Welcome to My Blogs

I have created a number blogs to publish useful information. One is a Teaching Blog dedicated to providing past, present and future students useful information. I have also created a blog for the Courses I am teaching. 

My Research Blog is dedicated to disseminating useful information to other researchers and scholars.

There is also a blog that has collected all of Charles Tilly’s Writings on Methodology.

Below you find every entry across all my Blogs.

Our Book “China’s Innovation Challenge” coming out with Cambridge University Press in 2016

Arie Lewin, Martin Kenney and Johann Peter Murmann are editing a new book on China’s Innovation Challenge: Overcoming the Middle-Income Trap.

The book will also feature contributions from Justin Yifu Lin, Gordon Redding, Michael Witt, Keun Lee, Douglas Fuller, John Child, Simon Collison, Yves Doz, Keeley Wilson, Silvia Massini, Keren Caspin-Wagner, Eliza Chilimoniuk-Przezdziecka,  Weidong Xia, Mary Ann Von Glinow, Zhi-Xue Zhang and Weiguo Zhong, Chi-Yue Chiu, Shyhnan Liou, and Letty Y-Y. Kwan, and Rosalie Tung.

Detailed Table of Contents

Join discussion and get updates on the book by following its Facebook Page.

China Innovation

Murmann Lecture: What constitutes a compelling case study?

I gave a 50-min keynote lecture on what constitutes compelling case study.  The video from the event at the Forum for Case-based and Qualitative Research in Business Administration may be useful for anyone who is attempting to publish case based studies in field of management.
Nanjing Lecture

The slides from the lecture are visible in the video and can also be downloaded here.  Murmann Slides

The lecture is also available within China on the youku platform.  Click here if you want to access video from China:  China Video AccessAlternative China Video Access

Click on “more” for a written summary of lecture both in English and in Chinese.


Using Simulation Experiments to Test Historical Explanations

I wanted to test with a computer simulation the explanations I offered in my book Knowledge and Competitive Advantage: The Coevolution of Firms, Technology and National Institutions for why German firms overtook their French and British competitors in the Synthetic Dye Industry from 1857-1913. So I partnered with Thomas Brenner who has created a simulation model that can replicate the key stylistic facts we know about firm and industry growth patterns. Our paper is now published online the Journal of Evolutionary Economics.
Conducting Simulation Experiments to Test Historical Explanations: The Development of the German Dye Industry 1857-1913

Abstract: In a simulation experiment, building on the abductive simulation approach of Brenner and Werker (2007), we test historical explanations for why German firms came to surpass British and France firms and to dominate the global synthetic dye industry for three decades before World War 1 while the U.S. never achieved large market share despite large home demand. Murmann and Homburg (2001) and Murmann (2003) argued that German firms came to dominate the global industry because of (1) the high initial number of chemists in Germany at the start of the industry in 1857, (2) the high responsiveness of the German university system and (3) the late (1877) introduction of a patent regime in Germany as well as the more narrow construction of this regime compared to Britain, France and the U.S. We test the validity of these three potential explanations with the help of simulation experiments.  The experiments show that the 2nd explanation—the high responsiveness of the German university system— is the most compelling one because unlike the other two it is true for virtually all plausible historical settings.

Download Paper

Beyond Profits: Tesla’s fundamental objective to hasten the transition to electric vehicles

Elon Musk gave an interview that makes it clear that the fundamental objective for Tesla is not profits.


Question: The German automakers just presented their responses to Tesla in Frankfurt at the international automobile show. What do you think of the Audi e-tron quattro and the Porsche Mission E?

Any action in the direction of electric mobility is good. Our goal at Tesla is for cars to transition to e-vehicles. That’s why we opened up all our patents for use by anybody.

And who has used them?

Maybe the companies you already mentioned. When I saw a diagram of Porsche’s Mission E, I thought: It looks exactly like our car. Which is fine. It’s more important to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.


Source: Handelsblatt.com

“The Moon and the Ghetto” revisited by Richard Nelson

Richard Nelson explained why is worthwhile to revisit his book.

Over thirty years ago I wrote an extended essay, The Moon and the Ghetto, concerned with the troubling question of why societies so rich and capable technologically and organizationally as to be able to land a man on the moon seemed unable to deal effectively with e.g. poverty, illiteracy, slums. I argued that, while politics was part of the reason, in many cases the problem was that our scientific knowledge and technological know-how was not sufficient to point the way to a solution. The general problem of the great unevenness of human progress has not gone away. The questions explored in this seminar are, first, what lies behind the great unevenness of scientific and technological progress. And second, under what conditions does it make sense to seek a solution to a problem by trying to develop stronger know-how. Can progress be made by reorienting our innovation systems?

You can watch his lecture given at INGENIO in Spain on Youtube.

Nelson Ghetto

How much uncertainty is there in different industries

Jeff Dyer, Nathan Furr, and Curtis Lefrandt have put together a useful graphic on the relative uncertainty in different industries.


Full Story on HBR.org

Game Theory:  Why it became so popular and why it often is hard

John Cassidy explains in the New Yorker:

Thanks to the sterling efforts of Sylvia Nasar, Ron Howard, and Russell Crowe, many people are aware that John Nash, the Princeton mathematician who was killed over the weekend in a car crash on the New Jersey Turnpike, lived a remarkable life. It included early academic stardom, decades of struggling with schizophrenia, and, in 1994, a shared Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. But outside the field of economics, Nash’s contribution to game theory, for which he was awarded the Nobel, remains rather less well understood.

Although it is often used in economics, game theory can be applied to any venue where people, or other decision makers, interact strategically and follow rules-based behavior. The setting could be nuclear negotiations, such as the ones currently taking place between Iran and the great powers. It could be a product market, in which a number of firms compete for business. Or it could be a political campaign, in which various candidates try to outdo each other. The word “strategically” is important, because the various players, in choosing from a variety of possible moves, take account of one another’s actions, or likely actions. And the phrase “rules-based” means that the players are acting purposefully and seeking to maximize their own advantages, rather than behaving passively, or randomly.

Full Story



Kickstarter reincorporates itself as “public benefit company”

The founders of Kickstarter wanted to ensure that their company does not stray from their fundamental objective of ““help bring creative projects to life.” Now they have reincorporated themselves as “public benefit company”.  The NY Times reports:

As co-founders of Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding website that lets people raise money to help fund all manner of projects, including cooking gadgets and movies, Mr. Strickler and Mr. Chen could have tried to take their company public or sell it, earning millions of dollars for themselves and other shareholders.

Instead, they announced on Sunday that Kickstarter was reincorporating as a “public benefit corporation,” a legal change they said would ensure that money — or the promise of it — would not corrupt their company’s mission of enabling creative projects to be funded.

“We don’t ever want to sell or go public,” said Mr. Strickler, Kickstarter’s chief executive. “That would push the company to make choices that we don’t think are in the best interest of the company.

Read Full Story

kickstarter eating area

Review of “China’s Path to Innovation” by Xiaolan Fu

To date there are few research monographs that go beyond picking out striking cases of innovative companies. We clearly also need systematic analyses of China’s growing innovative capacity. For this reason, Xiaolan Fu’s book China’s Path to Innovation (Cambridge University Press, 2015) is a welcome addition to the literature. Fu is Professor of Technology and International Development at Oxford and has written about innovation in China for more than ten years. China’s Path to Innovation has 16 chapters (Table of Contents).  The book provides an excellent overview of scholarly literature on the development of Chinese innovative capacities. It deserves to be in the library of anyone working on China’s innovative capacity.  Read my full review on economic-evolution.net.

Deepening the Conversation Between Business History and Evolutionary Economics

This article has appeared in the journal “Business History”, Volume 57, Issue 5, 2015.

Abstract: How can business historians and evolutionary economists deepen their conversations? The paper argues that in doing detailed studies of how individual firms develop capabilities over time is where the concerns of business historians who want to tell the history of individual firms and the concerns of evolutionary economists overlap. This is area where more extensive interactions would be most productive.

Download Article

This paper is a commentary on two articles:
1. Constructing an ‘industry’: the case of industrial gases, 1886–2006 by Ray Stokes & Ralf Banken
2. The evolution of the pharmaceutical industry by Franco Malerba & Luigi Orsenigo

Tips for Choosing Appropriate Level of Abstractions (especially for Chinese Researchers)

A lot of Chinese researchers simply want to imitate how top American journals in formulating theories without boundary conditions. This sounds like doing good science but more often its leads to superficial analyses that do not explain what is happening in China. I was asked to write a commentary on an article by Child and Marinova (2014) in Management and Organization Review and this gave me a chance to reflect more broadly on choosing the appropriate level of abstraction in social science Research.  The article is now published.

Reflections on Choosing the Appropriate Level of Abstraction in Social Science Research. 关于在社会科学研究中选择适当的抽象水平的反思

Abstract: Although researchers often do it subconsciously, every explanation involves choosing a level of abstraction at which the argument proceeds. The dominant North American style of research in Organization Theory, Strategy, and International Business encourages researchers to frame their explanations at the highest level of abstraction where country-level contextual factors are suppressed or ignored. Yet to provide powerful explanations for recent developments in China, researchers are drawn to a greater level of context specificity. This tension is evident in the Child and Marinova (2014) paper. One way to reduce the tension is to identify general causal mechanisms that combine in different ways to produce different results depending on context. This research strategy is more effective than seeking invariant, general patterns of development across all times and places.

Keywords: choosing level of abstraction;philosophy of social science;research design;research on industries;research on firms 选择抽象的水平;社会科学的哲学;研究设计;行业研究;企业研究

MOR Abstract

Download Article.


The role of home country demand in the internationalization of new ventures

My article with Salih Ozdemir and Deepak Sardana was just published in Research Policy.

Abstract: International new ventures (INVs) have been documented to exist all around the world, but the literature is silent on the frequency of such companies in different countries. We contend that the propensity of new ventures to internationalize by forming international partnerships is higher in small-domestic demand countries because they have a greater motivation given their limited local demand. After discussing the methodological challenges in testing this hypothesis, we do such a test by studying alliances in the health segment of the biotech industry in relatively small-domestic demand countries (Australia, Israel, and Taiwan) and by comparing the results with five large-domestic demand countries (UK, Germany, France, US, and Japan). We find that young firms in the countries with smaller domestic demand are at least 3 times more likely to enter into international partnerships than their counterparts in countries with larger domestic demand. We further demonstrate that this difference can primarily be explained by the difference in the size of domestic healthcare markets rather than other underlying opportunity structure related factors.

Keywords: International new ventures; Internationalization; Small vs. large demand countries; Young biotechnology firms; International partnerships; Business development partnerships

Highlights of article

Read and Download Full Article here

Tesco Business Model in Trouble

The economist reports on the trouble of Tesco as UK consumers shopping habits change and the German discounters Aldi and Lidl roll our their operational models in the UK.

By any measure the figures were eye-popping, worse even than most analysts had expected of the struggling company. Tesco made the largest pre-tax loss, of £6.4 billion ($9.6 billion), in British retail history, eight times as much as the previous record, set by Morrisons last year. This was also the sixth-largest loss in the country’s corporate history. Most of it (about £4.7 billion) was due to a fall in the property value of Tesco’s British stores. This was not merely an accounting matter, but a sign of how its out-of-town hypermarkets have fallen out of favour with consumers who shop online or use smaller convenience stores. Underlying profits were 68% down on the previous year, at £961m, and overall sales were down by 1.8%. The stock that Tesco keeps in its warehouses is worth £570m less than previously thought, and the pension scheme is £3.89 billion in deficit. And so on.

Full Story on Economist.com

Gerhard Steidl’s Fundamental Objective for his Printing Business

Gerhardt Steidl was asked: Many people call you the “king of printing” and some artists will trust no one else with their books. In what way are Steidl’s books different than other books?

He replied:

Most of the publishing houses in the world are owned by shareholder companies and their interest is to make profit. My publishing house is a private business. I founded it in 1968 and it is still owned by me. It is a family business. It is a Manufaktur and we don’t set any limits on cost. A Steidl book is always made in Germany, in Göttingen, in Düstere Straße 4 and there is a guy, Gerhard Steidl, who is hands on. So, believe it or not, I oversee every sheet that tumbles out of our press. This craftsmanship and this know-how we bring to every one of our babies, our books, makes a huge difference compared to the production processes of other companies.

Source:  The Talks

Short Case Study of Oracle’s Transformation

The Arc of Company Life - and How to Prolong it provides a good story case illustration using the transformation of Oracle


What is impact investing

CEO of Qantas highlights that some private investors explicitly do not focus on financial returns but on social impact. This is called impact investing. 

Joyce writes on LinkedIn: It’s not a well-known term in Australia, perhaps because our economic prosperity makes it seem less relevant. But the impact investment market here is growing, targeting areas of social disadvantage that government funding alone can’t fix, from unemployment to homelessness. The point of difference is that an investment relationship requires much more sustained engagement between the investor and the business they’re supporting, compared with a one-off donation or grant.

Indigenous businesses have a particular interest in the potential for impact investment. The Forrest report found that Indigenous enterprises are 100 times more likely to employ Indigenous Australians than other businesses, so building the capacity of these enterprises is vital. Organisations like the CAPE Fund in Canada and Indigenous Business Australia show the way forward, and Qantas is playing a role through our Reconciliation Action Plan, partnerships with Career Trackers and Supply Nation, and backing for ventures such as the North Kimberley carbon offset project.

To read more about impact investing on the Inside Policy blog, click here, and to read John Simon’s landmark report, More than Money, click here.

Getting a better sense of just how small a nanometer is

I am doing a bit of research on history and prospects of nano technology. Since 2000 the US government has an a nano technology initiative to ensure that the country stays what people consider a radical new technology to create new materials and structures. The chips in our computers and smartphones are getting ever more powerful because engineers are able to use nano technology to pack ever more transistors onto a chip.  In addition to providing useful short history of nanotechnology, Nano.gov gives an useful illustration just how small is “nano”?

Nano Scale


Bookshops are closing, here is new business model for a pop-up bookshop

I have seen a lot of bookshops go out of business, including the famous bookshop on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. From Adelaide comes a new business model for having a physical bookshop that moves to different locations in the city.  A pop-up bookshop. The owners write:

Curating an ever-evolving, eclectic mix of old, new and collectible books (in itself somewhat out of step), we’ve popped up in various locations, in various styles, within Adelaide’s CBD. On the street, at boutique markets, in cafes, empty shopfronts, arcades. The idea being that by putting ourselves in plain view, we remind people that bookshops exist.

Well, that’s our story too. In November 2013, we pushed ourselves by leasing a space on Adelaide’s main retail strip, Rundle Mall. Next door to French Connection, across from Nespresso, sharing mall frontage with Apple and Nike. It was a make-or-break philosophy – and we received the most amazing reactions from the public who just couldn’t believe what they’d stumbled upon. It lasted four months and we were encouraged enough by that success to give Rundle Mall another go this year. We’re putting a bookshop on the main stage in a city where people constantly – interminably to us – decry the fact there are “no bookshops in Adelaide”.

But how can this work? Our bookshop is a business. Businesses survive by making money. Bookshops don’t make enough money to pay big rents. All these statements are true, more or less. All we have is a complete, unfaltering faith that what we’re doing is worthwhile and important and, because of this, we’ll be OK.

At the moment, we sell just enough books to pay our wealthy landlord, buy stock and cover our modest living expenses. It’s long hours, risky and stressful but we love it. We need to make money to survive but aren’t driven by money. In fact, the short answer to the “how can it work?” question is that we sacrifice money for lifestyle. We treat it as a seasonal occupation, working unsustainably hard for a short period of time then taking a break.


Full Story in the Guardian

Carol Dweck: Differences between Growth and Fixed Mindsets

Carol Dweck has spent her career studying how personality traits impact life outcomes. Here is it summarized into one chart.


You can see a larger image by clicking here: Full Size Image


Fundamental Redesign of CIA Organizational Structure

The director of CIA has decided to that CIA needs a radical overhaul of its structure.  The NY Times reports:

Drawing from disparate sources — from the Pentagon to corporate America — Mr. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions.

During a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan gave few specifics about how a new structure would make the C.I.A. better at spying in an era of continued terrorism, cyberspying and tumult across the Middle East. But he said the current structure of having undercover spies and analysts cloistered separately — with little interaction and answering to different bosses — was anachronistic given the myriad global issues the agency faces.

During his two years as C.I.A. director, Mr. Brennan has become known for working long days but also for being loath to delegate decisions to lower levels of C.I.A. bureaucracy. During the briefing on Wednesday, he showed flashes of frustration that, under the C.I.A.’s current structure, there is not one single person in charge of — and to hold accountable for — a number of pressing issues.

Source: NY Times


Australia Post Swings to Losses in first time in 30 years

The Guardian reports on the problems of the existing business model:

Australia Post has warned its losses will amount to $6bn over the next 10 years unless the government allows it to change the price of sending letters.

The national carrier is forecasting its first full-year loss in 30 years, or since before it was corporatised.

Its chief executive, Ahmed Fahour, said Australia Post had a competitive parcel business, but losses from its letters business were swallowing up profits.

Fahour said the government understood the scale of the problem. “They either fund the next 10 years of losses, which could amount to $6bn, or we’re out of business,” he told Fairfax radio on Monday.

Australia Post reported a first-half profit after tax of $98m, down 56% on the first-half result of the previous year.

The letters business lost $151m, 57% worse than the loss in the first half of last financial year.

Fahour said Australia Post had never been subsidised and had always paid dividends to the government, but the world had changed.

“Either we get a massive injection from the government to keep the business going, or they give us the permission to manage the business and therefore no subsidy is required and the business can continue,” he said.

Letter volume decline accelerated to 8.2% year-on-year, the largest fall recorded since Australia Post’s letter volumes started falling in 2008.

A Good Strategy is like a Good Story

Tan Story


In this context this quote by Jim March also is relevant: 

“Leadership involves plumbing as well as poetry.”

Fairfax had trouble financing existing newspaper operations

The Guardian provides an update on how Fairfax, a company we features in our course 7 years ago, is doing:

Hywood counters by claiming that readership has never been higher – Fairfax’s website is the most popular news site in the country, and a barely-believable 5.1 million visitors access it every month. However, this is missing the point.

It is not readers, it is revenue that is needed to run those great full-service newsrooms. And cut-throat competition has driven online advertising through the floor – for every dollar a newspaper loses in print advertising it is lucky to recoup 10 cents online. Few newspapers are lucky enough to be owned by a trust, rather than accountable to shareholders, like the Guardian, or to attract a fairy-godfather like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, who has adopted the Washington Post.

Hywood’s solution has been to diversify into a dozen different fields. Fairfax’s metropolitan newspapers now produce less than half its revenue. The company has morphed into selling baby goods, organising fun runs and ocean swims, a dating service, a real estate site. It has partnered with Channel Nine to launch a video-to-the-home service, though many fear this will end in tears. Apart from its unlikely name of Stan, it is about to face formidable competition from the world’s largest and most aggressive player in video-streaming, the US giant Netflix, which launches in Australia next month.

But many fear these ventures are just postponing the inevitable demise of the newspapers that have chronicled the country since the earliest days of white settlement, leaving Murdoch, at least for now, with a monopoly on everything Australians read in print. “They’ve saved the company, but f——d the papers,” as one analyst told me.

Useful if you consider submitting to AMJ: Editorial Statement by Current Editor of AMJ

I just read the editorial statement of the current editor of AMJ. If you would like to write about big problems that managers are facing in a scholarly way, AMJ may be a great outlet.

Gerry George writes:

A compelling way to frame a study for theoretical contribution is by asking questions on important anomalies or patterns that are intriguing, useful, and nonintuitive. In an earlier editorial with Jason Colquitt, I suggested that we need to explore “Grand Challenges” in management (see the June 2011 “From the Editors” [vol. 54: 432–435]). The principle is to pursue bold ideas and adopt less conventional approaches to address significant, unresolved problems. Not all our studies understandably will be grand, nor will they all challenge conventional wisdom, but considering the relative importance and scale of a problem will likely make a study more relevant to managers, and make it more interesting for our readers. There are multiple ways by which manuscripts can be better positioned for a theoretical and empirical contribution using a problem focus (Alvesson & Sandberg, 2011; Pillutla & Thau, 2013; also see the October 2011 “From the Editors” [vol. 54: 873–879]). What is important to recognize is that this team places emphasis on how a central research problem or question is articulated. Bringing organizational problems to the forefront would ease the burden on vaguely scripted “Managerial Implications” sections of manuscripts (Bartunek & Rynes, 2010).

My editorial team will look for clearly articulated problem statements or research questions motivated by managerial challenges. This problem-based focus shifts the emphasis away from motivating articles using pure theories to tackling important problems through an enriched theoretical lens. For example, Hekman and colleagues (Hekman, Aquino, Owens, Mitchell, Schilpzand, & Leavitt, 2010) motivate their study on gender and racial biases in customer satisfaction surveys by emphasizing the importance of the managerial problem that a 1 percent change in customer satisfaction creates a 5 percent change in return on investment. Understanding the scale and scope of the problem and asking the right question takes primacy over the deftness of theoretical manipulation using constructs, moderators, and moderated mediators. We prefer manuscripts that emphasize how constructs provide a coherent explanation of the phenomenon rather than framing and motivating studies by adding untested moderators and mediators. Such an effort would rightly dissuade authors from identifying smaller “gaps” in the literature and shift the discussion to managerial, organizational, and societal problems that need to be addressed.

Read the Full Editorial

Superb Example of Strategy Process Research:  New Paper by Laurent Mirabeau and Steve Maguire in SMJ

I just read a fantastic research paper that I recommend highly to anyone who is interested in strategy process research.

Mirabeau, L., & Maguire, S. 2014. From autonomous strategic behavior to emergent strategy. Strategic Management Journal, 35(8): 1202-1229.

The authors do wonderful job first summarizing the different strands in strategy process research.  Then they present new findings on how autonomous strategic initiatives become emergent strategy. They introduce the new idea of Ephemeral Autonomous Behavior to balance out the traditional Mintzberg model of emergent strategies.  I have added the paper to my list of exemplary case studies worthy of imitation.

The core of the paper is nicely summarized in these two figures.


(Right click on each figure to open it in a larger format on a new page.)


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