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The Future of Business: New Research Addresses Pressing Questions

05 Mar 2018


LBS’s Julian Birkinshaw to lead project on how institutional innovation emerges



201802  People  Julian Birkinshaw 

Julian Birkinshaw, London Business School’s Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Academic Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is to lead a new project addressing, ‘How institutional innovation transpires, what the drivers of and obstacles to the process are, and thus where the biggest opportunities for further institutional innovation might be’.

The study is part of a broader investigation initiated by The British Academy, which has commissioned thirteen new research projects to explore the future of business and its role in society.

The research falls under the British Academy’s Future of the Corporation Programme, a three-year programme which aims to develop an evidence base to inform how we think about business in the 21st century and how we can build trust between business and society.

From improving trust to modernising corporate law, regulation and taxation, the projects span the humanities and social sciences and are led by collaborative teams of academics in the UK and around the world. Addressing key issues facing the world of business in the 21st century, each team will produce a landscape review of the challenges in each area, and approaches to address them.

The research projects commissioned address ten themes, ranging from ‘Trust’, ‘Corporate Purpose’ and ‘Corporate Governance’, to ‘Technological Change’, under which Professor Birkinshaw’s investigation into institutional innovation sits.

Professor Birkinshaw’s study will seek to understand how the ‘rules’ of capitalism – such things as anti-trust regulations, labour law, intellectual property regimes, and accounting standards – are evolving to meet the challenges of the digital age.

“The fastest growing companies in the world today are digital-first, they are built on a logic of increasing returns to scale, and their value is based largely on intangible assets. In other words, they are fundamentally different to the large manufacturing and infrastructure firms that were dominant in the industrial era,” says Professor Birkinshaw.

“The central question we want to address is how do the rules of capitalism adapt to this shift from an industrial-age to a digital-age business world? We know they tend to evolve slowly and tend to change only in response to some sort of challenge or shock, and often with many years lag.

“These questions matter enormously because many of the current problems in the business world, such as excessively powerful digital firms; short-term behaviour in stock market listed firms and a lack of clarity over data privacy are the result of rules and regulations that are not fit-for-purpose.”