Week 8: New corporate strategies

What constitutes effective corporate strategy in a world of regulatory and technological uncertainty? It seems odd, given the premise of our course, to see an article in 2015 in Harvard Business Review suggesting that firms need an innovation strategy. One might have assumed that this would be a standard part of doing business in the 21st century.  The article itself is interesting and well worth a read as it provides a useful ‘landscape map’ of different alternative models for innovation strategy, but the basic point made is that innovation needs to be linked up to corporate strategy, in much the same way in lecture 7 we argued for the need for firms to think more carefully about how to link their strategy to the regulatory environment to gain competitive advantage.

Innovation is not just about coming up with better technological gizmos, since if that was the case then the world leading labs at XeroxIBM and Bell Labs from the 1950s into the 1970s should have led these firms strongly into the last quarter of the twentieth century.  Instead, the focus on technologies narrowly defined can lead firms into a dead end as systems and platforms shift over time. Microsoft successfully turned itself into a quasi-monopoly for two decades with a focus not on better technology but on securing market power, but it too has faded somewhat as many of its previous advantages have disappeared. Google and Apple are the latest success stories sitting on vast wealth with seemingly little obvious strategy on how to spend hundreds of billions (as an entertaining aside, see Malcolm Gladwell on the links between Xerox PARC and Apple).

As Daniel Kahneman points out, perhaps the biggest problem is that the strategies applied and the decision-making processes don’t seem to scale up with the stakes involved.

As a final exercise, hopefully you can use this last blog to reflect on whether regulatory or innovation strategies offer greater potential in your (favourite) sector.  If you want to be more specific, pick a firm (or organisation) of interest to you and provide your views on what strategies you would recommend over a ten-year time horizon.

Week 7: Growth of the surveillance state

Like many of the other issues discussed over the course of TP1, it is important not to overstate the novelty of our current circumstance.  The ability of the state (and non-state actors) to spy on citizens is hardly a historical novelty.  It is difficult to imagine a more troubled legacy whether it is East German use of childrenContinue Reading

Week 6: Memo to the President

Every time a new president (or prime minister or CEO) assumes power he or she will receive many unsolicited memos from all quarters in an effort to try to influence them at an early stage.  This is a classic example of one of Kingdon’s policy windows opening — but usually that window will close quickly, Once policies haveContinue Reading

Week 5: Regulation and Multinationals

Concern over the dangers of multinationals is not new.  Read anything on the subject by Ray Vernon (Sovereignty at Bay (1971) Storm over the Multinationals (1977), Beyond Globalism (1989), In the Hurricane’s Eye (1998)) or, more recently, Dani Rodrik (Has Globalization Gone Too Far? (2001) and The Globalization Paradox (2011)).  The potential for erosion of nationalContinue Reading

Week 4: The Entrepreneurial Society and the Entrepreneurial State

Mariana Mazzucato has deservedly received extensive media coverage and plaudits (e.g., Martin Wolf in the FT or Richard Cooper in Foreign Affairs) for her important 2013 book The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs Private Sector Myths.  If you have not read it already, you should.  A glimmer of its contents can be found in her HarvardContinue Reading

Week 2: Policy Windows and Links to Evidence

I use the example of the recent agreement to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to raise the question of why policy happens at one time and not another and how action is linked to evidence  The evidence (the underlying science) has not fundamentally changed in decades and yet we have seen at best piecemeal progress and a comprehensiveContinue Reading

Week 1 Michaelmas 2016: Experts in a world of post-truth politics

Apologies for the delay in getting the first blog uploaded. There seems to have been a bit of a snafu since various Cambridge Wordpress accounts had been attacked by hackers. Hopefully this is all sorted now. The danger of writing about the current state of ‘post-truth politics‘ is the likelihood that as elites (students and faculty at CambridgeContinue Reading

Week 8: Politics of the Anthropocene

I was not particularly keen to bring up climate change again since we already waded through the gore that is national INDCs.  I was inclined to offer a foray into LSE’s excellent series of retrospective evaluations that they conducted for the UK’s National Audit Office a couple of years ago.  I would still encourage youContinue Reading

Week 7: Using Evidence in Decision Making

This week, we turn to the ubiquitous role that evidence plays in the decision making process.  Quite obviously, societal decisions do not simply depend on the weight of the evidence and can turn on ideology, norms, beliefs, history and path dependence, but, particularly in key areas of technology policy, the assessment and use of evidence inContinue Reading