Internal Corporate Venturing Cycles: A Nagging Strategic Leadership Challenge
Robert A. Burgelman
Stanford Graduate School of Business
Woodside Institute; Helsinki School of Economics
Stanford GSB Research Paper No. 1908
Thirty years of systematic study reveal that many major corporations experience a strange cyclicality in their internal corporate venturing (ICV) activity: Periods of intense activity are followed by periods of shutting down such activities only to be followed by a new cycle a few years later. Based on analysis of both historical and more recent examples of the ICV cyclicality phenomenon we construct a framework of some of the root causes that drive companies at different times to treat ICV as an orphan activity, to engage in an all-out ICV drive, to dismiss ICV as irrelevant, or to desperately seek ICV. We also examine some of the key drivers of these "on-off" commitments (beyond economic cycles) and some of the forces that determine the length of these cycles. We propose that making top management more aware of the forces that drive ICV cyclicality may help improve the strategic management of ICV programs. Realizing that ICV activity is actually hard to completely stamp out may increase top management's motivation to learn to better manage it. This is beneficial because ICV is an important potential driver of profitable growth and/or can serve as a foresight generating activity. Also, such raised awareness may help avoid the biases engendered by an all-out ICV drive and/or the potential dangers associated with desperately seeking ICV. We also offer some suggestions for building a company's strategic leadership capability for managing ICV: Making ICV an integral part of the strategy-making process, rationalizing resource allocation, expanding the available array of organizational arrangements (including incentives and executive development), and making ICV the responsibility of all of the company's senior executives.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Keywords: change management, competitive advantage, corporate governance, growth strategy, strategic implementation, strategic planningworking papers series
Date posted: September 20, 2005
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