- Business Strategy
- Top Management Teamwork
- Organizational Design
- Organizational Learning for Strategic Renewal
- Competitive Strategy
Roderick E. White is a Professor Emeritus of General Management at Ivey Business School. Since joining the school’s General Management group in 1979, he taught Business Policy and Strategic Management at the undergraduate, masters and doctoral levels. He was a visiting professor at INSEAD during 1996. Rod earned his BA in Honors Business from Western University, and an MBA and DBA from Harvard University.
His research interests include the functioning of top management teams and questions of business strategy-organization. Currently, he is exploring how evolutionary forces affect interesting business behaviours. He received the Academy of Management Review Decade Award for the article, An Organizational Learning Framework: From Intuition to Institutions. He served as Ivey's Associate Dean - Faculty Development and Research from 2009 to 2014. Rod has consulted for numerous organizations. He has served on the board of Sandvik Canada Ltd., Biotron Advisory Board (Western) and the editorial board of the Strategic Management Journal.
- Ivey Field Project (HBA)
- Strategic Analysis and Action (MBA)
- Corporate Strategy (MBA)
- Foundations of Management Thought (PhD)
- BA (Hons Bus) Western
- MBA, Harvard
- DBA, Harvard
Recent Refereed Articles
Thornhill, S.; White, R. E.; Raynor, M. E., (Forthcoming), "Risky Business: How Strategy Relates to Survival", CANADIAN JOURNAL OF ADMINISTRATIVE SCIENCES-REVUE CANADIENNE DES SCIENCES DE L ADMINISTRATION Abstract: This research explores the relationship between business strategy and survival. Seven annual panels of longitudinal data enable us to study riskiness (likelihood of failure) as a function of business strategy. We find failure rates are higher for those businesses with purer strategy positions. Two mechanisms are offered as potential explanations for this result: robustness and adaptability. While prior research has found pure strategies have higher returns, our findings suggest that pursuing a hybrid strategy may be an entirely reasonable choice, balancing risk and return.
Suàrez, J-L.; White, R. E.; Parker, S. C.; Jimenez-Mavillard, A., 2021, "Entrepreneurship bias and the mass media: Evidence from big data", Academy of Management Discoveries, June 7(2): 247 - 265. Abstract: Does the mass media promote entrepreneurship? Using big data in combination with a machine learning aided analysis we discover a positive sentiment bias associated with entrepreneurship present in two major English language media outlets – The New York Times and the Financial Times. Over eight hundred thousand excerpts from a 12 and 16-year period were analyzed. Those containing the words ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘founder’ had much more positive sentiment than did excerpts with the words ‘manager’ and ‘executive’. A parallel analysis of the FANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) in comparison to a set of older and more established Fortune 500 companies produced similar results. While more work is needed to make the link between media biases and career choice, we believe this media bias promotes entrepreneurship, resulting in lower (average) incomes and higher risks for those engaged in this career path. However, because entrepreneurial activity can create positive externalities in the broader economy this bias, while financially disadvantageous for the average entrepreneur, may be beneficial overall for their society.
Link(s) to publication:
White, R. E.; Dhanaraj, C. M.; Lehmberg, D., 2019, "Market adjacency and competing technologies: Evidence from the flat panel display industry", Industrial and Corporate Change Abstract: What determines the emergence of a winner between competing technologies? We examine competition between flat panel display technologies, with the purpose of understanding of how liquid crystal display was able to surpass plasma display panel technology despite the initial lack of a convincing technological or cost advantage, and in the absence of network externalities. We propose an explanation whereby the relative availability of pathways of suitable adjacent applications markets provides differential opportunities for technologies to increase their scope and scale of application incrementally, effecting the speed of development as well as the cost effectiveness of the end products. Our findings suggest that these sets of adjacent application markets available can strongly influence which technologies emerge as winners and which are eventually abandoned.
Cronqvist, H.; Previtero, A.; Siegel, S.; White, R. E., 2016, "The Fetal Origins Hypothesis in Finance: Prenatal Environment, the Gender Gap, and Investor Behavior", Review of Financial Studies, March 29(3): 739 - 786. Abstract: We find that differences in an individual's prenatal environment explain heterogeneity in financial decisions much later in life. An exogenous increase in exposure to prenatal testosterone, the most potent sex hormone in humans, leads to the masculinization of financial behavior, specifically elevated risk-taking and trading in adulthood. We also examine birth weight, the most widely used summary measure of the prenatal environment. New borns with higher birth weight are more likely to participate in the stock market, while those with lower birth weight have portfolios with higher volatility and skewness, consistent with compensatory behavior.Our results contribute to the understanding of how the prenatal environment shapes an individual's behavior in financial markets later in life.
Crossan, M. M.; Maurer, C. C.; White, R. E., 2011, "Reflections on the 2009 AMR Decade Award: Do We Have a Theory of Organizational Learning?", Academy of Management Review, July 36(3): 446 - 460. Abstract: Having received the Decade Award for the most highly cited paper from the prior decade, we reflect on how our framework of organizational learning (OL) has been employed in subsequent research and whether a theory of OL has emerged. Our citation review revealed that while some of the subsequent research has added to the original work, the challenge to develop an accepted theory remains unrealized. We offer promising directions for developing a theory of OL.
Link(s) to publication:
Lehmberg, D.; Rowe, W. G.; White, R. E.; Phillips, J., 2009, "The GE Paradox: Competitive Advantage through Fungible Non-Firm-Specific Investment", Journal of Management, October 35(5): 1129 - 1153. Abstract: This study addresses two questions: 1) Does General Electric have an exceptional ability to develop non-firm-specific general management talent and 2) How can GE's investment into non-firm-specific, non-proprietary managerial capabilities be explained theoretically? Our analysis provides evidence that GE has an extraordinary managerial development capability. Our theory suggests GE's managerial development process is Valuable, Rare, Inimitable, and Organized to be exploited, and, therefore, a source of sustained competitive advantage. This process produces a flow of managers with the potential to be sources of temporary competitive advantage for GE. Outward flow of executive talent is a required byproduct of the process.
Kachra, A.; White, R. E., 2008, "Know-How Transfer: The Role of Social, EconomicCompetitive and Firm Boundary Factors", Strategic Management Journal, April 29(4): 425 - 445. Abstract: Using policy capture methodology, this study examines the effect of different contextual cues upon the know-how transfer efforts reported by 79 biotechnology R&D scientists. Theoretically, these different cues are believed to affect the scientists' expectation of reciprocity, and thus their know-how transfer behavior. Three types of contextual cues between the know-how source and recipient were studied: competitiveness, social relationship, and within or across firm boundaries. We find these cues are associated, in the expected directions, with know-how transfer effort. The findings support a general theory of reciprocity whereby social, competitive, and firm boundary cues have a summative effect upon the expectation of reciprocity and know-how transfer. This is the first study to examine how these cues taken together influence the know-how transfer decision.
White, R. E.; Thornhill, S. J.; Hampson, E., 2007, "A Biosocial Model of Entrepreneurship: The Combined Effects of Nurture and Nature", Journal of Organizational Behavior, May 28(4): 451 - 466. Abstract: Why do people get involved in the creation of new ventures? Prior research suggests entrepreneurial behavior has multiple causes. Nurture explanations often couched in terms of sociological theories like social learning have been popular. Aspects of nascent entrepreneurs' social contexts, notably their family business background, have been associated with new venture creation. But nature also appears to play a role. Other research has linked heritable biological factors, including testosterone, with the career choice to launch a new venture. This study presents theory and evidence linking the combination of both sociological and biological factors with new venture creation: a biosocial model of entrepreneurship. Empirical results indicate new venture creation is more likely among those individuals having a higher testosterone level in combination with a family business background.
Thornhill, S. J.; White, R. E., 2007, "Strategic Purity: A Multi-industry Evaluation of Pure versus Hybrid Business Strategies", Strategic Management Journal, May 28(5): 553 - 561. Abstract: Twenty-five years of empirical research has failed to resolve a basic strategy question. Does strategic purity pay? Most theorists believe strategic purity - the extent to which a business pursues one type of generic strategy over another - contributes to better performance. By defining the strategy space consistent with the theory, and employing improved design and methods our study of 2,351 businesses finds a significant relationship between strategic purity and performance. Purity does appear to pay. Some variations in strategic purity and performance relationship were observed across four major industry sectors: manufacturing, construction, retail, and business services. But in all instances pure strategies never did less well, and often did better than hybrid strategies.
White, R. E.; Thornhill, S. J.; Hampson, E., 2006, "Entrepreneurs and Evolutionary Biology: The Relationship between Testosterone and New Venture Creation", Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, April 100(1): 21 - 34. Abstract: Biological evolutionary processes select for heritable behaviors providing a survival or reproductive advantage. Accordingly, how we behave is, at least in part, affected by the evolutionary history of our species. This research uses evolutionary psychology as the theoretical perspective for exploring the relationship between a heritable biological characteristic (testosterone level) and an important business behavior (new venture creation). Data were collected from 31 MBA students with significant prior involvement in new venture creation and 79 other student subjects with no new venture start-up experience. Consistent with evolutionary psychological theory, the biological (testosterone level) effect upon overt behavior (new venture creation) was partially mediated by psychological disposition (risk propensity).
Pierce, B. L.; White, R. E., 2006, "Resource Context Contestability and Emergent Social Structure: An Empirical Investigation of an Evolutionary Theory", Journal of Organizational Behavior, March 27(2): 221 - 239. Abstract: Using evolutionary theory as its underlying perspective this research explores the relationship between evolved social behaviors specifically emergent social structures, and the ecology of the social groups specifically the contestability of the resource context. Contexts where resources are clustered, predictable, and visible, and where consumption is delayed are highly contestable. When resources are dispersed, unpredictable, and concealed and consumption is immediate the context is less contestable. In our ancestral environment this variation in resource context posed differing adaptive problems for the formation and maintenance of social groups. Different social structures evolved to solve these different problems. The relationship between contestability of the resource context and emergent social structure was tested in an experiment employing 114 subjects over 21 trials. Individuals operating in a low contestable resource context perceived a more egalitarian, hedonic-like social structure those functioning in a high contestable context reported experiencing a more hierarchical, agonic-like social structure. These findings support the theory that our response to social situations is determined by an endogenous component, our evolved human nature, in combination with an exogenous component, the character of the ecology within which the group forms and functions. While the endogenous component is a product of the evolutionary process and largely beyond the influence of management, the ecological component, the perception of the resource context can be affected by managerial action. Implications for researchers and managers, and areas for continued investigation are explored.
White, R. E.; Pierce, B. D., 1999, "The Evolution of Social Structure: Why Biology Matters", Academy of Management Review, January 24(4): 843 - 853. Abstract: Sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists believe that much about behavior has deep evolutionary roots. This emerging paradigm about the origins of human nature are employed to explain social behavior and emergent social structures. Using the work of socioecologists and ethologists, these social structures are connected with features of the resource context. Although still controversial, using biological evolution to help explain (social) behaviors holds significant potential for advancing the organizational sciences.
Crossan, M. M.; Lane, H. W.; White, R. E., 1999, "An Organizational Learning Framework: From Intuition to Institution", Academy of Management Review, January 24(3): 522 - 537. Abstract: Although interest in organizational learning has grown dramatically in recent years, a general theory of organizational learning has remained elusive. Renewal of the overall enterprise as the underlying phenomenon of interest and organization learning is identified as a principal means to this end. With this perspective, a framework for the process of organizational learning is developed, presenting organizational learning as 4 processes - intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalizing - linking the individual, group, and organizational levels.
Crossan, M. M.; Lane, H. W.; White, R. E.; Klus, L., 1996, "The Improvising Organization: Where Planning Meets Opportunity", Organizational Dynamics, January 24(4): 20 - 35. Abstract: What distinguishes the best companies from all others is a superior ability to adapt to and capitalize on a rapidly changing and often unpredictable environment. Conversely, many large companies have fallen on hard times because they have been unable to innovate and renew themselves. But this failure is rarely, if ever, related to a lack of planning. These companies, with their legions of internal planners and external consultants, err by assuming that the business environment is knowable and therefore largely predictable. The lessons of chaos theory suggest that, beyond a certain point, the increased knowledge of complex systems does little to improve the ability to extend the horizon of predictability. The answer is to augment traditional planning with improvisation techniques used in music and theater.
Crossan, M. M.; Lane, H. W.; White, R. E.; Djurfeldt, L., 1995, "Organizational Learning: Dimensions for a Theory", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, January 3(4): 337 - 360. Abstract: Organizational learning (OL) is receiving increasing attention from researchers and practitioners alike. In fact, some have suggested that the only sustainable competitive advantage is a firm's ability to learn faster than its competitors. In spite of OL's promise, the field has been slow to evolve. The primary impediments to the development of OL theory are that inconsistent terminology is used for comparable concepts and that different definitions are used to describe the phenomenon. Furthermore, many theorists have neglected to make explicit their underlying assumptions about the phenomenon. Employing an inductive approach, this review surfaces the implicit and explicit assumptions of OL researchers, identifying three key dimensions that differentiate perspectives: (1) unit of analysis - individual, group, organizational, and interorganizational (2) cognitivebehavioral emphasis and (3) the learning-performance relationship.
- Visiting Professor at INSEAD, Fontainebleau, France
- Research Associate/Assistant, Harvard Business School
- Research Associate, Ivey Business School