More Exploration and Less Exploitation: Cultivating Blockbuster Papers for MOR

MOR_CoverLet me invite you to travel in your mind to the year 2030. Imagine that you are one of the Senior Editors of MOR and have been asked by the Editor-in-Chief to write a short retrospective on the previous 15 years. Delighted to take on this task, you compose an editorial along these lines:

Dear MOR readers and contributors:
Thomson Reuters has just released its journal impact factor ranking for 2029. For the past five years, we have ranked in the top 15 out of 220 management journals, and last year, for the first time, we ranked fifth. This is a large improvement from 15 years ago, when we ranked at no. 33 out of 192 management journals. Even more positively, a recent poll by the Academy of Management, whose non-US membership has now exceeded 80% from a little over 50% in 2015, revealed that MOR has been found to be one of the top five journals that Academy of Management (AOM) members consistently read. In the qualitative section of the AOM survey, respondents offered comments such as:
‘If you want to get a deep understanding of key management problems that transforming economies face, then MOR is by far your best source’.
‘I was never much interested in Africa, but after reading the article in MOR that documented a genuinely new organizational form in Kenya, I was inspired to partner with a scholar at University of Nairobi to develop potentially new theoretical insights by comparing alliance governance practices in Kenya and in Brazil’.
‘Many of the top management scholars first try to get their work published in MOR. The journal has developed a reputation for publishing the freshest ideas. I think this is in large part because in MOR management scholars have more consistently partnered with scholars from non-obvious fields, such as urban planning, public policy, public administration, cultural anthropology, environmental engineering, and development studies, which proved particularly useful to understand Chinese management challenges’.
‘I follow MOR closely since there is always a good chance that I will come across an article that later turns out to be real blockbuster. This allows me to build on these creative articles before everyone else does’.

These statements are compelling evidence that MOR has developed a strong reputation beyond the narrow Thomson Reuters impact factor score, which fluctuates more from year to year at MOR than at other journals because of MOR’s long-standing strategy of cultivating blockbuster papers, rather than a continual series of incremental papers.
It would be foolish for us to think that MOR’s success is simply due to having recruited more brilliant editors than those at other journals. Clearly, elements of luck are involved in why MOR has become so influential that have little to do with the skills of past editorial teams. MOR benefited greatly from the general trend in which the countries regarded as transforming economies in 2015 (e.g., China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Brazil, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt) increased their share of the world economy much more rapidly than was predicted that year.
But we can also credit explicit strategies for MOR’s success: first, Arie Lewin’s (2014) push to broaden MOR from a China-focused journal to one focused on all transforming economies; second, a systematic push to motivate authors to write and submit papers that had the potential to push scholarship in a new direction; third, the development of an ethos that motivated editors and reviewers to go the extra mile to nurture creative papers even before they were submitted to the journal.
Looking to the future, our greatest challenge will be maintaining these strategies and not losing our cool when the impact factor drops for a year or two before another set of blockbuster papers raises it again. Today, let us celebrate what MOR has achieved over the past 15 years. Thanks are due to all the authors and editors who made this possible.
Now let us return to the here and now and discuss more explicitly some of the strategies that we have already put in place to increase the chances that MOR will become the home of blockbuster papers. Building on the themes of this imaginary 2030 editorial, I now want to articulate additional strategies that we should implement to attract more blockbuster papers.

Continue Reading on the MOR website at Cambridge University Press.

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


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.)


How Fast Can Firms Grow?

Abstract: Building on recent research on dynamic, high-growth firms—so-called “gazelles”—this paper explores a simple question that is important in both theoretical and practical terms: What is the fastest rate at which firms can grow? Based on a sample of seven high-growth firms (Cisco, GM, IBM, Microsoft, Sears, Starbucks, and US Steel), we find that 162% is the maximum sales growth rate in any one year that an established company can grow without mergers and acquisitions, while the maximum rate of employee growth is approximately 115% even including some mergers and acquisitions. All of the companies in our sample attained a maximum sales growth rate of above 50%, with most hovering around 75%. Furthermore, the firms’ growth rates exhibit similar patterns. No company experienced its maximum sales growth rate toward the latter part of its history. Every company experienced its slowest employee growth rate after attaining its maximum employee growth rate, usually within a decade of one another. Most importantly, all firms show an average sales growth that exceeds the average employee growth. This finding is an indication that successful growing firms have a superior capability to continuously improve employment efficiency and adjust organizational structures to suit an increasing workforce.

Murmann, J. P., Korn, J., & Worch, H. 2014. How Fast Can Firms Grow? Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), 234(2-3): 210-233.  Download Article

Scaffolding in Economics, Management, and the Design of Technologies

This chapter reviews the ideas that have been developed to describe the emergence and change of structures in three fields: Economics, Management, and Design of Technologies. The chapter focuses on one empirical setting, the economy, and more specifically how firms, industries, and technologies change over time. Today’s industrialized economies are very different from the economies before the industrial revolution. The chapter presents key theoretical ideas from evolutionary economics, management, and technology that try to explain why and how economy has been so dramatically transformed over the past 400 years. You can download a draft of chapter here or find the book in your library or buy it at or MIT Press.

Honoring the late Steve Klepper

Steve Klepper, who has been an inspiration to so many of us, recently passed away. At the 20th anniversary of the CCC colloquium, we honored Steve Klepper. The video captures very nicely how much Steve touched an entire generation of doctoral students working on the intersection of industry evolution and technological innovation.


Lack of Replication in Management Studies

Tim Devinney and Donald Siegel write in their recent editorial of the Academy of Management Perspective (Feb2012, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p 6-11):

Hubbard and Vetter (1996) estimated that fewer than 5% of management studies are subject to any published form of replication, and when this occurs it invariably refutes the initial research. (p.7)

Reference: Hubbard, R., & Vetter, D. E. (1996). An empirical comparison of published replication research in accounting, economics, finance, management, and marketing. Journal of Business Research, 35(2), 153–164.

Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of Nelson & Winter (1982)

The 9th Atlanta Competitive Advantage Conference had a panel to celebrate the publication of Nelson and Winter’s 1982 landmark book. The panel included Sid Winter, Connie Helfat, L.G.Thomas III, and myself. As part of my reflections, I offered a citation analysis to demonstrate the influence of the book with data. I went on to explain that there is a tension between the goals of IO economics and strategic management and argued that Nelson & Winter’s focus on firms doing innovations is a way to resolve this tension. Finally, I called for more research that examines the the relative role of population level selection versus firm-level adaptations in industrial change.

Download: Slides from Presentation

List of firms how superior performance cannot be explained by randomness

Andy Henderson and his coauthors have done us a great service. They are analyzed last decades to find a list of firms whose superior performance cannot be explained by randomness.

Although sustained superior firm performance may arise from skillful management or other valuable, rare, and inimitable resources, it can also result from randomness. Studying U.S. companies from 1965–2008, we benchmark how long a firm must perform at a high level to be confident that it is something other than the outcome of a time-homogeneous stationary Markov chain defined on the state space of percentiles. We find (a) the number of sustained superior performers in Compustat, measured by ROA and Tobin’s q, exceeds the number of false positives we would expect to be generated by such a process; yet (b) the occurrence of false positives is often enough to fool many observers, so (c) the identification of sustained superior performers requires particularly stringent benchmarks to enable valid study.

Read Full Article
Click on More to see the list of firms.


Review of DuPont?s Dyes Business: Three Decades of Innovation, 1950-1980

Joseph Innarone and John Tackray are two former members of the DuPont dye business that experienced its golden age after World War II and was sold off in 1979, marking the visible onset of the decline of the U.S. synthetic dye industry. The authors are not research chemists. For the entire period covered by the book, they both held different jobs in the dye business, spanning technical service, sales, and business management. In course of their various assignments that started for both of them as trainees in the Technical Laboratory, the authors acquired substantial knowledge of dye innovations and the business of selling dyes. Rather than attempting a scholarly history (only five sources are cited), the authors offer their own personal history of Du Pont’s dye business. Their story is valuable for anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding how DuPont became an innovator in the synthetic dye industry yet in the 1970s could no longer compete successfully with foreign rivals. Du Pont exited the industry in 1979 as later did all other U.S. headquartered firms.  Download full Review in AMBIX, Vol. 57 No. 3, November, 2010.


Problems with the Peer Review System in Science

Frank Furedi has written a very thoughtful essay on the problems with current peer review system in science. In my view, the issues are a lot more serious in the social sciences where is much harder to formulate non-trivial general laws and make precise predictions that can be proven or disproven. The natural sciences require replication before something is accepted. There is very little exact replication in management research for example. Theories are accepted on very tenous grounds and when you write a paper that contradicts existing paradigms your data is not going to persuade your peers who have a vested interested in the status quo.  Read Furedi’s Essay.

Update 28. June 2010:Interesting Problem Case in Economics:  Copy URL into your browser:;1446947

How Business Schools Lost their Way

Warren Bennis and James O’Toole just published an article in the Harvard Business Review that I wholeheartedly agree with. It is very fun to read because they are well-informed and don’t shy away from stating some unpleasant truths.  Good business schools have room for theoreticians, scientific empiricists, and practice oriented scholars.