Getting a PhD in Strategy and Innovation is quite rewarding, however, it does have its complications. What I am going to write here is why you might consider getting a PhD in Strategy and Innovation (its not at all what you think it is), and what are the problems and complications you are going to find with a PhD that no one is likely to tell you about.

What Else Can You Call A PhD in Strategy and Innovation?

What you call a PhD in Strategy and Innovation can vary a lot depending on the university that you attend. However, there are tremendous overlap in the material that you will cover in a:
  1. PhD in Strategic Management, specializing in Innovation.
  2. PhD in Innovation.
  3. PhD in Innovation and Technology Management
  4. PhD In Innovation Management, or New Product Development
  5. PhD In General Management, Marketing, and among others.
  6. PhD in Business Strategy
  7. Doctorate in Strategy
  8. DBA (Harvard University only) In Strategy or Technology and Operations Management.
What is important with the PhD is not the name of the PhD, but rather the material that you read and understand, and the researchers that you meet during the program.

Why Should You Get A PhD In Strategy And Innovation?

What are the advantages of getting a PhD in Strategy and Innovation? The key reason why you might get a PhD in Strategy and Innovation is to get an academic understanding of how businesses work. In particular, when you get a PhD in Strategy and Innovation you are likely to try to get a focused understanding of how companies produce technologies, and as well as how technologies impact the value produced and is appropriated by companies. You might learn about any particular technology, such as machine learning, trains, or automobiles. You are unlikely to learn all of the specifics of the technology, but more likely to focus on why and how the technology is produced. This is not inclusive, but it does cover the majority of what people will study in this area. By the way, the vast majority of the work we do in academia is write papers, and you can look at this post if you want to know how to write a research paper.

Why is a PhD in Strategy and Innovation extremely interesting?

For me, the most interesting part of getting a PhD in Strategy and Innovation is that you get to study, at the 10,000 foot high prospective, why companies actually innovate, or why they might spend money on research and development (R&D). You also study things like company culture, or the impact of R&D on the economy. Actually, there are infinite number of combinations to study. My favorite work takes basic theoretical ideas and models them to explain complex patterns in technology or innovation. Many of the questions and answers that you find when you start digging into this are counterintuitive. If you are curious, you will love this about a PhD.

How Is a PhD in Strategy and Innovation different than a PhD in Engineering or the Natural Sciences?

When I was first thinking about doing a PhD, I had the choice to do a PhD in business or in engineering. I really did not know the difference. Now, I know a bit more. Of course, this is one person’s opinion, and I don’t have a PhD in Engineering, so I don’t have a counterfactual. Yet, I did do an engineering undergrad and a Master’s of Applied Science in Engineering. A PhD from a Business Administration program to study technology and innovation is a bit different than actually studying the technology from an engineering or natural sciences perspective. In a natural sciences perspective, you will learn to either build, make, or use the technology. In contrast, in a PhD from a Business Administration, you will learn to understand why or how people build, make, or use the technology, and how the technology impacts what they do. Notice, that the technology and innovation is a central factor in both of these studies, but it is how and what you study about the technology is different. Another really fun thing with a PhD in Strategy and Innovation is that you also get to study technology and innovation from a broad perspective. This is much different than using a engineering or natural sciences perspective which focuses on a key aspect of the technology. Probably, the closest people that study what you study in a business school would be focus that study systems design, human factors, critical safety designs, or industrial engineering. In contrast, you are much more of a social scientist when you do a PhD in Strategy and Innovation.

What Are The Careers You Can Have With A PhD In Strategy And Innovation?

Ok, this is where I had no clue when I first started my PhD. Almost all people that get a PhD in Strategy and Innovation end up being a Professor of some sort. What do I mean by this? People will end up as a research professor, a professor that teaches primarily, or a professor that does administration (like a Dean). There are differences, and all are equally valuable. The key differentiator is whether you have a preference to do research over the long-run, or whether you like to take on leadership roles in a university.

Going into Industry?

When I started the program, I thought that this would open up doors in consulting or senior management. Boy, I really did not do my research there. 🙂 And, secretly, I am quite happy having an academic career as a professor. The pay is not as good as industry, but I get to work on some really neat ideas. Every semester, students really surprise you too. The more I learn about this career, the more interesting it gets. While it is possible to go into consulting careers and the like, and people do go into industry, it is just not common and you are likely going to find the academic career more interesting. Moreover, you are likely to find it far more cost effective to do an MBA if you were to do this route. Although, I have heard in some countries (Germany, I believe), that it is more accepted practice to go into industry with a PhD. If you are thinking about going into industry, than you probably should read this post about doing a PhD to become a Business Executive where I put some good recommendations for your degree choice.

A Side Note On Academia.

It is generally not easy to find an academic position. It is becoming more common for PhDs of all areas to get non-academic careers. Further, post-doc positions in the organizational sciences for your first job is also becoming more accepted. Even just 10-20 years ago, this would have been very uncommon, but now it is almost becoming a norm. This means that after 4-7 years of a PhD degree, many people will continue and do 1-2 more years for a Post-doc (I did). Why I am I pointing this out? I think it is important for you to have full information before you think about a PhD in any field. It is a large commitment that you should take seriously, and you should be aware that getting an academic job is challenging, and is not likely to change in the near future.

Where Might You Find a Program With a Doctorate in Strategy and Innovation?

Talk to Your Professors.

Most programs that focus on innovation, technology, and strategic management are not going to be called a PhD in Strategy and Innovation. There are many PhD programs that are not called strategy and innovation, and yet people will actually study strategy and innovation in many areas. Many of the people that study the organizational sciences also do so out of research institutions, Departments of Sociology, Departments of Economics, and in some Engineering Schools. If you want to study creativity, you might have to go to a Psychology Department. I would first suggest that you go in talk to the faculty where you did your MBA or undergrad and ask them where the best possible place that you should go. Of course, this should be someone that you trust. They likely have good information. You should also ask people that are research active, as institutions that are ‘hot’ academically can be very different today as they were 10 years ago.

Business Administration Rankings.

You can also look at the rankings of the Colleges of Businesses or Business Schools around the world. I am not as big of a fan with such rankings as some others, as these numbers exclude many amazing scholars. There are many programs that have world class faculty that are not in the top places on this list. You also have to think strategically and find the place that best suits your needs.

A Tip To Select A PhD in Strategy And Innovation.

I am a big proponent of active search in the journals. Look at any of the major journals in the field (American Journal of Sociology, American Economic Review, Organization Science, Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journals, Strategic Management Journal, and much more) and find an article that you find interesting from the past year. If you find some interesting study, see if you could improve on the study somehow and send the authors an email about how you loved their study and what you can do to build on the study. While this does not guarantee anything, it does start you on your way to building a relationship with a scholar you might finding interesting.

What About Online Doctoral Programs In Strategy?

Most major business schools and universities will not offer online programs. That is a good thing – you need to be close to your professors to do research. As well, there is a bunch of research that discusses that geographic proximity is important for knowledge transfer, like between Professors and their students. That being said, some people will still want to think about an online program for a PhD in business. If you are not thinking of becoming an academic, you could consider it. Would I personally recommend that you spend the time and resources on that degree (unless it is from a very legit university), no, but it is your choice. You can watch a YouTube video on the topic here: And another one here:

What About The PhD Application Process?

If you notice with this how to post about how to get a PhD In Strategy And Innovation, I actually ignore the application process. Most people, including me when I was younger, begin with the stage as place to start. I am actually wanting you to go a bit more deeper and think about doing a PhD in Strategy and Innovation in a deeper way. You should ask yourself if this is truly something you want to do? And, if it is, you should really try to look into finding people that you might find interesting to work with. This is a big move for most people and you should take it seriously. Yes, you should study for a long time for the GMAT, and write a nice application, but you should be focused on what you want to do and where you want to go with your PhD. I have some great posts to help you on the PhD application process. You really need to read them. These are all just tidbits and life lessons that I learned along the way:
  1. The advantages and disadvantages of a PhD or DBA in Business Administration.
  2. What is a better and easier standardized test? The GRE or GMAT?
  3. How to become a business school professor.
  4. Tips for applying to PhD Programs.
  5. Tips for meeting with your PhD advisor.
  6. Tips for writing your statement of purpose for a PhD program.
  7. Tips for your PhD interviews.

The R3ciprocity Project

If you are interested in learning more, you can watch this video below. I hope you find it helpful. By the way, this is part of my r3ciprocity project, where I trying to building a proofreading software that helps others, particularly graduate students. The goal is to not only solve a problem that we all have (anxiety over our writing), but also use this platform to advance organization science, through perhaps, giving scholarships to those that are interested in it some day based on the profits of the platform. Crazy idea, I know, but I like crazy. 😉  

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How Are PhD Students Evaluated? (A Guide On Assessing The Performance Of Grad Students)
How Do You Get Feedback On Your Writing (During A PhD / In Grad School)?
How Many Hours Do Professors Work In A Week?

David Maslach

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