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Article

Concerns regarding strategic flexibility arose from companies’ need to survive excess capacity and flagging sales in the face of previously unforeseen competitive conditions. Strategic flexibility became an organizational mandate for coping with changing competitive conditions and managers learned to plan for inevitable restructurings. They learned to reposition assets and capabilities to suit their firms’ new strategic aspirations by overcoming barriers to change. Core rigidities flared up in the form of legacy costs, regulatory constraints, political animosity, and social resistance to adjusting firms’ strategic postures; managers learned that their firms’ past strategic choices could later become barriers to adapting corporate strategy. Managerial insights concerning how to modify firms’ resources changed the way in which they were subsequently regarded. Enterprises saw assets lose their relative productivity and value as mastery of specific knowledge become less germane to success. Managers recognized that their firms’ capabilities were mismatched to market or value-chain relationships. They struggled to adapt by overcoming barriers to change. Flexibility problems were inevitable. Even if competitive conditions were not impacted by exogenous change forces, sustaining advantage in a steady-state competitive arena became difficult; sustaining advantage in dynamic arenas became nearly impossible. Confronted with the difficulties of changing strategic postures, market orientations, and overall cost competitiveness, managers embraced the need to combat organizational rigidity in all aspects of their firms’ operations. Strategic flexibility affected enterprise assets, capabilities, and potential relationships with other parties within firms’ value-creating ecosystems; the need for strategic flexibility influenced investment choices made to escape organizational rigidity, capability traps and other forms of previously unrecognized resource inflexibility. Where entry barriers once protected a firm’s strategic posture, flexibility issues arose when the need for endogenous changes occurred. The temporary protection afforded by imitation barriers slowed an organization’s responsiveness to changing its strategy imperatives—making the firm rigid when adaptiveness was needed instead. A firm’s own inertia to change sometimes created mobility barriers that had to be overcome when hypercompetitive conditions arose in their traditional market arenas and forced firms to change how they competed. Where exogenous changes drove competitive conditions to become more volatile, attainment of strategic flexibility mandated the need to downsize the scope of a firm’s activities, shut down facilities, prune product lines, reduce headcount, and eliminate redundancies—as typically occurred during an organizational turnaround—while simultaneously increasing the scope of external activities performed by an enterprise’s value-adding network of suppliers, distributors, value-added resellers, complementors, and alliance partners, among others. Such structural value-chain changes typically exacerbated pressures on the firm’s internal organization to search more broadly for value-adding innovations to renew products and processes to keep up with the accelerated pace of industry change. Exploratory processes of self-renewal forced confrontations with mobility or exit barriers that were long tolerated by firms in order to avoid coping with the painful process of their ultimate elimination. The sometimes surprising efforts by firms to avoid inflexibility included changes in the nature of firms’ asset investments, value-chain relationships, and human-resource practices. Strategic flexibility concerns often trumped the traditional strengths accorded to resource-based strategies.

Article

The Resource-Based View of the firm (RBV) is a set of related theories sharing the assumptions of resource heterogeneity and resource immobility across firms. In this view, a firm is a bundle of resources, capabilities, or routines which create value and cannot be easily imitated or appropriated by competitors due to isolating mechanisms. Grounded in the economic traditions of the “Chicago School” of economic efficiency, the “Austrian School” of economics, and organizational economics, the RBV comprises theories that explain the existence of (sustained) competitive advantage and of economic rents. Empirical research from this perspective addresses both firm performance and firm behavior at the level of business strategy (e.g., within-industry competition) and corporate strategy (e.g., acquisitions). Initially developed through a series of papers by several authors in the 1980s–1990s, major extensions and refinements of the RBV include the knowledge-based view of the firm (KBV), dynamic capabilities, and the relational view, which recognizes capabilities can be developed and shared through alliances between firms.

Article

Vincenzo Butticè and Massimo G. Colombo

Fundraising has proved difficult for many entrepreneurs and ventures in the early stages of their businesses because of significant information asymmetries with investors and a lack of collateral. In an attempt to overcome such difficulties, since the early 2010s, some entrepreneurs have come to rely on the Internet in order to directly seek funding from the general public, or the “crowd.” The practice of collecting small amounts of capital from the “crowd” of Internet users is called crowdfunding. Crowdfunding research is a relative newcomer to the discipline of entrepreneurial finance. However, the availability of easy-to-access data, the diffusion of this funding channel among entrepreneurs, and increasing policy attention have made crowdfunding one of the most investigated areas of research in entrepreneurial finance. The literature has discussed crowdfunding as more than a simple mean of financing. Crowdfunding also allows entrepreneurs to develop a virtual community of followers, which provides a valuable source of information with which to test and improve early versions of innovative products. Moreover, crowdfunding represents a method of gaining information about market response to a given product and the size of demand for that product, and is a powerful marketing instrument that can be used to increase brand awareness and to promote the arts, social initiatives, and financial inclusion. However, crowdfunding also entails a number of pitfalls for entrepreneurs. In order to collect financial resources from the crowd, entrepreneurs are required to share sensitive information online. This includes information about the entrepreneurial initiative, the team, and the business model they are using. The provision of this information may facilitate product counterfeiting, or the appropriation of the value of the idea by other firms or entrepreneurs. Moreover, crowdfunding entails the risk of social stigma if the funding campaign results in a failure, because information about the performance of the crowdfunding campaign usually remains accessible online. Finally, crowdfunding entails additional challenges related to the management of the crowd of backers after the campaign, since several backers will be active providers of feedback and will interact with the entrepreneurs through direct communication. Despite these disadvantages crowdfunding has become a widely used funding source for entrepreneurs looking for financing for sustainable projects, creative initiatives, and innovative ideas.

Article

Discrimination is behaving differently toward people from different social identity groups, such as those based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, or some other category that is not related to the qualifications, contributions, or performance of the target group members. It is usually thought of as unfair and is often illegal. Discrimination has been the subject of substantial research in the social and behavioral sciences. It can entail acting more favorably toward those who have not earned it or less favorably toward those who have, although most of the research focuses on the negative behavior toward less favored groups rather than on the positive behavior toward more favored groups. Although discrimination can occur in many domains, this paper focuses primarily on discrimination in work and organizations. Research on labor market discrimination spans disciplines with most research being done in economics, sociology, psychology, and law, as well as in business or management. Such research has examined differences in access to jobs or employment including hiring and promotion, job rewards such as income and wages, evaluation of performance, treatment on the job from supervisors and coworkers, and unemployment or underemployment. Discrimination may be explicit or overt, but increasingly research has focused on more subtle forms of discrimination that reflect unconscious or implicit biases. Research also considers perceived discrimination. Research on discrimination has examined trends in discriminatory behavior or outcomes for various groups, comparisons across groups in terms of the extent or experience of discrimination, antecedents and the consequences of discrimination, as well as mediators and moderators of discriminatory behavior. Most research on discrimination has found that those from lower status or subordinate groups within any society are more likely to experience negative discrimination, while dominant group members almost always receive more favorable treatment. Although there are variations in terms of circumstance and context, native-born, heterosexual men from higher social classes and from dominant racial or ethnic groups are disproportionately found in the best jobs, with the most authority, and with the highest incomes, while women, racial or ethnic minorities, immigrants, those from working or lower classes, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are more likely to suffer adverse discrimination. An increasing emphasis on the intersectionality of social identity recognizes that the labor market experiences of particular people reflect the combination of their multiple identities. Discrimination can be interpersonal, intergroup, organizational, and it can be embedded in structures and institutions.