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Call for Proposals

Our world is increasingly struggling with a number of serious—and often interrelated—problems. The climate is changing, leading to rising sea levels, enduring droughts, expansion of deserts and extreme weather, affecting millions of people. Population is predicted to grow from seven billion in 2010 to eleven billion in 2100, implying a huge and ever-rising demand for energy, water supply, and many kinds of other resources including food, jobs, and infrastructure. A growing percentage of the population will live in cities, urging planners to develop new concepts for mobility, logistics, housing, health services, and cultural attractiveness. Inequalities in terms of demographics, income levels, education, and quality of life challenge our sense of distribution justice and raise the risk of wars, terrorism, and revolutionary movements.

What is the role of business firms and strategic management scholars in finding solutions for these problems? What are the responsibilities of global corporations and what strategies can they develop to meet the needs of an increasingly complex world? How can firms improve their environmental footprint? How can they contribute to a fair distribution of wealth and to improving the living conditions at the “bottom of the pyramid”? How can they collaborate with governments, social movements, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholder groups to achieve these goals? What are business models for creating, capturing, and sharing value within such networks with diverse sets of interests?

We believe that strategy research should reflect on these questions in order to help managers and firms to cope with new challenges and contribute to making our world better. We call for proposals that reflect on how these challenges impact existing paradigms of strategic management, change our understanding of extant theoretical models, and help to identify strategies and business models for solving pressing real-world problems. Our call includes a strong interest in how we can go beyond shareholder value and measure the performance of business firms in terms of their contributions to making our world better. We hope that papers in these directions will once more ensure that our discipline is not only academically ambitious but also practically relevant.

Theme Tracks

Track Chair: Tomi Laamanen, University of St. Gallen

Defining Our Problem Agenda in an Increasingly Complex World

In 1994, Dan Schendel, David Teece, and Richard Rumelt published an influential volume on “Fundamental Issues in Strategy.” They took four questions as the starting point for the discussion: How do firms behave? Why do firms differ? What are the functions of the headquarters unit in a multi-business firm? What determines the international success or failure of firms? However, given the real-world issues and challenges outlined in this call for proposals, the time has come to reconsider the most intriguing questions for our discipline and to develop approaches to answer these questions. In a similar vein, back in 1900, the mathematician David Hilbert presented a list of twenty-three core unresolved problems that shaped the agenda of mathematics for subsequent decades. What would an analogous list for our field look like? How can we tackle these problems, challenges, and opportunities? How is the “scientific value” of these answers related to the expectations of real-world stakeholders? We call for proposals that are reflective in nature and develop ideas that could guide our future research activities.

Track Chair: Desiree Pacheco, Portland State University

Opportunities for and Challenges of New Partnerships for Business Firms

Firms are not simply embedded in their environments. They interact with other firms, individuals, and institutions. Many firms have developed sophisticated strategies for dealing with their key stakeholders. But increasingly, new kinds of players emerge that most firms are not well prepared to deal with. For example, many firms struggle with how to interact with nation states, often seen as regulatory entities that can be influenced by lobbying activities. It is unclear in which sense the nation state can be regarded as a (collective) actor. Many firms may find it difficult to identify whom to negotiate with and to understand the role of their negotiation partners within their own complex network structure. A similar problem may arise when firms approach cities, nongovernmental organizations, and social movements, all of which can be very important partners as well as customers to solve real-world problems. We call for proposals that discuss the actor status of these different players and help us understand how firms can master the challenges of dealing and interacting with them.

Track Chair: Andreas G. Scherer, University of Zurich

Firm Profitability, Shareholder Value, Shared Value, Stakeholder Value, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Sustainability

As strategic management researchers, we have a specific interest in the performance implications of strategies. The vast majority of studies are dominated by financial performance metrics, such as accounting returns or stock returns. However, taking the specific role and responsibility of business firms for the solution of real-world problems into account, the question arises: What alternatives do we have for measuring the performance of firms. “Shared value”, “Stakeholder value”, “Social value”? Is it possible to measure the direct impact of firm strategies on social welfare? How can we operationalize constructs such as corporate social responsibility or sustainability? What approaches do we have to develop performance metrics that aggregate the perspectives of different stakeholders and the society as a whole? We call for proposals that discuss the methodological issues of such complementary performance metrics and present empirical research that is based on new concepts for measuring firm performance and using multiple dependent variables.

Track Chair: Fernando Suarez, Northeastern University

What Will Future Business Models Look Like?

Our economic strategy paradigm is based on the assumptions of scarcity and property rights. Only when resources are scarce do they become the object of economization and economic actors compete for ownership. However, new trends like the ongoing digitalization may change this paradigm—visionaries such as Jeremy Rifkin describe the possibility of a future “zero marginal cost society” that is based on the paradigm of sharing instead of ownership. In such a world, everything seems to be connected to everything; this might pose questions of privacy, but it also offers opportunities for new business models while making many traditional models obsolete. We call for proposals that explore these new business models. How is value created and captured? How can firms develop sustainable competitive advantage in such a world? What is the relationship between the concepts of “sharing” and “open source economics” on the one hand and property rights on the other? What role will commons play as an alternative to traditional forms of organization? What advice do we have for firm survival in the new digital economy?

Interest Group Tracks

Track Chair: Kira Fabrizio, Boston University

The Competitive Strategy Interest Group (CSIG) focuses on questions concerning firms and their interactions within product and factor markets. As one of the largest and most internationally diverse Interest Groups, our community tackles a broad set of questions regarding competitive strategy in regions around the world. For example, what is competitive advantage? How can firms build and maintain a competitive advantage in a changing world? What role do resources and capabilities play in shaping firms and industries over time and in different geographies? Within the context of the upcoming SMS Berlin conference, we call for contributions aimed at exploring the roles of firms in developing and implementing solution to the world’s serious and complex challenges. For example, how can firms provide innovations and solutions to address global problems while also maintaining competitive advantage? How do the global problems alter factor markets, and what can firms do to gain advantage in light of those changes? Are environmental and social sustainability consistent with sustainable competitive advantage, or conflicting?

Track Chair: Jerayr Haleblian, University of California, Riverside

The Corporate Strategy Track explores questions concerning firm boundary decisions, the management of the diversified firms, and tradeoffs in alternative vehicles of growth and decline. The theme of this year’s conference is focused on strategic management scholars solving real-world problems. In addition to proposals related to the general domain of Corporate Strategy, we invite submissions that address the following questions: How do we rethink the scope and boundaries of the firm in light of real-world problems? What are alternative ways of structuring the firm's portfolio beyond SBUs and core competencies? How can business firms collaborate with entities such as cities, NGOs, or social movements? How can the social and environmental performance of the multi-business firm be measured?

Track Chair: Alex Eapen, Australian National University

We welcome submissions on organization and strategy in a global context. This includes manuscripts that advance our understanding on topics including cross-border corporate or business strategy, headquarters-subsidiary relationships, and foreign entry and location strategies. In addition, this year’s conference theme—Strategies That Move the World—is of particular relevance global strategy scholars. Global firms are arguably best positioned to effect change—both positively and negatively—on a truly global scale. The conference theme inspires us to rethink the mandate of multinational firms from simply increasing shareholder value to being linchpins of efforts to address the big, complex, and multidimensional global problems we face today. As such, we also welcome submissions that address questions such as: What are challenges that can only be addressed from a global perspective? What evidence do we have so far on how global strategies impact today’s global problems? What do we know so far (and how can we learn more) about how multinational firms’ strategies impact their host countries? Can multinational firms help with resolving issues of global terrorism, human trafficking, and poverty?

Track Chair: J Ignacio Canales, University of Aberdeen

The Strategy Process IG focuses on how strategies are formed, implemented, and changed, across group, functional, business, corporate, and network levels of analysis. Our world’s complex challenges accentuate the importance of social processes underlying strategic efforts to address the concerns within and across organizations belonging to the government, for profit or not-for-profit sectors. We particularly welcome contributions who examine the theoretical underpinnings of existing strategy process research. Equally we welcome work that either questions or unifies current paradigms, theories, and frameworks. We also encourage submissions about how process research can measure and improve the impact of the strategy process explaining the loop from formulation–implementation–outcome and feedback. Further, we welcome research which addresses the following questions: What are the processes by which collaboration between sectors can solve the thorny problems humanity faces? What processes of successful business model change are underpinning shifting organizational boundaries and new forms of organizing? How can external stakeholders and societal groups be integrated into the strategy process? How do new ICT and social media affect democratization of strategy processes and organizational members’ commitment to, and agreement with, its outcomes?

Track Chair: Charles Williams, Bocconi University

As corporations, startups, and non-profits tackle the complex social, environmental, and economic problems of the 21st century, we ask how systems of organizational knowledge and innovation will need to shift to help firms cope with and tackle these issues. Organizational knowledge developed as a concept to help us understand how the intangible know-how of production enabled firms transform resources into valuable economic products and services ever more efficiently and creatively. As we expand our view of the roles and goals of firms to the broader social and environmental landscape, will our fundamental concepts of knowledge and innovation need to change? Will the internal organizational systems that supported learning and innovation in modern firms be adequate for the complex challenges of the future? As the relevant ecosystems for firms face these threats, how will knowledge and innovation be transformed by their connections to the external world? And finally, as entrepreneurs and established firms attempt to create new business models for social and economic value, what are the internal practices and external institutions necessary to support this business model innovation?

Track Chair: Stephanie Dameron, Paris-Dauphine University

The Strategy Practice IG explores the doing of strategy and its link with the broader institutional and societal environment strategy practitioners operate in. The increasing demand for “Strategies That Move the World” may renew our understanding of strategy works. How far are strategy practitioners taking into account this demand? This question relates to a large range of issues, such as the way different types of stakeholders may be part of and influence strategy work, how strategy practitioners perceive or change the organization’s purpose and shape their environment, or the institutional side of strategy work. The Strategy Practice IG welcomes empirical and conceptual papers as well as contributions from practitioners who engage with the implications of such social and environmental needs and demands on strategy practice. We also welcome papers that critically examine the applicability of strategizing practices across different contexts and heterogeneous organizational and institutional domains.

Track Chair: Martin Ganco, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Entrepreneurs are often those who move the world. Through innovative solutions and satisfying unmet customer needs, they create value that far exceeds the one that they can capture. Entrepreneurs are frequently driven by motives that transcend profits and they play an important role as drivers of societal change. Such role is particularly salient in dynamic markets in which the increasing population is facing a set of environmental and social challenges. We encourage submissions that will help the entrepreneurs to move the world. Some of the questions that may address these questions include but are not limited to: What strategies entrepreneurs use to enable successful entry and growth? How do entrepreneurial ventures strategically balance the need for economic, environmental, and social objectives? How do entrepreneurs help diffuse the knowledge across the globe and decrease income disparities? What roles venture capitalists, angel investors, and online funding platforms play in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship?

Track Chair: Shad Morris, Brigham Young University

Research in Strategic Human Capital examines human capital’s influence on firm performance. The capacity of firms to attract, retain, and develop human capital is central to their ability to generate sustained high performance. Accordingly, we invite research that addresses the following types of questions: What role does human capital mobility play in shaping firm outcomes? How do firms manage the value appropriation challenges of top talent? Why and how do competitive interactions in labor markets differ from competitive interactions in other strategic factor markets? Scholarship that is interdisciplinary and/or spans multiple levels of analysis is especially welcomed. In light of this year’s conference theme, we are particularly interested in work that explores the role of human capital in economic development: What is the role of human capital in addressing global challenges such as poverty, terror, and climate change? How do firms manage their talent portfolios in emerging markets? How do you build cross-border capabilities to ensure that employees are addressing global challenges?

Track Chair: Don Lange, Arizona State University

An idea emerging in importance in the strategy field is that firms exist in order to create value, and that the creation of value enables firms to survive and thrive. Research in the stakeholder perspective helps to provide definition to this idea by examining what value actually is and for whom it is created. Stakeholder strategy researchers seek to understand value in terms of the various and often conflicting demands on the firm by the many parties who affect and are affected by the firm. The stakeholder perspective is therefore relevant to a wide array of questions, ranging from how the firm can best compete to how the firm can best play a constructive role in addressing the enormous problems facing our world today. We warmly invite you to join in these conversations so that together we might enrich our understanding of how managers can identify, engage with, respond to, and capitalize on the demands and resources associated with the firm’s broad set of stakeholders.

Track Chair: Ha Hoang, ESSEC Business School

The Cooperative Strategies IG relates fundamentally to the structures, incentives, and motivation for how individuals, groups, and organizations can work together to achieve common and potentially mutually beneficial goals.  Given the need for “Strategies That Move the World,” the Cooperative Strategies IG seeks papers that inform how multiple stakeholders and entities with diverse knowledge sets and interests work together to solve complex problems. In this space of real-world problems, research has yet to fully examine the dynamics, structures, or selection of entities and key players in such a complex arena. Thus we seek papers that extend the current cooperative topics of value-creation and division, public-private partnerships, multi-party groups (networks, clusters), partner selection, governance, adaptation and problem-solving, to this more complex setting.  We especially seek new theories or theoretical extensions as well as qualitative and quantitative methods.

Track Chair: Craig Crossland, University of Notre Dame

This year's conference theme—Strategies That Move the World—is especially relevant to strategic leadership and governance research. Strategic leaders not only initiate and enact large-scale organizational change, but also act as cognitive touchstones that help observers understand and interpret those changes. Researchers could consider a wide variety of research questions. For instance, how does strategic leadership shape socially responsible behavior, and are there particular executive dispositions and experiences that predispose leaders to favor different groups of stakeholders? Which governance instruments could be used to align firm interests with the interests of the broader society? Are there forms of corporate oversight that can enhance executives' intrinsic and extrinsic motivation toward creating value for a broader set of stakeholders? Finally, how do the different institutional norms and legal rules at the national and supranational levels influence firms' pursuit of for-profit and socially-responsible initiatives? These research questions are just a small sample of the many ways in which strategic leadership and governance researchers can contribute both to the conference theme and the broader challenge of understanding how firms can make our world better.

Track Chair: Maurizio Zollo, Imperial College London

This year’s theme of “Strategies That Move the World” challenges SMS members to consider the role of strategic decisions and processes in addressing the most pressing societal issues faced by the world today, including climate change, environmental degradation, social inequalities, and the consequent need for new, sustainable, models of socioeconomic development for firms and their communities. The Behavioral Strategy IG track intends to contribute to this debate by encouraging submissions that examine questions related to the behavioural foundations of strategic decision-making that takes into account societal maladies and stakeholder interests.  We thus welcome contributions that examine questions such as: What are the psychological and behavioral underpinnings of strategic decisions of this kind? What type of cognitive frames and managerial mental models might enable or hinder the integration of real-world problems in the strategic decision-making, governance models, and definition of the purpose of the firm itself? What explains the evolution of such mental models, as well as the development of managers’ sensitivity towards stakeholder interests and broader societal issues? How do individuals, groups, and organizations learn to integrate social and environmental sustainability consideration in their decision-making and behavioural processes? How does the evolution of social, political, and ecological contexts influence change in the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral underpinnings of strategic decision-making?

Special Tracks

Track Chair: Brian Boyd, Northern Arizona University

Research methods faces many challenges to make sense of an increasingly complex and interrelated world, and to understand and assess the strategies that firms and other entities adopt in response. This year's conference theme allows us to focus on new methodological questions and approaches, as well as on the reassessment of existing tools. How relevant are traditional measures of firm performance? And, how well do metrics used by researchers match those used by managers? What are emerging methodological tools and techniques that can shift the way we ask, and answer, questions?  What new constructs are emerging, and how should we approach them?  Finally, to understand, explain, and research changes in a complex world, we need to examine how we keep research methods relevant and current.  While we seek proposals pertaining to the conference's theme, we welcome all those that open new perspectives on advancing research practices within the SMS.

Track Chair: Vijaya Zinnoury, University of Denver

The 2016 conference theme is an opportunity to showcase innovative teaching methodologies that bring relevance and rigor in strategy education. As we face the new realities and implications of the profound changes in the physical, economic, and social environments confronting us, the question that we face is how to make strategy education effective and prepare students to proactively tackle the new challenges.  We welcome proposals addressing the conference themes with implications for teaching strategy. Proposals that provide new insights, address innovations in teaching involving cutting edge tools, experiential exercises, and emerging techniques in undergraduate, graduate, and executive settings are of high interest to the Teaching Community.  We are also looking for high-quality scholarly submissions, including research into the way we teach and learn strategy—i.e., the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL) strategic management education. We look forward to collaborating with other IGs and invite proposals that engage business leaders and consultants in active conversations with our academic community.

Track Chairs:
Patricia Gorman, Goff Strategic Leadership Center
Markus Kreutzer, EBS University of Business and Law
Jorge Walter, George Washington University