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Focus on Business and Academical trajectories
Home/Research/Social and economic development

As an institute for higher education, SSM wants to contribute the leaders of tomorrow that further social and economic development in their regions. Therefore, we promote a research agenda in our doctoral program. On that agenda we have a few fields that are key aspects of social and economic development, namely: competitiveness, logistics management, high performance organizations (HPO), small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) an entrepreneurship & social and economic development.

Logistics Management

Infrastructure is claimed to be, if not the engine, the wheels of the economy (World Bank, 1994; Rodriguez, 2006). Many studies based on time series analysis, show high correlations between aggregate investments in infrastructure and economic growth. Comparative studies across countries, suggest that the same holds true for emerging economies. However, correlation is not the same as causality, and the results may very well be due to reversed causality – where higher levels of GDP lead to investments in infrastructure rather than the other way around. Empirical analysis on the growing economic disparities between rich and poor countries suggests that, indeed, a positive effect of infrastructure provision on economic growth and productivity; however, there is no indication that differences in infrastructure provisions have contributed substantially to increasing disparities (Rodriguez, 2006).

The logistics industry is important in enhancing the competitiveness of other industries (Serez & Abasiz, 2017). Serez and Abasiz, from their study on OECD-countries, conclude that railroad freight transportation has little impact on economic growth, in contrast to airline freight transportation, length of the highway and railroad networks. Telecommunications and communications variables like all contributed to the economic growth positively. Overall, they conclude that developments in the logistics industry in OECD countries were the dominant determinants of economic growth.

Kauschke et al (2010), in a scenario analysis of global trends predict that global supply chains will change dramatically, whereby trade volumes are expected to shift towards emerging economies. This implies that it is more important than ever for emerging economies to catch up with developed

High Performance Organizations (HPO)

Over the last decades we have seen the emergence of a multitude of high-performance models that allegedly can help organizations improve their performance. Many of these models have been developed by consultancy companies who tend to favor one-size-fits-all approaches; that is, it is suggested that one and the same model can be applied across industries and across borders. One such framework is the High-Performance Organization (HPO) model developed by De Waal (2012). The interesting aspect of this model is that the claim of universal applicability seems to be supported by academic research. The HPO-model identifies five factors (continuous improvement; openness & action orientation; management quality; employee quality; and long- term orientation) that jointly provide the holy grail of organizational performance.

A closer and critical look at the HPO-model reveals that the diagnostic framework of 35 items and the five factors aforementioned, has serious shortcomings (Goedegebuure, 2018). Even though the core of the model seems to apply to many types of organizations across industries and countries, it is argued that (i) the model is incomplete, and has to extended by adding situation-specific factors; and (ii) the diagnostic framework itself has methodological flaws. The model has been tested in just a few industries and a few nations. The challenge is to build a methodologically sound HPO-model that incorporates the idiosyncrasies of the country and the sector under study.

At Swiss School of Management, we are interested in this field of research. We have created multiple research tracks that we promote amongst our students. Those tracks are:

There’s a plethora of High-Performance Organizations frameworks. All of them suggest sets of factors, or dimensions, of what constitutes high-performance. The factors ideally represent the buttons that (managers of) organizations can press to improve performance.

The challenges are many. What is performance, how can we define it? Do all stakeholders in the organization have the same definition of performance, and if they have, do they assess organizational performance in the same manner? And if we have decided on a gross set of indicators, can we actually measure and improve performance?

In this track we challenge you to review high-performance approaches, and to apply them to one or more organizations. Typically, this will entail:

  • A critical review of literature;
  • Interviews with stakeholders in the organization;
  • Design a measurement instrument;
  • Collection and analysis of data using this instrument;
  • Conclusions on the validity of your model and the measurement instrument;
  • Recommendations to the organization(s) involved, and/or organizations in general.

While most HPO frameworks suggest a one-size-fits-all, undifferentiated approach to understanding organizational performance, organizations differ in terms of mission, history, ownership, type of industry, size and location. In this track, candidates are challenged to adapt general, relevant HPO frameworks to industries (sectors) of their choice. Examples of (sub)sectors are:

  • Manufacturing companies
  • IT-companies
  • NGOs
  • -Banks
  • (Parts of) government.

It is conceivable that certain dimensions of high-performance need to be added, adapted, or specified in accordance with whatever is most crucial and/or typical in understanding sectoral performance.

It is observed that organizations operating within supply chains, tend to strive for suboptimal performance, due to lack of information or asymmetric information between the links in the chain. Two or more organizations in supply chains can improve their individual performance and the performance of the supply chain, by sharing information. However, this puts more emphasis on interfirm trust, and goal congruence. Differences in organizational cultures may hamper effective collaboration through partnerships.

In this track, students are challenged to see beyond the organizational boundaries, and apply high-performance thinking to (parts of) supply chains that organizations are operating in. Research in this track can be linked to our research on blockchain organizing.

For-profit organizations can wonder how HPO-thinking could be of benefit to them, as financial profits and growth are generally considered sound indicators of success and performance – at least in the short run. One argument in favor of HPO-thinking is that it’s aimed at long-term performance, and is broader than financial performance. In addition, having hard indicators on (financial) performance, is different from understanding which buttons to press in order to improve performance. Another argument would be that, while profits are a hard, unambiguous indicator of financial performance, different stakeholders may have different views of what they perceive as high- performance. In addition, financial profits tend to be influenced by incidental factors (luck; the state of the economy; and so on), and a poor reflection of long-term viability of the organization. For all of these reasons, it is relevant to link HPO-factors to performance as perceived by the stakeholders of the

organization. In this track, candidates are challenged to think of ways to measure perceived (or subjective) performance, as opposed to hard financial performance.

As an additional track, and on a more general level, candidates can apply stakeholder analysis, in both quantitative and qualitative designs. This is especially relevant for large, complex organizations that have an impact on many groups of stakeholders with potentially conflicting interests.

While most HPO frameworks and approaches, for good reasons, assume that performance is indicated by multiple factors, it is often more practical and equally relevant to zoom in on specific dimensions. For example, while some HPO-frameworks use long-term orientation as one of several dimensions, and measure it through a small set of items in, for example, a survey, it would be relevant to zoom in on this very aspect in relative isolation, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of adopting a long-term orientation on (long-term, high) performance. It is conceivable that various stakeholders disagree most on this dimension, with implications for relations between (short-term, profit-oriented) managers and employees who value career development and job security; or shareholders looking at return on investment, versus stakeholders focusing on long-term environmental impacts. This track can be linked to stakeholder analysis. Apart from long-term orientation, any other HPO-dimensions discussed in literature can be used. We mention:

  • Organizational culture
  • Leadership
  • Continuous innovation
  • (Internal) communication
  • Market orientation

Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship

The role of SMEs and entrepreneurship changed innovation in the 21st century.

An important shift has occurred from the “managed” to the “entrepreneurial” economy, associated with a fall in the importance of economies of scale in production, management, finance and R&D. It is characterised by a series of trends encompassing the emergence of the knowledge economy, open innovation, global connections, non-technological innovation, the “Silicon Valley Business Model” and social entrepreneurship and social innovation. SMEs and new business ventures are important players in this new environment. They have a key role in processes of creative destruction, knowledge exploitation, breakthrough and incremental innovation, and interactive learning. Ensuring they reach their full potential requires a new innovation policy approach that facilitates entrepreneurship and SME innovation. Priorities include inserting new and small firms in knowledge transfer networks, strengthening entrepreneurship skills, and improving institutional environments for social entrepreneurship

The creation of new business ventures and innovation in existing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are critical parts of today’s innovation process, and should take a central place in government strategies to promote innovation. Despite their importance, however, SME and entrepreneurship support is not yet fully embedded in innovation policy, and the requirements for effective policies in this area are still not well enough understood.

New firms and innovating SMEs are best seen as agents of change in the economy, introducing new products and services and more efficient ways of working. They underpin the adaptation of our economies and societies to new challenges and drive economic development.

Not all new and small firms are equal in innovation, of course. On one hand, there is a small group of highly innovative and high-growth-potential firms with important individual impacts on jobs and productivity. But their numbers from the Entrepreneurship Indicators Project should not be exaggerated. They make up only a small minority of all SMEs. OECD figures for eleven OECD countries suggest for example that “high-growth enterprises” account for between only 2 and 8 per cent of all enterprises with 10 or more employees, while “gazelles” account for less than 1 per cent of such enterprises. They nonetheless generate large impacts. Anyadike-Danes et al. (2009) calculate, for example, that the six per cent of UK businesses with the highest growth rates generated half of the new jobs created by existing businesses between 2002 and 2008.

Innovation is a source of the growth of these types of firms (Mason et al., 2009).2 The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey in 53 countries suggests that only 6.5% of new entrepreneurs are “highexpectation entrepreneurs”, who expected to create 20 or more jobs in five years time. Almost 90% of all expected new jobs were foreseen by less than one-quarter of nascent and new entrepreneurs (Autio, 2007). On the other hand, there is the vast majority of SMEs that innovate very little compared to large firms and are associated with only modest growth or decline.

Social and economic development

Economic development increases individual resources, reducing dependency on the extended family or group. This gives people opportunities and means to make choices enabling them to pursue autonomy and take personal responsibility. From a societal point of view, economic development makes it desirable to cultivate individual uniqueness and responsibility. Societies require diverse skills, knowledge, interests, and innovativeness to cope successfully with the various tasks, new challenges, and speed of change that go with development. Hence, economic development fosters cultural autonomy and egalitarianism and curbs embeddedness and hierarchy. However, culture also influences development. Cultures that persist in emphasizing embeddedness and hierarchy stifle the individual initiative and creativity needed to develop economically. Numerous theorists explicate likely reciprocal relations between culture and development (e.g. Triandis, 1995; Inglehart, 1997; Hofstede, 2001; Welzel et al., 2003).

At Swiss School of Management, we are interested in this field of research. We have created multiple research tracks that we promote amongst our students. Those tracks are:

[The tracks are still in review].

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