Master Thesis Supervision

Social Capital & Intrapreneurship

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University

The idea that established firms occupy a unique competitive position and are able to defend it for a long period of time does not longer apply to most industries. It is impossible for successful top management teams to rest on their laurels as young firms relentlessly challenge the status quo. A product or service that is superior today may be outdated tomorrow. Unencumbered by hierarchical decision-making processes, companies like Uber and AirBnB seem to appear out of nowhere and are able to stir up entire industries. As a result, established companies increasingly experiment with different organizational structures to become more agile and responsive. Examples are the Dutch bank ING, which recently copied the organizational structure of Spotify (which consists of loosely coupled, autonomous teams) and the telecommunications company KPN who works with scrum teams. Whatever approach they take, these companies try to create a culture in which employees are encouraged to behave as intrapreneurs.

Implementing a strategic entrepreneurship (SE) strategy—which can be defined as “a longterm view of value creation that results from simultaneously engaging in opportunity-seeking (entrepreneurship) and advantage-seeking (strategic management) behaviors” (Hitt, Ireland, Sirmon, & Trahms, 2011: 70)—is a way in which established firms can adapt to changing circumstances. While past models of SE have focused on individual attributes (such as personal skills and experience) or the organizational context (such as management support or performance management), scholars increasingly recognize the importance of the relationships that tie employees together: their social network (Hollenbeck & Jamieson, 2015). Research shows that social capital — the “sum of actual and potential resources embedded within, available through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by individuals or social units” (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998: 243)— strongly influences the generation and the implementation of ideas (Baer, Evans, Oldham, & Boasso, 2015; Burt, 2005).

If you choose this research theme, you will investigate how social capital affects the ability of employees to identify, exploit, and implement entrepreneurial opportunities. In doing so, you will develop a fine-grained understanding of social capital and intrapreneurship, which are important elements of entrepreneurial strategies (Hitt, Ireland, Sirmon, & Trahms, 2011; Ireland, Hitt, & Sirmon, 2003). Moreover, you will contribute to a highly relevant research domain since more and more scholars call for studies that examine the role of social relationships in strategic entrepreneurship (Gedajlovic, Honig, Moore, Payne, & Wright, 2013; Hayton & Kelley, 2006; Kuratko, Hornsby, & Hayton, 2015)

Sample Research Question:

  1. How do different types of social capital stimulate or hinder intrapreneurial behavior?
  2. What are the personality characteristics (human capital) that allow people to leverage their social capital to seize entrepreneurial opportunities?
  3. What is the role of top managers in stimulating intrapreneurial behavior?
  4. What types of social capital are necessary for the generation and implementation of ideas? How should managers change the structure of intra-organizational networks?

Relevant Literature

  • Hollenbeck, J. R., & Jamieson, B. B. 2015. Human Capital, Social Capital, and Social Network Analysis: Implications for Strategic Human Resource Management. Academy of Management Perspectives, 29(3): 370–385.
  • Nahapiet, J., & Ghoshal, S. 1998. Social Capital, Intellectual Capital and the Organizational Advantage. Academy of Management Review, 23(2): 242–266.
  • Baer, M., Evans, K., Oldham, G. R., & Boasso, A. 2015. The Social Network Side of Individual Innovation: A Meta-Analysis and Path-Analytic Integration. Organizational Psychology Review, 5(3): 191–223.
  • Gedajlovic, E., Honig, B., Moore, C. B., Payne, G. T., & Wright, M. 2013. Social Capital and Entrepreneurship: A Schema and Research Agenda. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 37(3): 455–478.
  • Hayton, J. C., & Kelley, D. J. 2006. A Competency-Based Framework for Promoting Corporate Entrepreneurship. Human Resource Management, 45(3): 295–308.
  • Hitt, M. A., Ireland, R. D., Sirmon, D. G., & Trahms, C. A. 2011. Strategic Entrepreneurship: Creating Value for Individuals, Organizations, and Society. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(2): 57–75.
  • Kuratko, D. F., Hornsby, J. S., & Hayton, J. 2015. Corporate Entrepreneurship: The Innovative Challenge for a New Global Economic Reality. Small Business Economics, 45(2): 245–253.
Stefan Breet
Stefan Breet
PhD Candidate in Corporate Entrepreneurship

My research interests include corporate entrepreneurship, creativity & innovatin, and social networks.