Nicolaj Siggelkow

Nicolaj Siggelkow
  • David M. Knott Professor
  • Professor of Management
  • Co-Director of the Mack Institute for Innovation Management
  • Vice Dean, MBA Program

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    3201 SH-DH
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research Interests: competitive strategy, evolution of fit, firms as systems of interconnected choices

Links: CV, Personal Website, Creating and Implementing Strategy for Competitive Advantage, Effective Execution of Organizational Strategy, Mack Institute for Innovation Management


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.


Mack Institute for Innovation Management

Creating and Implementing Strategy for Competitive Advantage

Effective Execution of Organizational Strategy

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  • 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.

  • Vikas Aggarwal, Nicolaj Siggelkow, Harbir Singh (2011), Corporate Development Choices and Interdependence: Strategic Tradeoffs and Performance Implications, Strategic Management Journal, 32: 705-730.


All Courses

  • HCIN6012 - Connected Health Care

    Connected strategies have the potential to radically transform health care business models. By designing connected relationships and architectures, and developing digital and analog networks, we may be able to improve quality of care while also making efficient use of resources. These strategies can enhance existing organizations and can also foster disruptive innovation. In the first 4 weeks of the course, we will practice using the conceptual and practical components of connected strategies, including: • Building connected customer relationships • Designing connection architectures • Understanding new revenue models • And creating the infrastructure of connection In the final 2 weeks, you will methodically apply what you have learned to design a connected strategy for your organization or service, and you will come away with a body of work you will be able to build upon in future endeavors. After completing this course, you will be able to: 1. Identify points along the customer or patient journey that are good candidates for innovation. 2. Customize connected relationships to anticipate and seamlessly meet customer needs. 3. Discern financial opportunities offered by the implementation of connected strategies. 4. Select technological solutions that facilitate the implementation of connected relationships. 5. Create comprehensive connected strategies that are applicable in health care settings.

  • MGMT6130 - Manag Estab Enterprise

  • MGMT7010 - Strat & Compet Advantage

    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.

  • MGMT7230 - Strat & Environ Sustainability

    Environmental sustainability issues are one of the defining problems of our time. While governments and NGOs will have to play important roles, without active involvement of businesses it will be impossible to make sufficient progress on these issues. Globalization and Digitization have been two major disruptive developments that organizations have faced (and are still facing). ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) issues are the latest large-scale development that will shape companies’ futures. This course will focus on the “E” of ESG. As with any large change, environmental sustainability poses significant business challenges but also tremendous opportunities. We will study these issues both from the perspective of incumbent firms that have to adapt their business practices and from firms (incumbents and new start-ups) that will take advantage of the new opportunities that are being created.

  • MGMT7820 - Strategic Implementation

    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.

  • MGMT7990 - Special Topics MGMT

    Courses offered of various topics and points of focus, ranging across multiple concentrations of Management, (i.e., Entrepreneurial, Strategy, Organizational Business, etc.).

  • MGMT8910 - Advanced Study-Smgt

  • MGMT8970 - Global Modular Course A

    Special course arranged for Wharton MBA students, focused on global business, management and innovation.

Awards and Honors

  • Wharton Teaching Excellence Award, 2020
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Wharton Executive MBA Program, West Coast, 2015
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Wharton, MBA Program, 2015
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Wharton, MBA Program, 2014
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Wharton Executive MBA Program, West Coast, 2014
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, Wharton Executive MBA Program, East Coast, 2014
  • Core Curriculum Teaching Award, Wharton, 2013
  • Fellow of the Strategic Management Society, 2013
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, 2012
  • Student-elected Faculty Marshal, 2011
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, 2010
  • Helen Kardon Moss Anvil Teaching Award, 2010
  • Student-elected Faculty Marshal, 2010
  • Administrative Science Quarterly Scholarly Contribution Award for the most significant paper published in ASQ five years earlier, 2008
  • Class of 1984 Award (presented to the faculty member with the highest teaching rating in the MBA classroom), 2006
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, 2006-2007
  • Excellence in Teaching Undergraduates Award, 2005
  • The (inaugural) Wharton Graduate Association Student Choice Award (for commitment to teaching excellence), 2005
  • Class of 1984 Award (presented to the faculty member with the highest teaching rating in the MBA classroom), 2004
  • The Wharton Award (awarded by MBA students to “the professor who has contributed the most to students’ experience at Wharton”), 2004
  • Student-elected Faculty Marshal, 2004-2008
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, 2003-2004
  • Excellence in Teaching Undergraduates Award, 2003
  • Excellence in Teaching Award, 1999-2000


Latest Research

Nicolaj Siggelkow and Christian Terwiesch (2019), Five Questions to Consider When Pricing Smart Products, Harvard Business Review.
All Research

Wharton Magazine

Data: Superstitious Investors, Mindfulness at Work, and More
Wharton Magazine - 04/17/2020

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