One of my most favorite courses in the first year as a doctoral student was the Foundations of Strategy and Organizations. Created and taught by Professor Gabriel Szulanski, this course was an introduction to over a century of research in management, economics and sociology. Its aim was to give a solid foundation and provide a context necessary to fully understand the immense body of research that followed. Every week we were required to read five to seven books, summarize them, and create a small mental map that captured the key concepts and showed how they relate to each other. This mapping of ideas was one of the most useful exercises I did in my first year.
At the end of the course, Professor Szulanski asked a fellow student Afonso Almeida Costa and me to undertake a novel and ambitious project. We were to interview Wharton’s Professor Sidney Winter for the Foundations Series at the Strategic Management Society Annual Meeting in Miami, FL. Long story short, we went through over eighty books and articles written by Professor Winter and his co-authors, as well as other significant manuscripts that were either inspired by or inspired Professor Winter’s work. At the end of the project, which involved having many long conversations with Professor Winter, we came up with a literature map, where we captured the key ideas. We used that map as a guide for the interview.
You will notice that the map is somewhat outdated – a snapshot from year 2011. Professor Winter has since published many new articles and the citation numbers increased (some dramatically). But I think that it is still a good guide to the profound ideas of Professor Winter and his numerous co-authors. The Foundations Series that we inaugurated has since become very successful, with students interviewing such great scholars as Robert Grant (2012), James March (2013), Linda Argote (2013), Michael Tushman (2014), and Daniel Levinthal (2015).