Research Interests: competitive strategy, evolution of fit, firms as systems of interconnected choices
Nicolaj Siggelkow is the David M. Knott Professor at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He is a Co-Director of the Mack Institute for Innovation Management at Wharton. He studied Economics at Stanford University and earned an M.A. in Economics from Harvard University. He received a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University and the Harvard Business School. Professor Siggelkow has been the recipient of multiple MBA and Undergraduate Excellence in Teaching Awards, including the Class of 1984 Award presented to the faculty member with the highest teaching rating in the MBA classroom, the Helen Kardon Moss Anvil Teaching Award, the Wharton Award, and the Wharton Graduate Association Student Choice Award. His research has been published in the leading management journals, including Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Industrial Economics, Management Science, Organization Science, and Strategic Organization. In 2008, he received the Administrative Science Quarterly Scholarly Contribution Award for the most significant paper published in ASQ five years earlier. Nicolaj is a member of the Editorial Review Boards of Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal, Strategic Organization, and Academy of Management Perspectives.
His current research focuses on the strategic and organizational implications of interactions among a firm’s choices of activities and resources. In particular, his research has focused on three broad questions: How do firms develop, grow and adjust their set of activities over time? How does organizational design affect a firm’s ability to find high-performing sets of activities? What role do interactions among a firm’s activities play in creating and sustaining competitive advantage? To address these questions, he has employed a range of methodological approaches, including in-depth field studies of individual firms, econometric methods for large-scale data sets, formal modeling, and simulation models.
Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch (2019), Five Questions to Consider When Pricing Smart Products, Harvard Business Review.
Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch, Connected Strategy (Harvard Business Review Press, 2019)
Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch (2019), The Age of Continuous Connection, Harvard Business Review.
Dirk Martignoni, Anoop Menon, Nicolaj Siggelkow (Working), The Power of (Initially) Simple Mental Models.
Abstract: Using a simulation model, we explore how agents may use experience for first order (updating their beliefs) and second order learning (updating their representation or mental model). We demonstrate how second order learning may allow agents with simpler mental models to outperform agents with more complex and accurate mental models. This beneficial effect of simplicity becomes amplified under conditions of high complexity. These findings have important implications for our understanding of cognitive complexity and simple rules.
Ashish Arora, Michelle Gittelman, John Lynch, Will Mitchell, Nicolaj Siggelkow (2016), Question-Based Innovations in Strategy Research, Strategic Management Journal, 37, pp. 3-9.
Dirk Martignoni, Anoop Menon, Nicolaj Siggelkow (2016), Consequences of Misspecified Mental Models: Contrasting Effects and the Role of Cognitive Fit, Strategic Management Journal, 37 (13), pp. 2545-2568.
Abstract: Mental models, reflecting interdependencies among managerial choice variables, are not always correctly specified. Mental models can be underspecified, missing interdependencies, or overspecified, containing non-existent interdependencies. Using a simulation model, we find that under- and overspecification have opposite effects on exploration, and thereby performance. The effects are also opposite depending on whether a manager controls all choice variables. The mechanism underlying our results is a feedback loop: misspecificed mental models influence managerial learning about the effectiveness of choices; this learning guides how the environment is explored, which in turn affects which information will be generated for future learning. We explore implications of these results for strategic management and introduce the notion of “cognitive fit” between the mental model of the decision maker and the strategic environment.
Phebo Wibbens and Nicolaj Siggelkow (Under Revision), Introducing LIVA to measure long-term firm performance.
Abstract: In this paper we introduce lifetime (or long-term) investor value appropriation (LIVA) to measure firm performance, defined as the ex post value of discounted cash flows over a firm’s lifetime. Unlike other commonly used measures of firm performance, such as return on assets, Tobin’s q, economic profit, or total shareholder return, LIVA captures long-term returns vis-à-vis the cost of capital, profitable growth, as well as the size of the economic impact in a single metric. Moreover, we show that LIVA can be equivalently operationalized using cash flow data, accounting profits, or shareholder return data. Finally, two exploratory empirical studies illustrate how LIVA can be operationalized and provide new strategic insights beyond currently used measures.
Description: For this paper, we make available a database with the LIVA by year for all publicly listed US firms from 1980 to 2015, based on the CRSP database. It is in CSV format, which can be opened in R, Stata, Excel, etc. The LIVA is calculated in billion (000,000,000) US dollars, and is indexed by the CRSP identifiers permno and permco. For any given company, its LIVA can be calculated by adding the annual LIVA in the database over all years in the time period of interest. The LIVA in each year has been calculated using monthly total shareholder return and market capitalization data, using the market return as the cost of equity [see equation (2) in the AoM Best Paper proceedings version of the paper]. Please refer to the paper for further details on calculating and interpreting LIVA. A short version of the paper has been published in the AoM Best Paper proceedings 2017, and a full version is available from the authors. Please cite the paper when using these data, and reach out to the authors for any questions. The database can be downloaded under Related.
Nicolaj Siggelkow and Phebo Wibbens (Draft), A Ladder of Competitive Advantage.
Abstract: Competitive advantage, a central construct in the strategy field, has been defined in two distinct ways in the contemporary literature: based on superior performance, or based on superior value creation. These two definitions are, however, neither necessary nor sufficient for each other. Instead of trying to find a universal, single definition of competitive advantage, we propose the notion of a ladder of competitive advantage that describes three different kinds of advantages that differ in terms of scope and time horizon: at the single-transaction level, at the business unit-year level, and at the firm-lifetime level. The ladder can help resolve existing confusions in the literature, as well as provide a deeper insight in how managers can create and appropriate long-term value.
Oliver Baumann and Nicolaj Siggelkow (2013), Dealing with Complexity: Integrated vs. Chunky Search Processes, Organization Science, 24, pp. 116-132.
Abstract: Organizations are frequently faced with high levels of complexity. While the importance of search for dealing with complex systems is widely acknowledged, how organizations should structure their search processes remains rather unexplored. This paper starts to address a basic question: how much of the entire system, and thus complexity, should be taken into consideration at any given time of a search process? Should a problem solver pursue an integrated search and be concerned with the whole system right from the start, or should a problem solver incrementally expand the “search domain” – the subset of system elements and interdependencies that are included in the search efforts, and if yes, how “chunky” should these steps be? Our analysis of a simulation model yields four insights: (1) expanding the search domain in smaller steps can yield a distinct advantage in final system performance; (2) following a completely incremental expansion pattern is not necessary as long as larger chunks are added early on in the process; (3) the value of chunky search is particular high if highly influential system elements are considered first, while highly dependent elements are added later; (4) under time pressure, chunky search can lose its performance advantage over more integrated search processes. We discuss the implications of our findings for managing organizational search and complex systems, more broadly.
The Senior Capstone Project is required for all BAS degree students, in lieu of the senior design course. The Capstone Project provides an opportunity for the student to apply the theoretical ideas and tools learned from other courses. The project is usually applied, rather than theoretical, exercise, and should focus on a real world problem related to the career goals of the student. The one-semester project may be completed in either the fall or sprong term of the senior year, and must be done under the supervision of a sponsoring faculty member. To register for this course, the student must submit a detailed proposal, signed by the supervising professor, and the student's faculty advisor, to the Office of Academic Programs two weeks prior to the start of the term.
Technology has allowed firms to fundamentally change how they connect with their customers. Rather than having occasional, episodic interactions--where customers realize they have an unmet need and then look for ways to fill it--firms are striving to be continuously connected to their customers, providing services and products as the needs arise, even before customers become aware of them. There is probably no other industry for which this development will be as transformative as in health care delivery. Wearable devices, smart pill bottles, and digestible sensors--all of these technologies, and many more, are associated with the promise of improving the quality of care while also making efficient use of resources. This course explores the impact of connected strategies in general, and in particular the opportunities associated with them in health care delivery.
This course encourages students to analyze the problems of managing the total enterprise in the domestic and international setting. The focus is on the competitive strategy of the firm, examining issues central to its long- and short-term competitive position. Students act in the roles of key decision-makers or their advisors and solve problems related to the development or maintenance of the competitive advantage of the firm in a given market. The first module of the course develops an understanding of key strategic frameworks using theoretical readings and case-based discussions. Students will learn concepts and tools for analyzing the competitive environment, strategic position and firm-specific capabilities in order to understand the sources of a firm's competitive advantage. In addition, students will address corporate strategy issues such as the economic logic and administrative challenges associated with diversification choices about horizontal and vertical integration. The second module will be conducted as a multi-session, computer-based simulation in which students will have the opportunity to apply the concepts and tools from module 1 to make strategic decisions. The goal of the course is for students to develop an analytical tool kit for understanding strategic issues and to enrich their appreciation for the thought processes essential to incisive strategic analysis. This course offers students the opportunity to develop a general management perspective by combining their knowledge of specific functional areas with an appreciation for the requirements posed by the need to integrate all functions into a coherent whole. Students will develop skills in structuring and solving complex business problems. In addition to prerequisites, enrollment is limited to seniors and juniors that have completed introductory courses in finance, marketing, and accounting.
This course is about managing large enterprises that face the strategic challenge of being the incumbent in the market and the organizational challenge of needing to balance the forces of inertia and change. The firms of interest in this course tend to operate in a wide range of markets and segments, frequently on a global basis, and need to constantly deploy their resources to fend off challenges from new entrants and technologies that threaten their established positions. The class is organized around three distinct but related topics that managers of established firms must consider: strategy, human and social capital, and global strategy.
FAP is an experiential-based course where learning is done outside of the classroom. It is unique in its lack of a classroom setting all meetings take place in a professor's office in small teams of 4 to 6 students. Teams are faced withreal-time issues of outside organizations and work with faculty and host managers to construct innovative solutions. Solutions are integrative and cross-functional in nature. We encourage creative thinking giving students wide access towhat we call "area of expertise" faculty. Depending on the project scope we help students arrange meetings with professors who are experts in their field. Host organizations range from large multinational firms to start-ups. A significant percentage of the projects are with non-profits and organizations focused on social causes. Format: Teams (4-6 members) meet with faculty on a weekly basis (30-45 minutes). There are also 3-5 meetings with host managers. In addition to meeting with aFaculty Head, students are given access to "area of expertise" faculty. These faculty members are chosen based on their specific expertise. The final deliverable consists of an oral presentation and a written document. Requirements: Weekly team meetings with faculty project head and a final PowerPoint report and presentation.
This course is concerned with strategy issues at the business unit level. Its focus is on the question of how firms can create and sustain a competitive advantage. A central part of the course deals with concepts that have been developed around the notions of complementarities and fit. Other topics covered in the course include the creation of competitive advantage through commitment, competitor analysis, different organizational responses to environmental changes, modularity, and increasing returns. An important feature of the course is a term-length project in which groups of students work on firm analyses that require the application of the course concepts.
Much more is known about strategy formulation than its implementation, yet valid, sensible strategies often fail because of problems on the implementation side. This course provides you with tools to turn good strategy into successful reality. It covers the choices, structure, and conditions that enable the successful attainment of strategic objectives. Students learn from rigorous academic research on successful implementation, as well as a series of seasoned business leaders who will visit to share their own experience from the front lines.
Most executives care about creating long-term shareholder value but haven’t had the right tool to track it. A new performance measure introduced by Wharton’s Nicolaj Siggelkow and INSEAD’s Phebo Wibbens aims to change that.Knowledge @ Wharton - 12/6/2019
Wharton EMBA students start the program with an intensive one-week Orientation where they meet their classmates and dive into classes. They also meet Strategy Prof. Nicolaj Siggelkow, who leads learning teams through a Social Identity Session to learn about each other’s backgrounds and form the foundation for teamwork. We asked…Read MoreWharton Stories - 11/05/2020