Ian MacMillan

Ian MacMillan
  • The Dhirubhai Ambani Emeritus Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3031 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: entrepreneurship, new venture management, organizational competence, strategic management



DBA, University of South Africa, 1975; MBA (cum laude), University of South Africa, 1972; BS, University of Witwatersrand, 1963


Merck, Microsoft, Air Products, Citibank, Greenwich Pharmaceuticals, Chubb and Sons, NYSE, Dupont, General Electric, GTE, IBM, Metropolitan Life, American Re-Insurance, Panasonic (Japan), Olympus (Japan), L.G. Group (Korea), Texas Instruments, KPMG, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Fluor Daniel; Workout initiative, GE, 1989-92

Academic Positions Held

Wharton: 1986-present (named Dhirubhai Ambani Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 2005; named Fred R. Sullivan Professor, 1999-2005; Director, Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center, 1986-present; Director, Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program, 1998-2003; George W. Taylor Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies, 1986-99; Academic Director, Advanced Management Program, 1988-89). Previous appointments: New York University; Columbia University; University of South Africa. Visiting appointment: Northwestern University

Other Positions

Chief Chemical Engineer, Consolidated Oil Products, Republic of South Africa, 1965-70; Scientist, Atomic Energy Board, Government Metallurgical Labs, Republic of South Africa, 1963-64

Professional Leadership

Academy of Management Fellows, 1997-present; Editorial Board, Strategic Management Journal, 1980-present; Editorial Board, Human Resource Management, Long Range Planning

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  • Ian MacMillan and R. G. McGrath (2005), Marketbusting: Strategies For Exceptional Business Growth, Harvard Business Review, 80-92.

    Abstract: If company leaders were granted a single wish, it would surely be for a reliable way to create new growth businesses. Business practitioners' overwhelming interest in this subject prompted the authors to conduct a three-year study of organizational growth -- specifically, to find out which growth strategies were most successful. They discovered, somewhat to their surprise, that even companies in mature industries found rich new sources of growth when they reconfigured their unit of business (what they bill customers for) or their key metrics (how they measure success). In this article, the authors outline these and other moves companies can make to redefine their profit drivers and realize low-risk growth. They offer plenty of real world examples. For instance: Changing Your Unit of Business. Once a conventional printing house, Madden Communications not only prints promotional materials for customers but also manages the distribution and installation of those materials on-site. Its revenues grew from $10 million in 1990 to $133 million in 2004, in an industry that many had come to regard as hopelessly mature. Improving Your Key Metrics--Particularly Productivity. Lamons Casket, with $80 million in revenues, built a Web site that radically improved its customers' ability to find, order, and pay for goods. The firm's market share rose along with its customer retention rate. The authors also suggest ways to identify your unit of business and associated key metrics and recognize the obstacles to changing them; review the key customer segments you serve; assess the need for new capabilities and the potential for internal resistance to change; and communicate to internal and external constituencies the changes you wish to make in your unit of business or key metrics.

  • Ian MacMillan and M. Boisot (2004), Crossing Epistemological Boundaries: Managerial and Entrepreneurial Approaches to Knowledge Management, Long Range Planning, 37(6): 505-524. 10.1016/j.lrp.2004.09.002

    Abstract: It is possible to identify two distinct yet complementary epistemological paths to knowledge development. The first one is holistic and field dependent, and builds on the concept of plausibility, and we associate this path with an entrepreneurial mindset. The second is object-oriented and builds on the concept of probability; this path can be associated with the managerial mindset. We believe that both managerial and knowledge management practices have emphasized the second path at the expense of the first. To restore the balance, knowledge management needs to develop processes and tools – associated with scenarios and real options – that will allow it to operate credibly in possible and plausible worlds, so as to extract value from them. We propose a systems framework for thinking through the nature of such tools.

  • Ian MacMillan and A. B. van Putten (2004), Making Real Options Really Work, Harvard Business Review, 134-141.

    Abstract: As a way to value growth opportunities, real options have had a difficult time catching on with managers. Many CFOs believe the method ensures the overvaluation of risky projects. This concern is legitimate, but abandoning real options as a valuation model isn't the solution. Companies that rely solely on discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis underestimate the value of their projects and may fail to invest enough in uncertain but highly promising opportunities. CFOs need not--and should not--choose one approach over the other. Far from being a replacement for DCF analysis, real options are an essential complement, and a project's total value should encompass both. DCF captures a base estimate of value; real options take into account the potential for big gains. This is not to say that there aren't problems with real options. As currently applied, they focus almost exclusively on the risks associated with revenues, ignoring the risks associated with a project's costs. It's also true that option valuations almost always ignore assets that an initial investment in a subsequently abandoned project will often leave the company. In this article, the authors present a simple formula for combining DCF and option valuations that addresses these two problems. Using an integrated approach, managers will, in the long run, select better projects than their more timid competitors while keeping risk under control. Thus, they will outperform their rivals in both the product and the capital markets. INSETS: Where the Value Comes From;The Trouble with Financial Option Tools.

  • Ian MacMillan and R. G. McGrath (2004), Nine Integrated Roles of Technology Development Managers, Research-Technology Management, 47(3): 6-26.

    Abstract: Success in technology development depends increasingly on speed to profitable commercialization. This calls for a new type of technology development management. As projects move from opportunity creation through market entry through commercial takeoff the technology manager needs to perform nine integrative roles at three distinct levels: the venture level, where the business-building is taking place; the championing level, where resources are secured in the internal competition for staff and funds; and the heat-shielding level, where the issues of project legitimacy are resolved. The nine roles range from creating options to keeping venture teams focused.


All Courses

  • MGMT2120 - Social Entrepreneurship

    This is a course on creating a business to attack a social problem and thereby accomplish both social impact and financial sustainability. For this course, social entrepreneurship is defined as entrepreneurship used to profitably confront social problems. This definition therefore views social entrepreneurship as a distinct alternative to public sector initiatives. The basic thesis is that many social problems, if looked at through an entrepreneurial lens, create opportunity for someone to launch a venture that generates profits by alleviating that social problem. This sets in motion a virtuous cycle - the entrepreneur is incented to generate more profits and in so doing, the more the profits made, the more the problem is alleviated. Even if it is not possible to eventually create a profit-making enterprise, the process of striving to do so can lead to a resource-lean not-for-profit entity. Creating a profitable social entrepreneurship venture is by no means a simple challenge. Cross-listed with MGMT 812.

  • MGMT8020 - Innov, Chg and Ent

    Designed for students with a serious interest in entrepreneurship, this course will provide you with an advanced theoretical foundation and a set of practical tools for the management of startups and entrepreneurial teams in fast-changing and innovative environments. Building on the skills of MGMT 801, every class session is built around an experience where you have to put learning into practice, including the award-winning Looking Glass entrepreneurial simulation, role-playing exercises, and a variety of other games and simulations. The goal is to constantly challenge you to deal with entrepreneurial or innovative experiences, as you learn to navigate complex and changing environments on the fly, applying what you learned to a variety of scenarios. MGMT 802 is built to be challenging and will require a desire to deal with ambiguous and shifting circumstances. It is recommended students take MGMT 801 before enrolling in this course. Format: Lectures, discussion, interim reports, class participation, readings report, and presentations, and an innovation assessment in PowerPoint format.

  • MGMT8930 - Advanced Study-Emgt


Latest Research

Ian MacMillan and R. G. McGrath (2005), Marketbusting: Strategies For Exceptional Business Growth, Harvard Business Review, 80-92.
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