Research in Entrepreneurship and Strategy
As a department, we invest heavily in a research-related infrastructure and aim to create an environment which is supportive and productive, allowing ideas to flourish.
Individual staff research activities within the department cover a wide variety of areas, organised around key and overlapping themes such as Entrepreneurial Learning, Family Business, Enterprise Policy and Regional Development, Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, Networks, Strategy and Innovation.
Our department members also present their work at top international conferences and are encouraged to do so through internal and external resources. Research activity is also supported by a range of external funding bodies, including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Individual staff research activities within the department cover a wide variety of areas, organised around key and overlapping themes as below.
This area of the department's research is concerned with exploring the nature of entrepreneurial behaviour and the way in which entrepreneurs learn.
Work on entrepreneurial behaviour has used social psychology, and specifically social constructionism, to explore entrepreneurial behaviour and understand the contextual links between individuals′ motivations, behaviours and business strategies. The work is expanding to explore how concepts of the entrepreneur are constructed and used within society.
Work on entrepreneurial learning has adopted a phenomenological approach to understanding the learning processes of entrepreneurs, focusing on the nature and impact of critical experiences during the growth process. There is also research interest in the social dimensions of learning, as well as learning within franchise systems.
The group also focuses on attitudes to failure among entrepreneurs and investors (comparing US and UK perspectives), the antecedents, consequences and learning outcomes of entrepreneurial failure, the decision-making processes of entrepreneurs, and the extent and nature of risk management, particularly in new ventures.
Family firms represent two-thirds of businesses in the UK and account for approximately half of the economic activity and private employment. The picture is similar in most countries throughout the world. The diversity of family businesses and their behaviour make them an important field of study and one which is naturally multidisciplinary, involving sociology, economics, management theories, culture and history. Understanding family firms requires the analysis of the complex interaction of family and firm, the forces underlying family values and the way these shape the business culture, behaviour, and capabilities of firms.
Our research has shown that different types of family firms can be identified and that high-performing family firms are an outlier group that differ in size, ownership and management structures from the stereotypical ‘average’ family firm.
Family firms tend to be older than non-family firms and many of the longest surviving firms are family-owned or controlled. It is often said that innovation is crucial to the survival of firms. These longstanding family firms provide interesting lessons for others on how to sustain innovation across generations. Intergenerational succession lies at the heart of the longstanding family firm. Succession has in it the potential for change and regeneration of the firm, based upon a bedrock of shared experience and history.
It is this potential for change and regeneration described as ‘interpreneurship … intergenerational entrepreneurship leading to transformation’ which powerfully links family business with the study of entrepreneurship. The future prosperity of any family business, and indeed its ability to survive, is inextricably linked to the succession process and the way it is handled.
This interplay between the continuities of past experience and the need for change lie at the heart of the family business. They mean that the decisions to innovate and change, made by later generations, are every bit as entrepreneurial as the original decision to found the business.
Discover our Centre for Family Business to learn more about our research in this area.
This area of the Department's research is concerned with examining the discourses of government policy-making in enterprise and regional development.
Within this group there is a focus on policy directed at regional development and enterprise education, including study on higher and further education. For example, decisions to invest in education and training are the outcome of social relations and structures, which are influenced by regional identity.
Studies in this group explore the role of personal business advisors in regional business support, the concept of regionalism, and leadership development in the public sector.
SMEs and Entrepreneurship
Over the past few decades small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been recognised to account for a considerable share of economic activity. In the UK they represented 99.7% of all firms, contributed to 37% of employment, and accounted for 35% of sales in 2005. Similar figures exist for most developed and developing countries.
Although entrepreneurship can take place in both small and large firms, SMEs represent an exceptional vehicle for entrepreneurial activities: most of the start-up activity comes from SMEs; they are an important source of innovation, new products and services; and are a key element for regional development and social cohesion.
Nowadays governments and international institutions place small firms and entrepreneurship as essential elements in any plan or policy to promote economic growth and development. The SME owner-manager is identified by many researchers as the entrepreneur, because of his/her role in starting the venture, running the business, and being responsible to a large extent for its failure or success. This suggests that the fate of an SME is inextricably linked to the personality, capability, skills, and motivation of the entrepreneur in charge. Within this framework, research from both the Economics and Management disciplines has focused on investigating the effect of the entrepreneur’s characteristics on firm performance. This includes start-up activity, firm survival, size, and growth.
Innovation is about more than turning opportunity or need into new products and services which are commercially exploited. It is about stepping out of line and is closely related to both entrepreneurship and creativity. It is also about solving problems within businesses, introducing new processes and business formats which improve efficiency as businesses grow and change.
To be able to innovate, it involves new combinations of knowledge, sometimes combining old and new knowledge, or crossing boundaries between areas of expertise or between sectors. It takes imagination to see beyond those boundaries to the wide range of possibilities they bring. It also requires knowledge of what has gone before and the ability to learn from it, as well as an appreciation of the present, to understand the available choices.
Entrepreneurship involves the recognition and assessment of opportunities and is often the bridge between creativity and innovation. This is because the entrepreneur is involved in what can be described as the dance of two questions – what is needed and what is possible – and the interplay of these two questions is an ongoing process. Responses are shaped by changing knowledge of the external environment, by social and business networks, by changes in the legal system, by changes in the competitive environment and by market forces.
The research within this theme makes a major contribution to the development of unique capabilities which will contribute to the sustainable competitive advantage of British business. Resources alone are no guarantee of successful knowledge transfer, and the work being done assesses how, given a history of distance between higher education and business in the UK, the flow of knowledge may be improved.
Our focus on the social aspects of entrepreneurship has developed a unique understanding of how entrepreneurship blossoms; the situations, circumstances and motivations through which it arises and how it can be used to strengthen and sustain places and groups through time and space. Our research is conducted in a wide variety of contexts (e.g. rural, transition, conflict) and with a variety of groups (e.g. marginalized, refugees) as well as more conventional new business and innovation.
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Given the complexity of entrepreneurship, we take an interdisciplinary approach drawing on the broader social sciences and humanities; economics, geography, sociology, anthropology and leadership. To capture the variety, nuances and facets of life, a wide range of research techniques including historical, ethnographic, narrative and observation, are employed.
Our view is richer and we believe better informed than a narrow view of enterprise. We believe entrepreneurship can change the world and want to know and share how this is best achieved.
Despite the individualistic tradition of entrepreneurship, there is an increasing awareness that networks are crucial to entrepreneurs and that social relationships can influence economic outcomes. The emerging perspective is that since economic activity is embedded in society, the entrepreneur develops and builds networks which provide external sources of information, support, finance and expertise, allowing mutual learning and boundary-crossing.
Networks, personal and financial, formal and informal, play vital, if shifting, roles in the careers of entrepreneurs throughout the life cycle of their firms. Relationships and social interaction clearly matter to entrepreneurs but understanding how networks actually function requires a wider perspective and an appreciation of social capital.
We know that networks matter and that they bring access to tangible and non-tangible resources. We also know that an entrepreneur’s networks are likely to be based on experience, which not only determines the range of contacts, but may also influence perceptions of opportunities and courses of action. Moreover, we recognise that access to social networks is based upon mutual trust and shared understanding, which means that many are exclusive rather than inclusive.
We know far less about how and why networks function or malfunction and the impact which this has upon entrepreneurial performance in different regional, international, sectoral, technological or organisational contexts. We also know relatively little about how networks affect different categories of entrepreneur, what role they play for the serial or portfolio entrepreneur, and how the networking behaviour of social entrepreneurs may differ from that of conventional entrepreneurs.
These issues are confronted by practitioners in large and small organisations seeking to innovate, develop activities, facilitate entrepreneurial learning and when looking to build the potential of employees. They are also confronted by policymakers involved in regional development who are looking to encourage networking amongst entrepreneurs.
The Strategic Management research group is an internationally recognised team of scholars. The group is deliberately pluralist, both methodologically and theoretically and addresses some of the most fundamental challenges faced by organisations today. Members of the group are also the authors of some of the most influential strategy textbooks in Europe and are frequently featured in international business media.
Members of the group have editorial positions in leading journals and frequently publish in top journals such as:
Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, Organization Studies, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of World Business, Strategic Organization, British Journal of Management, Long Range Planning, MIT Sloan Management Review, California Management Review, Journal of Business Research etc.
Main research streams and topics
Strategy practice and process
- Strategic transformation and renewal of large firms
- The role of culture, tradition, history, and time in organizations and strategy making
- Discursive and narrative perspectives on strategy work
- Responses to institutional change and legitimacy challenges
- Practices of strategy making including away days and the use of spaces and strategy tools
Mergers & Acquisitions
- M&A performance
- Stock market responses to information disclosures
- Post-merger integration
- Management of synergy
Business Models and Digital Strategy
- Market making practices, valuation and business models
- The emergence and use of business models in MNCs
- The creation of new (digital) practice fields
- The use of digital technologies in strategy work
Knowledge, learning and managerial cognition
- Micro-level perspectives on capability development and routine level change
- Replication strategies and knowledge transfer
- Managing learning across boundaries