Leading the Digital Transformation of Incumbent Firms: A Strategic Entrepreneurship Perspective

Submission Window: May 1, 2021 to July 1, 2021

Across the world, digital technologies are transforming firms, industries, and economies—a trend that is accelerating as firms struggle to reinvent how they interact with customers, employees, and other stakeholders in the wake of an upsurge in local and global grand challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, migration, and political turbulence. Digitalization gives rise to a host of organizational threats and opportunities for incumbent firms of varying sizes and scopes, from new ventures to large, publicly traded firms. On the one hand, digitalization may upend the ways firms create and capture value (Bradley and O’Toole, 2016). In so doing, it could destroy core competencies of incumbents such as commercialization capabilities and access to distribution channels (Tushman and Anderson, 1986), challenge established mind-sets and identities (Anthony and Tripsas, 2016; Kammerlander, König, and Richards, 2018), and demand drastic, politically difficult changes within firms and their surrounding ecosystems (Ansari, Garud, and Kumaraswamy, 2016; König, Schulte, and Enders, 2012). On the other hand, there is mounting evidence that incumbents may benefit substantially from digital transformation. In fact, when decision makers in established firms manage to adapt their mental models to envision new, path-divergent business models, acquire the necessary resources, and align strategy, they may capture a substantial share of the digital economy and ensure adaptability and survival (Loucks et al., 2016).

Online Symposium Information

In this Online Symposium, which was February 19, 20201, we had the privilege of welcoming four Distinguished Panelists who shared their views about the pressing opportunities for scholarly inquiry into this topic – whether, how, when, and to what ends do established organizations embrace digital transformation, and how are these processes shaped by strategic leaders? We invited colleagues from a broad array of research streams and across the Strategic Management Society and research community to participate.

For more details about the Symposium, please click on the document below.

Guest Editors

picture of Zeki Simsek
Zeki Simsek
Clemson University
picture of Ciaran Heavey
Ciaran Heavey
University College Dublin
picture of Victor Gilsing
Victor Gilsing
Free University Amsterdam
picture of Wouter Stam
Wouter Stam
VU Amsterdam
picture of Andreas S. König
Andreas S. König
University of Passau

SEJ Co-Editor

picture of Gary Dushnitsky
Gary Dushnitsky
London Business School

Environmental Change, Strategic Entrepreneurial Action, and Success

Submission Window: August 1, 2021 to September 3, 2021

Entrepreneurs do not literally “create something from nothing” (Baker & Nelson, 2005). Apart from human agency (Shane, 2003) and social interaction (Alvarez & Barney, 2007; Wood & McKinley, 2010), they need some raw material to work with. Environmental changes – be they technological, regulatory, demographic, economic, socio-cultural, or natural-environmental – are important sources of such raw material. Whether ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ for the economy overall, all such changes are likely to be beneficial for some types of new economic activity.

Compared to the abundance of concepts and statements pertaining to entrepreneurial agents, the strategic role of environmental change remains under-emphasized and under-theorized in contemporary entrepreneurship and strategy research (Agarwal et al., 2017; Chandra, 2018; Davidsson, 2019). The obvious role of new technology in many recent entrepreneurial successes highlights the need for increased attention to the role of agent-independent, external change for strategy (Porter & Heppelman, 2014) and entrepreneurship (Autio et al., 2018; Nambisan, 2017). Socio-cultural, demographic, regulatory, and economic changes – even natural and man-made disasters – likewise provide new entrepreneurial potential either independent of or in conjunction with new technology.

A good library of theories, concepts, and evidence exists for the entrepreneurial inclinations and capacities of entrepreneurial agents such as individuals and organizations. There are good reasons to argue that an equally rich set of theories, concepts, and evidence should be developed for capturing the entrepreneurial potential in environmental change. Moreover, agent-focused theories may not reach their full potential without better theory and evidence regarding variance in characteristics and potentials among the environmental changes to which agents respond.

Guest Editors

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Sara Carter
University of Glasgow
picture of Dominic Chalmers
Dominic Chalmers
University of Glasgow
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Per Davidsson
Queensland University of Technology
picture of Jan Recker
Jan Recker
University of Cologne
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Dean Shepherd
University of Notre Dame

SEJ Co-Editor

picture of Gary Dushnitsky
Gary Dushnitsky
London Business School