Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: Establishing the Necessary Conditions for Corporate Entrepreneurship

Master Thesis Supervision

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 A product or service that is superior today may be outdated tomorrow.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. Competitive advantages evaporate quickly and companies bear the burden of the new rules of competition. A recent issue of the Economist featured the article “Reinventing the Company” in which they argued that corporate growth is stagnating and managers have to remodel their firms in order to survive. Half of the big American firms have shrinking profits and analysts expect the sales of the S&P 500 to fall. How do established firms bolster themselves against start-ups “fuelled by coffee and dreams”?

One answer is that established firms should create a culture in which employees are encouraged to be proactive, to be creative and to be willing to take the risk of pursuing innovative ideas. Prior research has identified human capital (a person’s skills and experience), social capital (the value of a person’s network), and the organizational context (like management support or performance expectations and evaluations) as important elements of such a culture. While we know that these factors play a role in corporate entrepreneurship, we do not know which of them are absolutely necessary (the need-to-haves) and which of them are not (the nice-to-haves). This distinction is particularly important for managers, because their recourses are limited.

If you choose this research theme, you will investigate which elements of an entrepreneurial strategy are necessary and which are not. You will learn how to conduct a Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA) and to shift from a classical sufficiency mind-set—which focuses on factors that are likely to contribute to corporate entrepreneurship—to a necessity perspective that focuses on the factors that are absolutely necessary. By doing so, you will develop a fine-grained understanding of corporate entrepreneurship and the way managers can develop and support an entrepreneurial strategy.

Sample Research Question:

  1. Which elements of the theoretical models like those proposed by Ireland et al. (2009) or Kuratko (2010) are necessary for the success of an entrepreneurial strategy?
  2. What is the role of top managers in stimulating intrapreneurial behavior?
  3. What types of social capital are necessary for the generation and implementation of ideas? How should managers change the structure of intra-organizational networks?
  4. Which HR practices support an entrepreneurial strategy? What type of personality or skill set suits such a strategy best?
  5. What are the job characteristics that are necessary for intrapreneurship?

Relevant Literature:

  • Dul, J. (2015). Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA): Logic and Methodlogy of “Necessary but Not Sufficient” Causality. Organizational Research Methods, 1-43.
  • Dul, J. (2015): Necessary Condition Analysis: More Value from Data. RSM Discovery, 23, 8-11.
  • 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.