantage. These represent inter-organizational networks rich in structural holes and dense ties, respectively (Chapters 4 & 5).
- The role of organizational status in competitive advantage (Chapters 6 & 7)
- Should the firm build its own alliance portfolio or join another firm’s network (Chapter 8)
- How to improve information flows inside the firm to attain competitive advantage from alliances and partnerships (Chapter 10).
Most chapters introduce tools for how to develop a collaboration strategy. These are compiled at the end of the book. A short introductory video is available on youtube:
Contributed by Andrew Shipilov
Competitive advantage is not visible to all stakeholders at the same time. This is why entrepreneurs can have an advantage in negotiating with stakeholders who come late to the game. The bank robbery below illustrates how even a small advantage in awareness can change the game.
Contributed by Karl Wennberg
Valve Corporation is a game developer that has 400 employees, no bosses, and is very successful. How can you have a structure that flat? The company, a spawn from Microsoft, seems to be doing just fine thank you. The information at the following seven web links (including a podcast and the employee handbook) contain all of the raw material required for a live case:
I think you could probably just give these seven web links to students, say “discuss,” and get out of the way.
Contributed by Rich Makadok
Jay Barney describes a coin flip exercise to make the point that innovation might be modeled as an outcome of pure luck. If so, how can firms manage such processes? The exercise is simple:
- Distribute coins to the class and have them flip.
- Those who flip “heads” remain standing, “tails” sit down (unless everyone gets a tail – then they remain standing)
- Repeat until one person is standing & pass all coins to him/her
- What capabilities/skills did the winner have? Make a big show of trying to find out how the winner did it (it’s all in the wrist, etc.). Often the winner will have flipped 5 in a row or more (a 3% probability?). People will laugh since they know it’s luck.
- Is it possible that innovative companies are just lucky? We don’t see a lot of repeat innovators and, if it is luck, even these might be explained.
- Selection bias is a problem if we try and draw conclusions by only looking at winners. In a population (like the class), the probability that someone will flip 5 in a row is rather high. We can only identify causality if we study the whole population.
- If it is luck, how should one manage investment? This is a nice lead in for portfolios of strategic investments/real options or superior expectations/forecasting.
Contributed by Jay Barney