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Roberto de La Vega

DBA Graduate - 2017

Thesis title

The Relationship Between Top Manager Skills, Corporate Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Outcomes


Pamela Sharkey Scott-Externe

After 20 years of professional and executive experience in the investment banking and venture capital industries, Dr. De la Vega decided to pursue his doctoral degree at GEM. Prior to joining GEM, he received a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, a master’s degree in finance, and an MBA. Before becoming a full-time academic and joining Universidad Javeriana (Bogota, Colombia) as associate dean for Graduate Business Programs in 2013, he worked in eight different countries around the world.

Purpose This thesis investigates the performance consequences of adopting different entrepreneurial strategies and the impact top managers’ cognitive and social skills have on their successful adoption. Design/Methodology/Approach This thesis explores how top managers’ skills influence a firm’s capacity for Entrepreneurial Orientation adoption and argues that both Entrepreneurial Alertness, closely related to opportunity recognition, and Political Skill, the social competence to lead, manage, and motivate other members of an organization, are critical. . This thesis also looks at the non-financial outcomes of Entrepreneurial Orientation adoption, such as launching more innovative products and implementing more creative strategies, and examines how the different mechanisms used to implement firm-level entrepreneurship affect the complex relationship between entrepreneurship and firm performance. This quantitative research relies on a self-administered web-based questionnaire, answered by 560 top managers from 510 medium-sized companies in Bogotá, Colombia. The questionnaire was built using well-established scales, checked for validity and reliability, pretested to assess comprehension and face validity, and back-translated from English into Spanish. Findings This thesis finds in isolation, Entrepreneurial Alertness partially explains the difference in firm-level Entrepreneurial Orientation, and it also demonstrates that Political Skill not only facilitates achieving a better entrepreneurial posture but also is more important than the top managers’ abilities to recognize opportunities. It also indicates that the relationship between entrepreneurship and firm performance is more complex than previously considered because given the constraints related to managers´ attention, entrepreneurial firms that adopt rule-breaking strategies perform better than those engaged in a sustained product innovation strategy. The findings also show that although Entrepreneurial Alertness is an antecedent to a firm’s capacity to innovate, it is necessary but not sufficient because top managers must be able to lead, convince, and motivate other members of the organization to adopt an entrepreneurial posture. Research limitations/implications This cross-sectional research’s limitation is its reliance on single respondents who were asked to provide their perceptions on the different variables explored, which raises the possibility of both single-respondent and common-method biases. Practical implications This thesis’s proposes practical implications for not only identifying valuable characteristics that should be considered when recruiting top managers but also directing scarce resources and management attention towards maximizing the benefits of firm-level entrepreneurship. Originality/value Unlike most research on Entrepreneurial Orientation that focuses on its relationship with company performance and undermines the importance of top managers’ characteristics, this research centers on top managers’ valuable contribution to an organization’s success. Key Words Entrepreneurial Alertness, Political Skill, Entrepreneurial Orientation, Strategy Creativity, Product Innovativeness