MSI News

MSI Envites you to a Research Seminar on: The Dangers of Deep Knowledge: New Ventures in the U.S. Solar Industry on 12 October 2011 from 15.30-16.45

10 October 2011

Date, Time, Venue

12 October 2011, Wednesday 15.30-16.45

University College London

1st floor Exec-Ed room, 

Engineering Front Building
("Malet place" in Google maps)


This paper addresses the tension between a knowledge-based view and a cognitive view of firms, asking the question whether deep knowledge stocks are always beneficial for technology ventures or whether cognitively flexible processes may be more important for new venture development. We test this tension by examining the effects of CEO and top management team expertise on the likelihood of firms making competence-enhancing or destroying technology change among the population of U.S. solar photovoltaic manufacturing ventures between 1992 and 2007. We find that although expert teams make competence-enhancing changes, other types of teams also make such changes. Furthermore, expert teams are very unlikely to make competence-destroying changes suggesting that, overall, expert teams are relatively inertial and tend toward incremental adjustments during the innovation process. By contrast, complementary teams are particularly likely to make mixed changes (mix of competence-enhancing/destroying elements). However, when it comes to making competence-destroying change, teams led by outsiders, particularly non-domain CEOs, appear to engage in a much more flexible decision process that increases the likelihood of making competence-destroying changes. Ultimately, we suggest a richer view of knowledge that moves beyond knowledge stocks to the knowledge processes that affect the development of innovation.


Nathan Furr earned his Ph.D. from the Stanford Technology Ventures Program at Stanford University and is currently an assistant professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Brigham Young University. Nathan’s research focuses on the intersection of entrepreneurship, cognition and change in dynamic and technology markets. Nathan has co-authored papers on the process by which firms develop innovative business models, the determinants of success for firms changing industries, and the impact of organizational learning on international entry. His research has appeared in journals such as Organization Science, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Sloan Management Review and has received awards including Best Dissertation from both the Technology & Innovation Management Division and the Entrepreneurship Division of the Academy of Management as well as best paper awards or finalist distinctions from the Business and Public Policy Division of the Academy, the Kauffman Foundation, the Sloan Foundation and other recognized academic institutions. Professionally, Nathan has acted as the founder or advisor to startups in the web 2.0, clean technology, professional services, retail and financial services industries as well as sitting on the investment board of the Kickstart Seed Fund, an innovative early-stage venture fund. Nathan also worked as a consultant at Monitor Group, a premiere international strategy consulting firm, working with senior executives on a range of strategic and market discovery initiatives. Currently Nathan is an expert contributor at Forbes where he writes about changing the way we practice entrepreneurship and is the co-author of a book espousing this new approach called /Nail It then Scale It/. In addition to his doctoral studies, Nathan has a BA, MA, and an MBA.