The CK Prahalad Distinguished Scholar-Practitioner Award, introduced in 2011, was created to honor the legacy of CK Prahalad. The award recognizes excellence in the application of theory and research in practice. These include but are not limited to contributions to knowledge through the extraction of learning from practice; authored scholarly works that have substantively affected the practice of management; and/or the integration of research and practice.
A scholar-practitioner who has used applied learning to influence how theory and research guide practice is honored by this award. Special attention will be given to a scholar-practitioner whose contributions have shaped the understanding of global strategic leadership.
The recipient of this award is selected by a committee presided over by the SMS past president.
CK Prahalad reached across boundaries and expanded possibilities with his uncompromising emphasis on impactful research. Although his academic career was stellar, his work had an even greater impact on corporate leaders. Through a series of breakthrough ideas, his research changed the business world and helped improve people's lives.
Kathleen Eisenhardt is the S. W. Ascherman M.D. Professor and Co-Director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University. Her background includes a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, M.S. in Computer Science, and a Ph.D. from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. She is best known for her work on business and corporate strategy in high velocity environments: fast-moving, uncertain, and ambiguous markets where speed and flexibility are key.
Dr. Eisenhardt’s dissertation was probably the first to provide an empirical test of agency theory, and her Academy of Management Review paper on agency theory continues to be among the very top-cited papers of that journal. Yet very early in her career, Dr. Eisenhardt moved her focus to the organizational and strategic issues in technology-based companies. She simultaneously began studying venture growth in the US semiconductor industry (with Kaye Schoonhoven) and strategic decision making by top management teams in the computer industry (with Jay Bourgeois). Both studies made clear the importance of speed and agility for successful strategies. They marked the beginning of her interest in strategy in high-velocity environments, and her movement away from more equilibrium-based theories. The strategic decision making study also was her first foray into what became her signature research method, theory-building from multiple cases. This method was ideal for exploring the novel, dynamic, and non-linear phenomena that was central to her research agenda.
Kathleen’s research is characterized by risk-taking and alternative perspectives. For example, while most strategy research takes the perspective of established firms, she often views phenomena from the entrepreneurial lens. This is evident in her work with Melissa Graebner on the seller’s perspective in acquisitions, with Sam Garg on the CEO perspective in venture boards, and with Ben Hallen on the entrepreneur’s perspective in raising venture capital. Taking the lens of the “low power” actor opens up strategy to new insights. She (with Pinar Ozcan), for example, found that successful venture strategists often form several alliances at once in order to mitigate their low power – an approach that contrasts with the usual network theory emphasis on incremental, socially embedded alliances. Kathleen’s research is also often field-based, contrasting with the norm of using large, but distant data bases. This enables her to dive deeply into underlying mechanisms, and go beyond studying average firms to examining firms with similar beginnings but very divergent strategies and performance. Her view is that “average” is definitely not what strategy is about.
Kathleen is particularly grateful for her many amazing doctoral students. For example, students like Shona Brown, Charlie Galunic, Chris Bingham, Jason Davis, and numerous others have been instrumental in developing some of her most important contributions. These include strategy as simple rules, the “edge of chaos”, and advances in dynamic capabilities and complexity theory. Students have been essential for bringing novel phenomena and fresh methods – from simulation to lab studies - to her research agenda. They have also often been “kindred spirits” in enjoying science with her.
In addition to her contributions to strategy research, Kathleen has had a major impact to research broadly by developing case methods. Her work paved the way in showing how this method can be used within strategy and other areas, and continues to evolve as a standard of excellence. She has influenced practice with two best-selling books (Competing on the Edge with Shona Brown and Simple Rules with Don Sull) and multiple articles in outlets such as Harvard Business Review. In her view, it is essential for leading strategy scholars to speak to both fellow academics and executive leaders.
Next on her agenda is new research on platforms and ecosystems. These non-traditional but increasingly relevant settings have unique underlying economics that suggest the need for new theories. Also on her agenda is digging deeper into the cognitive underpinnings of strategy. She notes that superior strategists think in unique ways: in time, use of simple rules, and breadth of vision. Her third agenda item is tying together her work on strategy in high-velocity environments into a coherent point of view, and doing the same for theory-building from case studies.
In sum, Dr. Eisenhardt’s work has had a tremendous impact on the strategy field, and her future research and writing will continue to ensure her place as a significant thought leader.