The very quotable CK Prahalad

As I mentioned back in April, the fields of strategic management and international business research and teaching lost an important scholar with the death of C.K.Prahalad.

Management magazine Strategy+Business recently published an excellent interview with Prahalad compiled during conversations in 2009.

I typically try to add some value on this blog, but in this instance I’ll just share some of the fantastic insights the interview includes and urge you to read through it yourself in its entirety:

C.K.Prahalad on research:

“A lot of times, research tends to start with the methodology. I prefer to start with a problem that’s of interest and apply whatever methodology is appropriate.”

“To me, the problems of greatest interest are things that you cannot explain with the current prevailing theory.”

“We had to stay constantly focused on weak signals. Each weak signal was a contradictory phenomenon that was not happening across the board. You could very easily say, “Dismiss it, this is an outlier, so we don’t have to worry about it.” But the outliers and weak signals were the places to find a different way to think about the problem.”

“If you look historically at the strategy literature, starting with Alfred D. Chandler Jr.’s Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise [MIT Press, 1962], the most powerful ideas did not come out of multiple examples. They came out of single-industry studies and single case studies. Big impactful ideas are conceptual breakthroughs, not descriptions of common patterns. You can’t define the “next practice” with lots of examples. Because, by definition, it is not yet happening.”

On the nature of entrepreneurship:

“Having aspirations greater than your resources. That’s universal. Whether you’re Sam Walton or Narayana Murthy [founder of Infosys Technologies Ltd.], if your aspirations are not greater than your resources, you’re not an entrepreneur. For large companies to be entrepreneurial, they have to create aspirations greater than their resources. You can call it “strategy as stretch” or “strategic intent.””

On the lack of discipline (my term not his) in strategic management writing:

“Indeed, the biggest impediment in the growth and strategy literature is that, unlike in the financial literature, there are no standardized terms. There is no organizing thesis and principle.”

As I said, there’s a whole lot more there (especially some insights into the academic journey he took from India to Michigan).  Feel free to provide your favourites from his pearls of wisdom.

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