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The Six Big Questions of Strategic Management

As the needs of businesses evolve to face the changing global landscape, so too do the questions and priorities of executives and academics alike to meet and understand these challenges. At the Strategic Management Society, leading academics and practice experts bring theory and practice together to advance the study of strategic management and provide real-world, impactful insights for business executives, practitioners, and consultants. 

Below, we present a set of pressing strategy questions at the intersection of theory and practice. The Big Six questions were developed after extensive engagement with many stakeholders of the SMS. This process included a detailed analysis of key issues identified by top global consulting firms, SMS Board discussions of pressing questions at the intersection of theory and practice, input from SMS Interest Groups and Community leaders on top issues, consultation with leading global executives, and on-going conversations with SMS members.  

This intellectual agenda aims to be a living document to inspire and focus conversations between industry and academia that will evolve with the SMS community, the SMS’s scholarly publications, and the field of strategic management itself; it should serve as an inspiration to guide the development of actionable insight, frameworks, tools, and resources for the SMS community to bridge the worlds of scholarship and practice. As global issues continue to evolve so will the Six Big Questions of Strategic Management.  

Importantly, the “Big Six” should not limit the expansive lines of inquiry by SMS members or within the field of strategic management research but instead be a guide for those who aim to focus on areas that have broad impact at the intersection of academy and practice. 

Our hope is these questions provide an outline of forward-looking and provocative ideas that direct interested scholars toward areas of research that can inspire business leaders toward impactful actions that better their organization’s outlook, overall performance, and create positive outcomes for society and the world.

(Broad topics: ESG, Cooperative Strategy, Strategy Practice, Sustainability, CSR) 

  • How do firms consider their environmental impact while accelerating economic performance? 

  • Why are some companies more successful than others in engaging with their employees, suppliers, customers, and local communities to achieve economic, social, and environmental sustainability while remaining competitive? 

  • Are companies that consider their social impact making a quantifiable difference in their industries? 

  • How can public-private partnerships addressing global challenges be most effectively organized and optimized for creating social value?  

  • How do corporate governance systems balance trade-offs across the needs of different stakeholder groups? 

  • How can strategy making contribute to tackling grand challenges society is facing? 

  • Are sustainability concerns impacting business models, value creation and distribution, and innovation? 

  • How is firm performance affected by an increased focus on sustainability? 

  • What are the minimal positions firms can take on sustainability issues that satisfy their critics while not threatening their own business models and alienating their current stakeholders? 

  • Is there a causal relationship between sustainability initiatives and investments and corporate governance? 

  • To what level can organizations significantly contribute to or be a part of a solution for global issues such as climate change? 

  • Are the individual environmental, social, and economic dimensions of sustainability interrelated? What impact will supply chain disruptions have on future supply chain models?

(Broad topics: Technology) 

  • When do technological advances require radical reinvention versus incremental evolution? 

  • As access to information becomes infinite, what are the implications for privacy and ethical concerns related to how firms use knowledge on customers or employees? 

  • How do top executives effectively utilize information technology to achieve superior performance?  

  • How does gamification support short-term versus long-term customer acquisition, if it all? 

  • What skills are needed to successfully develop and orchestrate effective technology stacks and digital business ecosystems?  

  • What are the discernable biases present in AI and how do firms navigate the ethics of AI responsibly?  

  • How can remote and virtual workspaces enhance the strategic value of human capital?  

  • Is artificial intelligence redefining the role of human resource management in strategy development?  

  • How do the 4th Industrial Revolution technologies (e.g., blockchain, AI, ML...) impact strategy analysis, formulation, and implementation and do decentralized technologies threaten current business models? 

  • What are the ways that firms can derive competitive advantage from their human capital in lieu of societal shifts in the nature of work (e.g., algorithmic decision making, distributed work)? 

  • In the face of greater access to remote work options, how are organizational structures, incentives and governance practices evolving?  

  • How do hybrid or fully remote work models impact global work culture and what competitive differences will emerge between firms with a fully remote work force versus those with a hybrid or completely in-person work force? What are effective organizational practices and structures to anticipate and adapt to labor constraints?  

  • How do new forms of organizational design and workforce allocation affect knowledge, learning, and innovation in organizations? 

  • Are there cohesive frameworks for digital transformation that encompass disruptive technologies, culture, data-driven decision making, and operational effectiveness? 

(Broad topics: DEI, Competitive Strategy)  

  • How can firms compete successfully in labor markets (e.g., The War for Talent) while balancing corporate profitability? What can multinational firms do to ensure diverse internal and external business practices across societal cultures?  

  • How do organizations with worldwide business units ensure equitable resource allocation across a global workforce?  

  • How do management teams ensure inclusion for stakeholder voices when information is restricted or limited by regulatory bodies or internal policies?  

  • How are online labor markets and task-based, spot-market hiring influencing diversity, job, and organizational design, and how are these changes impacting the sources of organizational competitive advantage? 

  • What stakeholder expectations related to DEI are placed on firms and how do companies meet them for the benefit of all stakeholders? 

  • How can firms respond to calls for DEI measures that connect investments in these initiatives with driving value? 

  • How do organizations build an inclusive and collaborative workforce that ensures that the voices from marginalized groups are heard? 

  • How can companies adapt their business strategies to meet the needs of people with disabilities while remaining competitive?

(Broad topics: Deglobalization, Stakeholder Strategy, Global Strategy) 

  • How do multinational firms navigate geopolitical challenges in an ever-evolving landscape? 

  • To what extent is deglobalization impacting global inequalities? 

  • Are firms prepared for deglobalization and rising economic complexity and geopolitical divisions? 

  • What are the implications of regulatory changes against a backdrop of deglobalization? 

  • How will deglobalization impact migration patterns and the competition for talent? 

  • What are the ways multinational firms need to rethink their organizational structures in destabilizing conflicts? 

(Broad topics: Innovation, Reinventing Business, Strategic Human Capital)  

  • How does the locus of knowledge and learning change when firms change their boundaries? 

  • How do firms sustain and leverage existing competitive advantages to maximize corporate growth? 

  • As innovation changes industry, how do firms evolve in line with the market’s changes? 

  • What role do startup acquisitions play in balancing the innovation vs. efficiency trade-off? 

(Broad topics: Strategic Leadership) 

  • What competitive value can executives deliver on to address new opportunities or threats? 

  • How do CEOs and senior leadership teams allocate their time to addressing marketplace disruptions, shifts in the work force, and rapidly evolving technologies while maintaining current operations? 

  • To what extent do today’s challenges require CEOs to re-evaluate their role in leadership? 

  • In the face of modern complexities, can overlapping strategies scale up to an effective strategy for the organization as a whole?  

  • What impact can a CEO’s position on issues and their persona have on firm valuation?