Julian Birkinshaw

Julian Birkinshaw
London Business School

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253
Publications
221,462
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31,738
Citations

Publications

Publications (253)
Article
A contemporary challenge for the international business (IB) field is to maintain a link between the global activity of firms and the local concerns of regions and communities. In this essay, we reflect on how the IB scholarship of the late Stephen Young, which was embedded in (but not confined to) Scotland, offers valuable insight into how this mi...
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The purpose of this article is to reinvigorate research in the intersection of corporate strategy and the theory of the firm in light of the rapid advancement of digital technologies. Using the theory of the firm as an interpretive lens, we focus our analysis on the implications of the emerging digital age for three broad domains of corporate strat...
Chapter
The digital revolution has already had a profound influence on how we think about many aspects of the commercial world. Julian Birkinshaw focuses on an increasingly important aspect of the digital revolution—the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies—and he considers how it is changing the nature of the firm itself, in terms of its strat...
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Organizations are coalitions of individuals with heterogeneous interests and perceptions (March and Simon, 1958/1993). We examine an important source of heterogeneity, namely the different perceptions individuals hold across hierarchical levels. We introduce the notion of a hierarchical erosion effect whereby individual perceptions about specific p...
Article
Although international business scholars have begun to recognize the division of entrepreneurial labor between MNEs and SMEs, there is a fragmented understanding of the different forms MNE–SME cooperation can take. We develop a typology that takes into account not only complementarity of capabilities but also, crucially, the compatibility of intent...
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Some business schools have come under considerable criticism for what observers see as their complicit involvement in the corporate scandals and financial crises of the last 15 years. Much of the discussion about changes that schools might undertake has been focused on curriculum issues. However, revisiting the curriculum does not get at the root c...
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In this chapter, we explore the relationship between organizational complexity and firm-level innovation. We define and operationalize a new construct, experienced complexity, which is the extent to which the organizational environment makes it challenging for decision makers to do their jobs effectively. We distinguish experienced complexity from...
Article
As the process of strategy-making in companies becomes more inclusive and transparent, new theoretical perspectives are needed to make sense of these changes. In this short paper, I put forward a simple framework covering four aspects of the Open Strategy phenomenon – commons-based production, crowd-based inputs to decision making, collective buy-i...
Article
What are the boundary spanning activities undertaken by the Corporate Headquarters (HQ) executives of a Multinational Corporation? We address this question through a five-year longitudinal case study of one company as it shifted from a traditional HQ in one location, to a dual HQ in two locations, to a virtual HQ split across multiple locations. By...
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This article develops a conceptual integration of the dynamic capabilities and ambidexterity perspectives in order to understand how firms adapt to discontinuous change. Based on three illustrative case studies, it demonstrates that it is not possible to identify a universal set of dynamic capabilities. Rather, the distinct set of capabilities requ...
Article
The much-discussed "relevance gap" (Starkey & Madan, 2001) between research and practice in management is a major source of concern for business schools, in terms of their legitimacy in the eyes of students, employers, and funding bodies. We frame the relevance gap as a knowledge-transfer issue, focusing on the role of "bridging media" as one mecha...
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Are we heading for analysis paralysis? Julian Birkinshaw says we need smarter questions
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Even mature companies can use startup tactics. Peter Robbins, Julian Birkinshaw and Johnny Ryan examine The Irish Times
Article
This paper provides new theory and evidence about the benefits of openness on a firm's innovation performance and, more importantly, the specific firm-level contingencies under which those benefits are more (or less) likely to be observed. Building on Dyer and Singh's (1998) relational view, we suggest that a firm's lack of resources and absorptive...
Article
Research summary: We study the processes through which multinational corporations (MNCs) identify and make use of external sources of knowledge. Based on a seven-year longitudinal study of one MNC's overseas scouting unit, we show how a simple one-directional “channelling” process gradually gave way to three higher value-added processes, labelled “...
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Simon Caulkin and Julian Birkinshaw report on the reinvention of an iconic public service, and the lessons business can learn from this amazing transformation
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In a complex business environment, firms frequently have to manage strategic dualities – pairs of imperatives that are equally important but to some degree in conflict with one another. While there is a sizable empirical and theoretical literature in this area, research that seeks to understand how firms manage strategic dualities in practice is un...
Article
At the heart of organisational complexity is the battle between emergence and entropy. Julian Birkinshaw charts the best way forward
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Valve is a fascinating example of a company experimenting with a new way of working – one in which there are no traditional managers, and where employees are encouraged to take direct responsibility for choosing their own projects and completing them in an efficient and effective way. Of course, Valve is not alone in pushing a “manager free” model....
Article
The key challenge faced by all managers is looking after the scarcest resource of all: attention. Julian Birkinshaw ventures into the attention economy
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While host-country relationships are known to help new ventures internationalize, we know little about how a firm’s home-country relationships affect its subsequent internationalization. We develop new theoretical arguments by combining social capital theory with reference group theory, to suggest that internationalization is in general adversely a...
Article
Ambidexterity research has presented a range of structural and contextual approaches for implementing a dual orientation across organizations. Much less is known about the preceding process through which organizations decide to adopt an ambidextrous orientation. In this paper we focus on this first step-the charter definition process through which...
Article
Two important perspectives for understanding how firms adapt to discontinuous change are dynamic capabilities and ambidexterity. In this paper we put forward a conceptual integration of these two perspectives, and we use in-depth case studies of three large firms to illustrate our arguments. Our case studies suggest that it is not possible to ident...
Article
The panel symposium turns spotlight on the corporate headquarters (CHQ), which is the contemporary corporation’s central organizational unit. Knowledge about the CHQ is critical to understand the “functioning” and governance of modern organizations. The starting point of the symposium is a comprehensive review of the existing knowledge about the co...
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This proposed symposium responds to the Academy’s 2015 theme of “Opening Governance” by exploring how organizations can, and do, open up their processes of strategy-making. Open strategy has two dimensions: (1) greater internal and external transparency and (2) greater inclusiveness of various actors in strategy-making. More open strategy processes...
Article
This paper provides new theory and evidence about the benefits of openness on a firm’s innovation performance and, more importantly, the specific firm-level contingencies under which those benefits are more (or less) likely to be observed. Building on Dyer and Singh’s (1998) relational view, we suggest that a firm’s lack of resources and absorptive...
Article
This study examines the incidence and performance effects of corporate programs, which are temporary structures intended for the implementation of corporate strategy. Drawing on coordination and behavioral theories, we propose that certain enabling conditions (why?) and precipitating circumstances (when?) influence the decision to use a corporate p...
Article
In this paper we focus on exploring the relationship between organizational complexity and firm-level innovation, where complexity is a function of the number of parts in a system and the interactions between those parts. By disentangling organizational complexity into its two components and separating out benefits and costs of complexity, we are a...
Article
In this longitudinal study we adopt a boundary spanning approach to shed light on the actual processes through which multinational corporations identify and make use of external sources of knowledge. We observe four different forms of boundary spanning processes and develop a parsimonious set of contingencies under which each process is more likely...
Chapter
In this paper, I review and evaluate the concept of subsidiary initiative, and I discuss how theorizing about the multinational corporation (MNC) in general has been informed by studies focusing on subsidiary initiative and related subsidiary-level issues. In the second part of the paper, I discuss some of the trends underway in the world of busine...
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Twenty-five years ago, Dunning articulated a vision for greater interdisciplinary grounding in international business (IB) research. Motivated by his foresight, this special issue aims to encourage research that explicitly combines ideas from different disciplines, with a view to creating new integrative theories with greater explanatory power than...
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There has recently been renewed scholarly interest in management innovating, the creation of new organizational practices, structures, processes and techniques. We suggest that external involvement in the process of management innovating can transpire in three different ways: direct input from external change agents; prior external experience of in...
Article
Traditional workplace hierarchies could become a thing of the past. Julian Birkinshaw reports
Article
Innovative management ideas that bubble up in other companies pose a perennial quandary for leaders: Should you attempt to borrow new ideas, and if so, which ones and how? Even the most promising practices can be disastrous if they're transplanted into the wrong company, writes Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School. Broadly speaking, there ar...
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Is it possible for a company to strive for a higher purpose while also delivering solid profits? Some have argued that pursuing goals other than making money means, by definition, spending on things that aren't profit-maximizing. Others have countered that by investing in worthwhile causes the company is doing something intrinsically valuable that...
Article
The Editors of JMS invited four leading scholars in research on management and organizations to have an open discussion on the current state and future prospects of management research. Our four contributors discuss, among other things, the growing influence of economics, psychology, and sociology on current management research, and the danger of a...
Article
The concept of organizational ambidexterity has been applied to a wide variety of phenomena in recent years. Its growing appeal is a reflection of its versatility, but this versatility carries the risk of a lack of clarity in meaning and measurement. In this paper, we attempt to bring a sense of perspective to the field of ambidexterity by document...
Article
Knowledge work is an understood idea and phenomena, but what about the nitty-gritty of actually making it effective? Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen make knowledge work real
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Prior research on ambidexterity has assumed that senior executives are responsible for defining the appropriate mix of exploitation and exploration in their organizations, and for designing the necessary mechanisms (formal structure or behavioural context) for implementing these choices. Based on a qualitative comparative case study of four allianc...
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Julian Birkinshaw examines innovative approaches to seeing the world through the eyes of your employees.
Article
More hours in the day. It's one thing everyone wants, and yet it's impossible to attain. But what if you could free up significant time maybe as much as 20% of your workday to focus on the responsibilities that really matter? The authors have spent the past three years studying the productivity of knowledge workers and discovered that they spend, o...
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How can employees take the lead in innovation?Julian Birkinshaw and Lisa Duke went in search of employee-led innovation and found some inspiring examples.
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What is it about bad bosses that we find so fascinating? Perhaps, like every anti‐hero, we find the bad manager a ripe target for criticism or, at least, extensive discussion. Julian Birkinshaw, however, says that bad bosses can change for the better. It all starts with knowing what needs changing.
Article
What does a manager do most days? If your answer involves going to meetings, revising budgets, and checking and writing emails, you will greatly benefit from reading about one manager who changed this work pattern. She revamped her calendar so she could spend more time working directly with employees. Julian Birkinshaw and Simon Caulkin say there a...
Article
Common sense can help a company plod along. But, by developing a distinctive belief system (that is, uncommon sense), companies can soar past their competitors. Jules Goddard, Julian Birkinshaw and Tony Eccles explain their approach.
Article
Corporate venture (CV) units constitute vehicles through which firms may act ambidextrously, thereby increasing their longevity, but they suffer from a high failure rate. The authors examine why and how some CV units last significantly longer than others. They argue that CV units endure by developing an ambidextrous orientation themselves—they buil...
Article
Employees who find their work frustrating, boring and worthless have found their hero in Scott Adams' Dilbert, the nine‐to‐five man who lets us know just how bad managers can be at their jobs. Julian Birkinshaw, Vyla Rollins and Stefano Turconi believe that bad bosses can change to become true leaders.
Article
What enables some companies to be consistently and resolutely different? Although leadership, culture and core competencies can play key roles, the authors argue that a company's beliefs are often the most critical source of differentiation. Peter Drucker's "theory of the business" focuses on the underlying beliefs held by the organization's leader...
Article
Executives throughout the world have never felt more time pressured. Deadlines, expectations and loyalties pull them in a profusion of different directions. So, how should they best use their time? In this Special Report we examine what a day looks like, and what it should look like, for the world's business leaders.
Article
Most prior research in the field of global strategy focuses on what choices executives make to build the competitive advantage of a firm, from setting up activities in different locations to coordinating the linkages between them. In this article, we shift the emphasis to how global strategies emerge in a firm by studying the processes through whic...
Article
Matching project needs with individuals' preferences can be tricky, says Julian Birkinshaw. He shares the story behind the development of an innovative system at AdNovum designed to do just that.
Article
Setting goals is basic management, and there's only one right way to set them so that everyone in the organisation is aligned. Who could argue with that? Hold on, says Julian Birkinshaw, who spent three years studying new principles in management in 25 companies across three continents. In today's chaotic business environment, he asserts that later...
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Most firms recognize that innovation is a key strategic imperative for long-term success – and technology offers sophisticated new ways of tapping into the ideas of internal and external contributors on a large-scale. But building such a capability for broad-based innovation requires more than systems and tools. We look at some of the pitfalls and...
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This paper addresses a specific tension that lies at the heart of the external knowledge sourcing phenomenon, that between accessing external knowledge and using strategic mechanisms to protect internal knowledge. We focus on the interaction between the two approaches, arguing that strategic knowledge protection pursued in combination with a strate...
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During a three-year research project on risk management in large organisations, Julian Birkinshaw and Huw Jenkins interviewed three dozen executives from a diverse array of business sectors. Their findings reveal that risk management must be personal to be successful.
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This paper presents a process study on the evolution of new ventures. We adopt the theoretical lens of "archetypes," which allows us to take a holistic perspective on new venture evolution and to provide rich insights into the interdependencies between the multiple contributory factors that shape the evolutionary process. Our analysis identifies th...
Article
In this Retrospective, we summarise and discuss the findings of our 1999 JIBS paper “Knowledge transfer in international acquisitions”, and we consider how research in this area has evolved over the last decade. The paper's key contribution was to show how the post-acquisition integration process in a sample of three international acquisitions led...
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This paper relates management innovation to multinational corporations (MNCs). We argue that MNCs play two key roles in implementing management innovations. First, they can engage in management innovating by inventing and implementing new management practices. We show that while MNCs have been involved in management innovating, few of their managem...
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Drawing on a sample of 283 subsidiaries in three countries, we investigate how headquarters’ attention affects subsidiary performance. Scholars have recently argued that top management’s attention is the most critical, scarce and sought-after resource in organizations (Haas and Hansen 2001; Bouquet and Birkinshaw 2008). However, the question how he...
Article
Peter RobbinsJulian BirkinshawGlaxoSmithKline faced a situation common to large global organisations: how to allocate marketing resources to smaller, regional brands. and report on the company's inventive approach to worldwide marketing that led to the development of a unique and productive network. Julian Birkinshaw Peter Robbins
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We propose a model that links seven different conceptions of entrepreneurship and maps them in relation to eight associated disciplines and theories, specifying their corresponding units and levels of analysis and stage in the entrepreneurial process. Entrepreneurship scholars are attempting to either carve out a distinctive domain for the field or...
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The phenomenon of subsidiary initiative has received increasing attention in recent years, but the consequences of initiatives and the associated dynamics of headquarters–subsidiary relationships have received much less research attention. Building on resource dependence theory and self-determination theory we argue that two basic goals subsidiary...
Article
Julian Birkinshaw believes that management is undervalued today – and for good reasons. Management, he says, has failed at the big-picture level. It's time to reinvent the profession.
Article
This paper reports on a multimethod study of knowledge transfer in international acquisitions. Using questionnaire data we show that the transfer of technological know-how is facilitated by communication, visits & meetings, and by time elapsed since acquisition, while the transfer of patents is associated with the articulability of the knowledge, t...
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Idea sets—the complete stock of entrepreneurial ideas an individual has accessible within his or her memory at any given time—are proposed as a new unit of analysis through which the antecedents, processes, and outcomes of entrepreneurial opportunity recognition may be more fully understood. A number of dimensions are identified along which one per...
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Management innovation is the introduction of management practices new to the firm and intended to enhance firm performance. Building on the organizational reference group literature, this article shows that management innovation is a consequence of a firm's internal context and of the external search for new knowledge. Furthermore the article demon...
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One could argue that "what business are we really in" is the most important question a leader can ask about his company. But perhaps right up there with the classic Peter Drucker interrogatory is this one: What is your business model? So argue the authors, who correcdy point out that firms searching for forms of competitive advantage - sources of d...
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While leadership dominates the attention of many, it is management that drives the work at hand. Julian Birkinshaw and Jules Goddard suggest that you reconsider the management model you practice daily to see if it's really working inside your company.
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Mix the wisdom of internal and external networks and you might just come up with brilliant and unexpected solutions to apparently intractable problems. Stuart Crainer and Julian Birkinshaw report on how Roche Diagnostics is exploring an experimental approach to harvesting bright ideas.
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Stuart Crainer.Julian BirkinshawStephen MartinFew executives have insight into what really goes on in their organizations. CEO seized a rare opportunity to anonymously discover the nitty gritty of his company. He shares his insights with and Stephen Martin Julian Birkinshaw Stuart Crainer.
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Organizational ambidexterity has emerged as a new research paradigm in organization theory, yet several issues fundamental to this debate remain controversial. We explore four central tensions here: Should organizations achieve ambidexterity through differentiation or through integration? Does ambidexterity occur at the individual or organizational...
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We examine how internal markets channel the limited attention of corporate headquarters (HQ) executives inside the multinational enterprise. In doing so, we desire to understand three related set of issues: First, why do some HQ executives invest more time and effort than others in the international marketplace? Second, what factors explain the att...
Article
The latest technology is increasingly utilized as a means of reinventing management. Srinivas Koushik, CIO of the Nationwide Property and Casualty Company, is one of those leading the way. Julian Birkinshaw and Stuart Crainer, report his approach.
Article
While recent literature has advocated the transfer of venture capital (VC) practices and structures to corporate venture (CV) units, the wisdom of this advice has not been subject to rigorous empirical scrutiny. We test the implications of the VC model for CV unit performance using a longitudinal database combining survey, archival and survival dat...
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This study examines the performance consequences of international attention, defined as the extent to which headquarters executives in the multinational enterprise (MNE) invest time and effort in activities, communications, and discussions aimed at improving their understanding of the global marketplace. Using detailed questionnaire and archival da...
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Rob Beckley is Deputy Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset Constabulary. He was previously Head of Race and Minority Policy at New Scotland Yard and Assistant Chief Constable (Crime and Operations) at Hertfordshire Constabulary. Within ACPO, Mr Beckley had policy responsibility for faith issues and led the National Community Tensions Team in its w...
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This article aims to review the large and growing literature on MNE subsidiaries, and to offer some perspectives on how it may evolve in the future. There is clearly some overlap between the content of this article-notably those concerned with the strategy and structure of the MNE as a whole, and the article about alliances and joint ventures in MN...
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INFOSYS, an IT services and consulting company, is a leader in management innovation in India, says its unique human resource practices are major reasons for its success.
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Stuart Crainer and Julian Birkinshaw look at a Microsoft team that is changing the way it works by incorporating the interests of its young employees to increase creativity and productivity.

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