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A Brave New World

Strategies for Adapting to a Changing Business Environment

The world of business is changing rapidly. Digitization and artificial intelligence are transforming the nature of work, enabling new business models, new organizational forms, and new modes of entrepreneurship. Social media and activism are exposing firms to increased scrutiny, placing concerns of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion at the heart of the corporate agenda. The growth of emerging markets is reshaping the geography of economic opportunity, even as political uncertainty and concerns about polarization are on the rise. And the relentless march of scientific innovation continues to expand the technological frontier, creating a need for leadership that is as forward-looking as it is socially responsible. These changes not only challenge established firms and markets, but they also offer new opportunities for firms to create and capture value.

The SMS Special Conference in Hangzhou seeks to bring together ambitious and cutting-edge research that explores this "Brave New World." We aim to showcase work that not only sheds new light on these emerging phenomena, but also examines the implications of these trends for existing research and practice. What do these changes mean for the role, scope, composition, structure, and activities of firms? How, if at all, do they alter the key assumptions underlying our conventional theories, and what conclusions from prior work do we need to reconsider in light of this new reality? What new theoretical perspectives may prove helpful as we seek to understand these changes, and what new methods and approaches do we need to analyze them?

We aspire to foster an engaged and critical dialog around these questions, drawing together not only leading scholars from Asia and around the world, but also executives and practitioners who grapple with these phenomena on a daily basis. We thus hope to bridge diverse perspectives—across geographies, across backgrounds, and across subfields of research—so we can begin to imagine and shape an exciting new agenda for strategy scholarship, one that may guide researchers and managers alike as they face the key business challenges that lie ahead. And what better place to do that than in the vibrant city of Hangzhou, a city both ancient and new, storied in song for its natural beauty, and home to some of the most successful and fastest-growing businesses in modern China? We hope you’ll join us and be part of this exciting conversation!

Theme Tracks

Track Chairs:
Joost Rietveld, University College London
Wen Wen, University of Texas at Austin

Digital transformation has fundamentally shaped all facets of business, ranging from organizational design and the nature of work to business models and strategy formulation. Whereas some features of digitization allow for novel applications of existing theories, others demand a rethink of conventional frameworks as well as new theorization. How do artificial intelligence and robotics change the nature of work? How do digital platforms and ecosystems create new opportunities and challenges for both established and entrepreneurial firms? Will blockchain-based platforms replace centrally governed platforms? In a world where consumers increasingly expect digital products to be free, how can firms design their business models to capture value? We welcome research proposals on emergent topics and phenomena related to digitization, including but not limited to: artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and big data, blockchain and smart contracts, platforms, ecosystems, and digital piracy. We are open to a variety of methodological and theoretical perspectives.

Track Chairs:
Dan Prud'homme, EMLV Business School
Minyuan Zhao, Washington University in St. Louis

The disruptive changes brought by new technologies are concurrent with a rapidly changing geographic landscape of innovative activities. On the one hand, emerging economies are leapfrogging in the application of, if not the creation of, frontier technologies. The number of filings at the Chinese Patent Office have exceeded the filings of the next four largest patent offices combined, and reverse innovation—knowledge flow from developing to developed countries—is gaining momentum. On the other hand, political polarization and nationalistic movements are reshaping the market for technologies, affecting standard-setting organizations, multinational companies, and entrepreneurs depending on global suppliers and customers. This track welcomes submissions that address the unique challenges and opportunities resulting from such changes and the effect business strategies have on future trajectories of geographic shifts. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to: emerging market multinationals, institutional differences, immigration/migration, international trade and investments, global supply chains, multinational arbitrage, and geopolitical environments.

Track Chairs:
Jeho Lee, Seoul National University
Yue Maggie Zhou, University of Michigan

The rapid technological development in digitization and artificial intelligence, the increasing pressure of social media and activism, and globalization are creating challenges for organization design. Intrafirm structural designs such as those about task assignment (e.g., modularization vs. integration), coordination schemes (e.g., centralization vs. delegation), incentives (e.g., high- vs. low-power incentives), interfirm relational designs such as firm boundary (e.g., contracting vs. integration), alliances and joint ventures, networks, platforms and ecosystems, and hybrid organizations, are all subject to a close study for potential transformation. The track welcomes papers from all disciplines that explore classic or emerging organization design issues in the changing world of digitization, social activism, and globalization. We will consider papers using a wide range of methodologies, including but not limited to, formal modelling or theoretical argument, both quantitative studies and qualitative investigations.

Track Chairs:
Jing Chen, Copenhagen Business School
Waverly Ding, University of Maryland

Recent developments on the social, economic, and technological fronts have created new pathways for novel ideas and technologies to be brought to market. For example, with the digitization of information in the process of new venture creation, new ways of funding and opportunity identification have emerged. In addition, many of the new technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence) may potentially disrupt existing business models and open new markets for aspiring entrepreneurs. We invite submissions that explore entrepreneurship-related questions and seek to push the existing boundaries of research on entrepreneurship in the context of changing technologies and markets. Potential topics include the commercialization of science in the changing environment, new markets for technologies, new methods of resource acquisition (such as crowdfunding), new ways of structuring business models, the impact of accelerators/incubators, corporate and government venture capital, and demographics of entrepreneurs.

Track Chairs:
Guoli Chen, INSEAD
Joonmahn Lee, Korea University

Strategic leaders confront complex problems daily, and there is an increasing job demand for them to satisfy diverse stakeholders. In addition, recent rapid changes in business environments require managers to adapt and explore new ways of leading their firms. Accordingly, a wide variety of important strategic leadership and governance research questions have arisen. For example, how do strategic leaders react to rapid changes in business environments, and what results from these actions? How do they lead the digital transformation and organization change? What new strategies should be adopted? Which CEO and/or TMT characteristics (e.g., gender, diversity, psychological traits, cognitive bias) help executives better adapt to rapid changes? Who is better equipped to govern (e.g., founder, family, professional managers), and how should the firm be governed (e.g., business group, shareholder activism)? These are only a few examples of how strategic leadership and governance researchers can contribute both to the conference theme and to the broader challenge of understanding how firms can be managed more effectively as our world experiences rapid changes.