Associate Professor, Christine Beckman, studies new companies and what factors contribute to their success.
Christine Beckman Associate Professor Organization & Management PHD, Stanford University Chancellor's Fellow
My name is Christine Beckman, I'm at the Paul Merage School of Business. I've been here for 11 years. I'm interested in how organizations learn from the relationships and they have with other firms, and also how the individuals within firms learn from from their past experiences and past relationships. Decided to study this research topic because we don't know a lot about young companies, particularly about private companies. The data is very very hard to get. And so it was really really exciting to look at these 170 companies and look at all the people that had come and gone, all the executive ranks over time and it was a really unique data opportunity to be able to understand how these people influence the firm. I've studied the Silicon Valley companies and looked at how the people in those companies, where they come from, the experiences they have and how that shapes the way the company develops over time.
I became interested in Silicon Valley firms when I was working with a colleague Diane Burton who was in graduate school with me and is now at Cornell. So I just got off a conversation co-author Diane Burton who is at Cornell University. When I first started this project she was at Harvard and then she was at MIT and we've been able to keep tabs despite the different institutions at different times zones. We do a lot of communicating over Skype and handing off of projects. And as part of a larger project on Silicon Valley companies was just started collecting the career histories and the background information from about 1400 different executives that had worked in these companies over time. So I've always been interested how we're influenced by our past experiences, our past relationships and so this big study and Silicon Valley companies is a great opportunity to look at how the entrepreneurs are shaped by their past relationships and their past experiences. This particular set of papers came out of the Stanford project and emerging companies which is a pretty large scale project. It started with a 170 companies and we then decided to track all the top management, the vice presidents, the CEOs, people that had been involved in the company over time and so we started collecting career histories, which is actually rather difficult because these weren't public companies this wasn't data that was widely available so we had to look to the local papers that would track movements. You know the comings and goings of people. As the Internet became one more prevalent and available we could find people's ViDas and resumes online. Scouring the internet, scouring the newspapers in the area for information on all the executives that had joined these 170 companies over time. So when they had come, what position they came, when they left, so this was a pretty intensive data collection. We all know that it's good to have diverse people around you. That makes ideas more innovative , more exciting, that's certainly one of the things we found. But what's most surprising to us is answering the question how did these companies become diverse, how did they attract diverse people. It turns out that the way to do that is to start out with a diverse founding team. Only the companies that did that were really able to sort of be diverse over time. The most interesting thing we discovered in the study is the answer to how do get a diverse team and the answer is you have to start there, you have to start with a very diverse founding team from day one.
So one of the really interesting research findings was looking at the teams, how diverse they were, how similar they were, looking at how innovative the firm was or how quickly they were able to put products into place or make decisions and we found that the more diverse the team to start with more innovative their idea's were, the more able they were to change ideas and be flexible but teams that started much more similarly and had similar background they were actually to move more quickly. So there was advantages and disadvantages for that kinds of team makeup. One of the things we did was look at teams along two dimensions. On one dimension we had experience, the other dimension was the kinds of structures and roles and job titles they put in place, how ambiguous versus more general partners kinds of things. And what we found is the teams that had the most experience the most clear cut structures performed the best.
They got they got venture-capital more quickly, they went public more quickly, And the teams that had the struggle the most were actually had very clear structures and role responsibilities. It was clear who did, but they didn't have the right people in those positions. And those teams really struggled.
For entrepreneurs I would say think really hard about what jobs you really need when and don't create a job just to have it. Only really create a job when you really need to have someone in it, and then pick the right person. Pick someone with that relevant experience.
For people coming into a firm I would say don't just look at the people in in the firm at the moment, look at who was it, especially at young companies, right, who was it that created this job because the way that job was created by that initial person is going to shape your ability to be successful knowing how similar or different you are from that, that person that created the job in the first place.
The impact of this research is really in helping figure out what kinds of teams are gonna be likely to be successful over the long run, and we know the importance of experience, and having the right people in place. And our research certainly supports that but we also need to think about a building an organization, building a team really thinking about putting the right structures in place to allow those people to be successful.
So this research has been published in a wide variety of academic journals and including places Organization Science, American Sociological Review, Research and Sociology Organization, The Journal of Business Venturing, Academy of Management Journal. This work is really out there in a lot of different organizational journals.
Loading more stuff…
Hmm…it looks like things are taking a while to load. Try again?