OBA Reunion Weekend 2016 - Dr. Marc Ventresca – Leading for Innovation and the Long Now


Said Business School
Associate Professor of Strategic Management

Dr Marc Ventresca is an economic sociologist in the Strategy, Innovation and Marketing Faculty at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and a Governing Body Fellow of Wolfson College. His areas of expertise include market and network formation, entrepreneurship, governance, and innovation and technology strategy.

His research and teaching focus on the formation of markets and networks in business and social settings. Specifically, he researches how markets are built and the actors who build them. He is also an expert in the areas of governance, innovation and technology and how they interact with markets and networks.

Trained in sociology and political philosophy, Marc takes a novel approach to researching how markets and networks are formed over time. While many finance colleagues treat market formation as an exit strategy for entrepreneurs who want to realise value from their ventures, Marc sees markets as political and cultural institutions. He uses strategy, sociology, economic theory and organisational theory to understand markets’ existence and underpinnings.

“I don’t assume that markets self organise for a functional reason. In some cases, market formation is a political process, or one driven by emulation,” he says. “If one country initiates a successful stock exchange, another country may create a stock exchange to emulate that success, for parity of national ‘status’, or because of provisions by global intermediaries like the IFC. This sociological perspective to markets also takes symbolism and signalling into account.”

Marc is involved with a number of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives within Oxford. He is academic director for the ‘Science Innovation Plus’ initiative, which is a partnership between Saïd Business School and the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences. This partnership engages sciences doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows with the MBA innovation and entrepreneurial activities. He has supported the School’s annual ‘Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford’ event over the years and frequently participates in the ‘Inspiring Women in Leadership and Learning’ (iwill) initiative. He is founding convenor of the research seminar series ‘Strategies, Institutions and Practices at Saïd’. Marc also acts as an advisor to several technology and social innovation start-ups founded by recent Oxford alumni.

Beyond Oxford, Marc works on various journal editorial boards; he hosts executive education seminars and lectures; he serves as an external assessor at universities around the world and he is a core faculty member for the Goldman Sachs ‘10,000 Women Entrepreneurs’ initiative in the Oxford partnerships with Zhejiang University (Hangzhou China) and with SWUFE (Chengdu China). This programme aims to provide business and management education to women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets.

Marc has held research affiliations at the Oxford Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, the Global Public Policy Academic Group at the Naval Postgraduate School, the Center for Organizational Research at the University of California, the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and the Stanford Center for Innovation and Communication.

Marc earned his BA in political science/political philosophy and two MAs in education policy and sociology, then earned his Ph.D in political and organizational sociology, all from Stanford.  He served on the faculty at the Kellogg School of Management and Department of Sociology at Northwestern University for many years before joining Oxford in 2004. He has been a visiting faculty member at the Copenhagen Business School, the University of California at Irvine, the University of Illinois, Stanford University’s School of Engineering (Center for Work, Technology and Organizations) and the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, among others.

Areas of expertise include:

  • Innovation strategy
  • Organisation theory
  • Knowledge and information-intensive industries (ie: higher education, financial services, and media
  • Economic sociology of strategy
  • Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • Market-building and entrepreneurship
  • Social innovation (crowdfunding)
  • Research methods (archival analysis, event history analysis, comparative research)

Marc’s main research focuses on market formation, network formation, and the diffusion of governance innovation. He works both independently and collaboratively with colleagues at the University of Oxford and around the world.

Market and Network Formation:

Marc’s primary research centres on how markets are built and develop over time, using a theory basis and evidence from various practical, real-life cases and sectors. He has studied the creation of markets and networks in diverse areas: from the ecosystem services in Amazon Peru, to the trading floors in New York, to the markets in Bangladesh. He uses strategy, economic sociology, organisational theory and comparative analysis to advance how we understand the dynamics of markets and innovation. “There is much ferment in established technologies and nascent markets.  I believe in exploring new ideas and methods to widen the range of understanding around innovation and market creation,” he says.

“Many arguments propose that markets form through some ‘natural’ process or where needed. That is simply not consistent with most evidence of actual markets,” says Marc.  “Markets are built by purposeful actors around systems of meaning and using legacy conventions, and my research looks to rethink some policy myths about market formation. I focus on comparative research across sectors in order to step outside the conventional wisdom about how and why new financial markets form. Comparison helps us see beyond our initial assumptions.”

Diffusion of Governance Innovation:

In addition to examining the formation of markets, Marc also studies how governance structures alter and change over time, and how new forms of governance can spread to different organisations and networks.

For example, Marc has done extensive research into the changing business models of global financial markets. In the past, exchange-traded stock markets often started out as nationally-focused, independent players but they are now increasingly becoming trading conglomerates through processes of global mergers, acquisitions, and alliances. Marc is interested in how these institutional innovations in governance occur and how they impact the increasingly globalised financial market industry. He explores the various factors that affect governance innovation, such as laws, history, nationalism and industrial change.

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