Strategy Forum / Panelist

Alfonso Gambardella

Bocconi University

Italy

Alfonso Gambardella is a professor of management at Bocconi University, where he serves as head of the Department of Management and Technology. Professor Gambardella’s research focuses on firm strategy, particularly technology strategy and the impact of innovation on industry structures. He is a fellow of the Strategic Management Society and a research fellow at the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR).

Voting History

Statement Response
Online education and specialized degrees will supplant the traditional two-year full-time MBA.  Disagree “Both online education and specialized degrees will pick up. But especially with online education, I think we’ll face a differentiation in quality in which, in most of the cases, online programs will be less demanding and thus of lesser quality than offline.”
Starbucks’s plans to increase wages for nonunionized workers is a shortsighted strategy. Agree “This strategy fosters tensions and an unfriendly image with employees. Unionized employees will feel discriminated against and become less attached. Employees in stores that are considering unionization will be in the difficult position of choosing between free choice to unionize and a raise. Even employees who are not unionized may feel that the initiative affects individuals’ free choice. Today, reduced reputation with stakeholders is likely to have direct and indirect negative implications for the company’s business opportunities and competitive advantages.”
Sanctions against Russia will cause multinational companies to consider human rights protections in supply chains more broadly. Disagree “I think that in the eyes of these companies, the two issues are likely to appear as independent.”
Blockchain is more likely to be a sustaining innovation than a disruptive innovation in the financial sector. Neither agree nor disagree “Disruptive technologies start slow, and then accelerate when and if they reach an inflection point (S-curve). Blockchain is in the pre-inflection point. If it does not reach the inflection point, it is likely to be sustaining in that incumbents have the time to absorb and manage it without having to dismantle extant competencies and operations. If we get to the inflection point, it will be hard for them to catch up and to dismantle rapidly extant competencies and operations. New actors are more likely to come in. But I am still unsure about the antecedent (blockchain reaching the inflection point).”
The field of strategic management has overlooked the role of corporate purpose in driving business performance. Disagree “Corporate purpose has gained increased interest in strategic management lately. More needs to be done, both empirically and theoretically. In particular, we need more on the problem at a high theoretical level. The issue defies standard perspectives, such as shareholder maximization value, which raises questions such as whether corporate purpose is a substitute or complement to extant theories of the firm. We then need to understand better what are the relevant issues and why, and what are the implications. Based on this theoretical understanding, we need empirical analysis guided by these frameworks that provide evidence and test theories and mechanisms.”
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Disagree “They provide a reference point that also creates incentives to companies to follow ESG practices. Monitoring by activist groups and other interested parties also helps. The extent to which their size and diffusion is sufficient to solve our many environmental and social problems is still an open question. But this is more a question of how to expand these funds than whether they serve the purpose. ”
When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Disagree “This is a hard question. In Italy in 1991, the government issued a law that blocked all the wealth of families (and sometimes of friends) of kidnapped people. Together with other factors (more resources to police and security), this ended 20 years of kidnappings in the country. From a company-strategy perspective, this suggests that the decision not to pay has to come with complementary actions, such as coordinating with other companies or organizations for complementary actions, lobbying governments for public investments in cybersecurity, or other similar initiatives when there are market failures for doing it privately. Bottom line, the strategy response is not just to not pay the ransom but to set up a series of complementary actions.”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Agree “There are clearly trade-offs. However, relaxing the rule means that firms (and employees) can choose how to optimize this trade-off. There could be frictions. For example, employees may choose based on goals other than productivity or firm performance; or high-level managers in some firms may stick to ‘old’ managerial styles and not see the opportunities of work-from-elsewhere. But overall, my sense is that the optimization of the trade-off will dominate.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Disagree “The pandemic has created opportunities to run experiments, albeit under special conditions, and use of digital has made a good leap forward. But these are mostly organizational changes (e.g., smart-working). Of course, this has also impacted strategy in the sense that companies have seen new opportunities and new ways of doing things. However, in a more fundamental way, I don’t think that this has changed the ways companies think. Digital is changing the way companies think, and to the extent that the pandemic has raised the speed of digitalization, it might have had an effect. But the primary cause is digitalization, and the pandemic explains only a small part of its evolution and diffusion.”