Aim of the Master Thesis Trajectory
The aim of the master thesis trajectory is that students develop and demonstrate their ability to conduct a well-substantiated piece of academic research about a scientifically relevant topic in business administration in an independent manner. The students do this by showing that they are capable of writing a scientific report (the master thesis), presenting it in a comprehensive manner, and defending the thesis in front of experts in the field (Master Thesis Handbook, Nijmegen School of Management 2020-2021).
Theme 1: Managing the Corporate Entrepreneurship Paradox
The idea that established firms can defend a unique competitive position for a long period of time is no longer a given. This is especially true for industries in which start-ups enthusiastically challenge the status quo by doing things better, faster, and cheaper. In the face of disruptive circumstances—such as digital competition or the current COVID crisis—established firms have to reinvent themselves in order to survive.
Corporate Entrepreneurship (CE)—which is the ability of organizations to simultaneously engage in opportunity-seeking (entrepreneurship) and advantage-seeking (strategic management) activities—can provide the key to survival. Striking the balance between entrepreneurship and strategic management, however, is a paradoxical challenge: entrepreneurship is about exploring new opportunities that will help the organization to meet future demands, while strategic management is about exploiting existing capabilities that are successful now.
If you choose this research theme, you will investigate how organizations can manage the Corporate Entrepreneurship paradox and reconcile the conflicting nature of opportunity- and advantage-seeking activities. Potential research questions are:
- What is the impact of the COVID crisis on formal and informal CE?
- 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?
- What is the role of managerial cognition in recognizing opportunities and responding to environmental threats?
- What kind of organizational structures stimulate CE?
Theme 2: Social Capital & Entrepreneurial Behavior
Companies increasingly recognize the importance of bottom-up innovation and experiment with different organizational forms that stimulate employees to behave entrepreneurially and come up with novel ideas. While past models of entrepreneurial behavior 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. Research indeed shows that social capital—the value that people get from their relationships—strongly influence 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). Potential research questions are:
- What is the impact of the COVID crisis on the way employees interact with each other? How does working remotely affect entrepreneurial behavior?
- How do different types of social capital stimulate or hinder intrapreneurial behavior?
- What are the personality characteristics (human capital) that allow people to leverage their relationships (social capital) to seize entrepreneurial opportunities?
- What is the role of top managers in stimulating intrapreneurial behavior?
- What types of social capital are necessary for the generation and implementation of ideas? How should managers change the structure of intra-organizational networks?