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Master Thesis in Business Administration

Idea Paper
Radboud University Nijmegen
Master of Science (MSc) in Business Administration
From January 1, 2023 to August 31, 2023
8 students

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-19 crisis—established firms must reinvent themselves 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.

When you chose this thesis theme, you will investigate how organizations can manage the Corporate Entrepreneurship process and potentially reconcile the conflicting nature of opportunity- and advantage-seeking activities. There are three subtopics you can choose from:

  • Strategic Networking
  • Social Capital & Intrapreneurship
  • A Network Perspective on Business Model Innovation

I am looking for students interested in conducting quantitative research.

Topic 1: Strategic Networking

Social relationships play an important role in the identification of new opportunities that are potentially valuable for the organization or its employees. Developing and maintaining a network of internal and external contacts is, therefore, essential for managers and employees wanting to contribute to strategic renewal and organizational change. Recent changes in the macroeconomic environment—such as the shift to working from home or the availability of software like Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams—have positive and negative effects on people’s ability to network with others and identify valuable opportunities.

If you pick this subtopic, you will develop a contemporary and strategic perspective on networking behavior. This perspective will provide a clear overview of the costs and benefits of networking, and show how it can help executives, managers, and employees to achieve their goals.

Potential research questions are:

  • How can we better measure networking behavior and its outcomes?
  • What is the impact of Working from Home (WFH) on networking behavior?
  • Which interventions can help employees to improve their networking success?
  • Does gender play a role in the way people network?

Topic 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 et al., 2015; Burt, 2005).

If you choose this subtopic, 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-19 crisis on the way employees interact with each other? How does working remotely influence 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?

Topic 3: A Network Perspective on Business Model Innovation

A business model describes how organizations create, deliver, and capture value. When the environment changes—for example, when a start-up has found a cheaper way to provide a product or service—existing business models might no longer be adequate. Consequently, organizations need to be able to adapt their business models to ensure their long-term viability. Prior research has taught us much about business model innovation, but the role of an organization’s social context has been underexposed.

If you choose this subtopic, you will investigate how the social context of an organization influences business model innovation. Depending on the quality of your thesis proposal, it will be possible to conduct your research at the municipality of Amsterdam in collaboration with thesis students supervised by Sjors Witjes and Mirjam Goudsmit. Potential research questions are:

  • Who are the people in the organization that influence the creation or adaptation of the organization’s business model?
  • Which people need to be involved at different stages of the business model innovation process?
  • How does the social context affect the type of business model innovation?
  • Which characteristics of an organization’s social context are essential for business model innovation success? Which characteristics are bottlenecks?

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 2021-2022).

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