Ph.D. Program

Disciplined strategy scholarship from a multi-disciplinary base: The Fuqua PhD program in strategy seeks to educate the next generation of leading strategy scholars. The program builds on a social science foundation to develop rigorous analytical capabilities in the study of firm strategy in competitive environments. Our group is multidisciplinary, pulling from across the social sciences including economics, sociology, management science, political science, and other disciplines. Our faculty are diverse with interests in business dynamics, technology strategy, international business, innovation, entrepreneurship, organizations, and business and public policy among others. We embrace a variety of research methodologies.

Cutting edge strategy research & teaching skills: Our goal is to educate cutting edge scholars who will join the faculties of leading business schools throughout the world. Obtaining such a position requires strong research skills, evidence of teaching aptitude, and endorsement by faculty who are respected in the community of scholars. Our program takes four to five years to complete. In that time, students cultivate research and teaching collaborations with Duke Strategy faculty members and across our broader network. Students also have opportunities to teach or assist in teaching courses, consistent with and complementing their research progress. Finally, students attend seminars, help with recruiting efforts, and engage in other parts of institutional life. A Duke Strategy PhD student should aim to complete the program with positive references from Duke faculty, preparation to teach one or more strategy courses, and published or publishable papers..

Duke Strategy PhD-Faculty Projects

Duke Strategy PhD students and faculty members are working together on a wide range of research. Here are some of our recent projects.

Sea Turtles and the TIES that Bind: The Impact of Diaspora on Adoption of Neoliberal Reforms (Nilanjana Dutt, Ronnie Chatterji, Bennet Zelner), 2010. Prior research on the diffusion of market-oriented policy reforms has examined both the local influence of domestic interest groups and institutions on policy adoption, as well as the global influence of peer countries and powerful non-governmental actors. We examine the impact of a key influence that cuts across local and global levels: immigrants and members of diaspora groups who return home from the U.S., carrying with them newfound or strengthened beliefs about the efficacy of market-oriented principles and practices. By promoting market-oriented policies at home, these actors serve as a third force influencing diffusion patterns.

We examine specific market-oriented policies intended to stimulate entrepreneurship. Prior research has demonstrated that reforms in areas such as bankruptcy and tax law stimulate firm foundings, presumably by reducing entrepreneurial actors’ financial risk and start-up costs. We use a new panel dataset to trace the diffusion of such reforms and to identify econometrically the effect of homeward migration from the United States on reform adoption.

Firm Capabilities and Experience Scope (Nilanjana Dutt, Scott Rockart), 2010. Firms improve as they accumulate experience, but some firms improve to a greater extent than others.  One explanation for greater improvement by some firms is that they engage in greater amounts of complementary activities, such as research and development.  Another explanation for greater improvement is that some firms encounter inherently superior experiences: some experiences are likely to be poor guides to future opportunities, while experiences that lead firms to be self-critical or expose firms to new issues may be particularly useful engines of improvement.  We propose an alternative explanation, that experiences with a broader scope, where scope is defined by the range of issues presented within an individual experience, are particularly conducive to improvement.  When presented with a broader scope, firms may find that an assemblage of standard solutions to narrower problems may be inadequate and may make use of the wider problem space to develop novel solutions. In this paper, we develop a model to distinguish between quantity and quality learning and look at the investment banking industry to see how experience scope affects learning.  We find evidence consistent with the idea that firms learn significantly more from broader scope projects.

What the Cleaning Lady Knows: Learning from Environmental Spills (Nilanjana Dutt, Andrew A. King), 2010. Scholars have proposed that failures, such as a chemical spill, can spark organizational learning, but not much is known about the conditions which influence the amount of learning following a failure. Existing theories and evidence suggest that organizational buffers (such as work in process inventory) impede learning by reducing the need for a thoughtful response. In this paper, we propose a counter theory – that some buffers actually aid learning. We argue that buffers which encourage greater mindfulness due to frequent monitoring can give production systems greater flexibility in responding to problems and lead to greater failure based learning. We find support for our hypotheses and generate additional insights using a longitudinal panel of production chemical spills from 1992-2004.

Decision Rules and Organizational Dynamics (Elena Vidal, Scott Rockart, Shayne Gary), 2010. A great deal of system dynamics work has been conducted at the organization level. Careful model-supported case studies help us to understand what happened at particular firms and derive what are likely generalizable insights. However, few studies attempt to see how well these insights generalize over a population of firms despite Forrester and Senge’s (1980) call for just such “family member” tests of models. In this research project, we take a classic system dynamics model written to explain the rise and fall of a single organization. That organization, The Saturday Evening Post, produced one of the three major magazines in the United States during the 1940s through the 1960s when it ran itself into financial trouble and closed. In this paper we attempt to generalize that model to a larger group of German magazines observed from the 1970s until quite recently. We estimate the key decision making rules for those magazines, embed those rules into a reduced form of Hall’s original model, and see how well the organizational structures and decision making rules captured in that model explain the success and failure of this larger population of organizations.

Knowledge Conflicts: Agglomeration and Diversification in US Manufacturing (Elena Vidal, Charles Williams), 2010. Research has extensively theorized and studied how firms exploit a core set of knowledge in a variety of settings through sharing across organizational units, transferring knowledge across geographic locations, and leveraging knowledge across diverse markets. In this project we take the opposite approach to explore how different sets of knowledge can create conflicts within firms. We posit that it is challenging for a firm to manage two businesses that involve highly-specialized knowledge, based on large volumes of information, and generated through highly local interactions. These characteristics make the two businesses very difficult for a single firm to monitor because the corporate office cannot simultaneously understand problems and react in a timely fashion in both lines of business. These knowledge and information characteristics are precisely those displayed by agglomerated industries, so we predict that diversified firms will be much less likely to conduct business in two separately agglomerated industries. We find evidence that is consistent with this prediction using the Bryce-Winter relatedness index, which is based on census frequencies of firms operating in two different SIC manufacturing industries. In addition, we find that the R&D intensity and advertising intensity of two industries are negatively associated with the closeness of the two industries. These patterns suggest that the characteristics of knowledge can create diseconomies within a single firm. Thus, we can understand the relationship between organization and knowledge more fully by moving beyond patterns of knowledge sharing to study conflicts between knowledge in firms.

Asset reconfiguration as market-based institutional environments evolve (Elena Vidal, Abhirup Chakravarti, Will Mitchell), 2010. Asset reconfiguration, understood here as the mix of growth through acquisitions and internal investments, and divestitures, is increasingly recognized as a crucial part of firms’ capabilities and ultimate survival. An established literature has studied the effect of reconfiguration of internal and external organizational skills and resources in developed markets (Capron, 1999; Karim & Mitchell, 2000, 2004; Moliterno & Wiersema, 2007), concluding that firms operating in developed markets benefit from asset reconfiguration through innovation and increased operational performance compared to firms that do not engage in asset reconfiguration. This literature has also concluded that firms’ pursue resource reconfiguration either because they have strong position and are proactively pursuing a strategy; or from a position of weakness, where firms pursue these strategies as a response to distress. However, these conclusions may not hold in less developed markets, where the market infrastructure may deter the benefits and feasibility and affect the motivation of the different strategies. We argue that as markets become more developed, the constraints on the benefits and feasibility of strategies are relaxed and this allows firms to take a more proactive approach, thus stronger firms are better able to reconfigure their resource base.

Intellectual Property Rights, Organization, and Firm Performance (Luis Rios, Ashish Arora, Sharon Belenzon), 2010. This project develops a new way of utilizing patent data in order to explore the impact of firm organization on financial performance. We analyze the assignment of patent rights within American firms by distinguishing between those patents that are assigned to headquarters and those that are assigned to affiliates.  We use novel data on the ownership structure of 1,057 innovating corporations with 2,432 affiliates, as well as on the characteristics of the more than 400,000 patents which they hold.   We develop and test several hypothesis concerning post-merger target integration, incentives, and autonomy and on the prevalence of centralization in fast vs. slow moving industries, and the degree of centralization within narrowly-defined industries.  We also look at the potential role of patent decentralization on divestiture value. Tentative findings suggest that the share of centrally assigned patents has no effect on firm value, sales, or growth, but that a higher share of decentralized patents show a strong positive effect on these variables. Interestingly, decentralization has no effect on R&D expenditures, but has a negative effect on patent propensity.  By revealing a novel sourece of heterogeneity in intellectual property stocks, this project seeks to increase the versatility of patenting activity as a proxy for various organizational metrics.

Pride and Prejudice: Dow Jones Sustainability Index Additions and Deletions (Olga Hawn, Ronnie Chatterji, Will Mitchell), 2010. Corporations increasingly seek to be added to corporate sustainability indices such as the KLD and DJSI listings in order to signal social responsibility and potentially gain financial benefits from consumers and investors. Several studies of social indices have found modest financial benefits such as stock market gains when companies are added to an index. To date however, these studies have not addressed the potential losses that might arise when indices subsequently drop firms if they engage in activities that the index believes are inappropriate. This study examines whether firms suffer stock market losses when an index drops them and, if so, how the magnitude of the impact compares to the benefits of being added.

Business Incubators and Market-Oriented Socio-Economic Development in Emerging Market Economies (Nel Dutt, Olga Hawn, Elena Vidal, Ronnie Chatterji, Will Mitchell, Anita McGahan), 2010. Business incubators present an increasingly popular approach to developing private sector businesses in emerging market economies. However, little is known about the nature of incubator activities or how these might vary at different levels of market-oriented socio-economic development. We build on the institutional development and business incubators literatures to develop new theory about the evolving scope of incubators. We posit that incubators serve as institutional entrepreneurs that provide two major classes of activities, Market Service Substitution (MSS) and Business Capability Development (BCD), and that the balance between these activities shifts towards BCD as socio-economic development advances. Using data from 134 incubators in 68 emerging nations, with four measures of market-oriented socio-economic development, we find support for our predictions and generate additional insights about this phenomenon.

Scaling Social Enterprise and Social Impact: Girls on The Run (Olga Hawn, Paul Bloom, Brett Smith), 2010. Scaling social businesses and thus social impact can play an important role in global socioeconomic development, where social enterprises are social mission driven organizations which apply market-based strategies to achieve a social purpose. The resources-based view of the firm suggests that an appropriate base of resources is necessary for scaling , particularly scaling of social enterprises. The capabilities-based view of the firm however suggests that for successful scaling resources may not be enough – organizations need to develop certain capabilities in order to achieve success. What is missing in the literature nonetheless is how the interplay between resources and capabilities affects the success of scaling social businesses and as a result, their social impact. Based on the historical data and a survey of Girls On The Run we conduct an empirical test of the effect of resources and capabilities on scaling.

Diffusion of Solar Power (Olga Hawn, Kira Fabrizio), 2010. This project investigates the role of demand shocks and the supply of complementary resources in determining the diffusion of new technologies. The existing literature describing the S-curve of diffusion does little to recognize the importance of the availability of complementary products and services. Especially for new technologies that require significant changes in complementary services, the lack of such resources can impede adoption of the new technology. We investigate this theory in the context of the adoption of PV solar generating resources at the city level across the U.S.. We evaluate the impact of demand-inducing policy shocks, such as tax incentives and renewable portfolio standards, in the adoption of solar PV technologies. In addition, we highlight the importance of complementary services available by virtue of the installed base in neighboring cities. Our study has implications for managers seeking to facilitate the adoption of new technologies and for policy makers seeking to do the same.


The Ph.D. Program in Strategy
The Fuqua School of Business
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina 27708-0120

Updated: 14 April, 2010