As a master thesis supervisor I coached students who were in the final stage of their master of science (MSc) programme at the Rotterdam School of Management and need to conduct an independent research project that culminates into the writing of their master thesis. After a successful defence of the master thesis the student officially obtains the MSc degree. The master thesis forms an important part of the student’s curriculum as it provides them an opportunity to show the skills, competencies and theoretical knowledge he or she has acquired during their master programme. The student has to conduct an academic study in the field of their MSc programme and is required to report on the entire research process, including problem formulation, theoretical framework, methodology, results, conclusions, recommendations for future research and managerial recommendations.
As a thesis supervisor, I had the following responsibilities:
- Approve the thesis proposal
- Provide support and guidance during the research process, in both practical (e.g., planning, methodology) and theoretical way
- Provide feedback on the draft versions of the proposal and thesis
- Approve the thesis and admit the student to the thesis defence, which is a formal event that also serves as the student’s official graduation ceremony
- Conduct the final defence and award the final grade
The worldwide economic downturn that began in 2008 represented a strategic game changer for most organizations. Severe resource constraints and unpredictable market conditions created significant challenges for organizational survival, let alone growth through innovation and venturing activities. Now, seven years later, firms do not only struggle with the long-term effects of the financial crisis but have to constantly fend off start-ups that challenge the status quo. In order to survive in a competitive landscape characterized by a lack of resources, high uncertainty and fierce competition, firms have to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Corporate Entrepreneurship (CE) is therefore more important than ever and a clear understanding of the CE process is a vital driver of firm success.
Past models of the CE process suggest that important linkages exist between organizational structure, strategic decision-making, the external environment, management processes, entrepreneurial orientation, and firm performance (i.e., Covin & Slevin,1991; Hornsby, et al., 1993; Lumpkin & Dess, 1996; Kuratko, Ireland, Covin & Hornsby, 2005; and Ireland, Covin, and Kuratko; 2009). While more research is needed to examine and test these linkages, we also require a better understanding of the role played by external socio-cultural, economic and market conditions and their effect on CE strategies.
Recognizing the need for corporate entrepreneurship is one thing, but actually making it happen is quite another. Although many business books purport to teach how top managers can create a culture that nurtures visionaries like Sergey Brin (Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), corporate entrepreneurship still fails quite often because large organizations present hostile environments for creative ideas (Sharma & Chrisman, 1999). Innovative proposals are frequently defeated by financial control systems and other formalities that are typical of large bureaucracies (Kanter, 1985). These conflicting requirements of exploitation and exploration lead to paradoxical challenges that are difficult to reconcile within a single organization. In addition to the examination of the integrative models discussed above, it is therefore necessary to study the implementation of CE — thereby improving the awareness and understanding of the range, scope, and complexity of the issues related to the creation of an organizational environment that supports entrepreneurial endeavours.
Sample Research Questions:
- What are the impacts of economic recession and resource constraints on formal and informal CE?
- Do the theoretical linkages suggested in integrative models such as Ireland et al (2009) hold up to empirical testing? What are the critical management practices (e.g., human resource practices, high performance work systems) that facilitate the creation of an entrepreneurial orientation? How does the composition of the top management team influence the pursuit and implementation of CE strategies?
- Do specific HR practices (e.g., recruitment, selection, training, compensation, and evaluation systems) develop and motivate corporate entrepreneurial behavior?
- Can managers change the structure of their firms’ social network in order to promote entrepreneurial behavior?
- What role do entrepreneurial cognitions play in the CE process, especially focusing on the decision to initiate and/or sustain entrepreneurial behavior?
- From a practical perspective, what are the best dependent variables/performance metrics to assess CE outcomes?
- What are the cross-cultural issues that must be considered when implementing a successful CE strategy?
- Do different managerial roles entail different effects on CE?
- Garvin, D.A. & Levesque, L.C. (2006). Meeting the Challenge of Corporate Entrepreneurship. Harvard Business Review, 84(10): 1-13.
- Wolcott, R.C. & Lippitz, M.J. (2007). The Four Models of Corporate Entrepreneurship. MIT Sloan Management Review, Vol. 49 (1): 75-82.
- 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. 2010. Corporate Entrepreneurship: An Introduction and Research Review. Handbook of Entrepreneurship Research – An Interdisciplinary Survey and Introduction (2nd ed.): 129–163. New York: Springer.
- Ireland, R.D., Covin, J.G. & Kuratko, D.F. (2009). Conceptualizing Corporate Entrepreneurship strategy. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 33(1): 19-46.
- Kanter, R.M. 1985. Supporting Innovation and Venture Development in Established Companies. Journal of Business Venturing, 1: 47-60.
- Shepherd, D.A., Covin, J.G. & Kuratko, D.F. (2009). Project Failure from Corporate Entrepreneurship: Managing the Grief Process. Journal of Business Venturing, 24(6): 588–600.