Robin Gustafsson: “Soft power strategies in ambiguous firm environments”


Aalto University School of Business
Department Vice-Head for Research, Associate Professor of Strategic Management

Robin Gustafsson's research focuses on corporate and business strategy formulation and strategizing in industry shifts. This includes research on narrative strategies in nascent industries and markets, platform strategy, and strategy and organization of open research, innovation, and platforms. In his research he takes a longitudinal empirical approach (both historical and real-time) for investigating strategic action, organizing, and strategic reasoning in industry wide shifts. Robin teaches advanced courses in strategy, platform strategy and design, and technology and innovation strategy at the Masters, doctoral, and MBA level.

Currently he is engaged in research with his team and research partners on:

  • Narrative strategies in new markets and industry shifts (Tekes funded 2012-2015) A real time research project (2012-2015) on narrative strategizing in the emergent electric vehicle and charging operarator market in Finland and US (California).
  • Strategy and organizing of pioneering in changing industry settings and new markets Historical empirical study on (A) strategy and organization in demutualization of stock exchange(s) (Helsinki and Stockholm), (B) deregulation of telecom sector(s) in Finland and Sweden and the strategizing of two monopolists (A & B funded by Wallenberg foundation, Konsumentverket, Helander foundation, Academy of Finland); and (C) a study on the pioneering strategizing in the biofuels field (Europe) (2004-2015)
  • Development of digital history methods for studying strategy and organization in industry change We are developing methods and tools to work with large set of digitized archival material which are combined into a relational database through incident and relational coding. We call this method an integrative digital history approach. This work is done in the digital history consortia (DIGIHIST) with Swedish and Finnish researchers and thorugh the working with stock exchange and telecom sector archival data. In this research we develop cutting edge advanced digital history methods and approaches with relational databases for studying more rigorously strategy and organization processes that can account for firm environment effects.

  • Organization and managmenet of open innovation and open (industry led) research A longitudinal research (2006-2014) on the the formation,governance, and organizing of Finnsh strategic centers for Science, Technology and Innovation (SHOKs), with focus on CLEEN and FIMECC

  • Strategy and organzinig during digital disruption of industries (Academy of Finland funded 2015-2020) Empirical and inductive theory driven research on the institutional foundations of digital disruption of industries. Specific focus on both past cases (sub-project 2 and 3) and a real time study of midium size and large machinery firms digital (platform) strategzing and organization (longitudinal study 2016-2020).

Robins research has been published in top tier journals, such as Academy of Management Journal, International Journal of Management Reviews, Research Policy, Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, and Organization Studies. His research provides input to corporate and firm strategizing and organization in industry wide change, open digital platform strategzing and design, governance of open research and innovation communities, and innovation and industry policy. More about my reserach: See the articles on this page, and this interview presenting faculty of Aalto University.


  • Advanced Strategic Management (TU-E1010)
  • Doctoral Seminar in Strategy (TU-L1000)

Supervision of Doctoral Students

Current Doctoral Students 1st supervisor: Eero Aalto, Zeerim Cheung, Aino-Nina Saarikoski, and Derek Selin 2nd supervisor: Timo Ahopelto

Supervised Doctoral Student Kimmo Karhu (graduated 1/2017), Thesis: Managing Competitive and Cooperative Strategizing in Open PLatform Ecosystems using Boundary Resources Christopher Rowell (graduated 8/2017), Thesis: Signaling and Shaping Legitimacy - Weaving webs of meaning in time and new markets

Supervision of Master Thesis

Exemplary Master Theses I have supervised which can be found electronically (alt. summaries of them):

  • Jim Hiltunen Business Model for Commercial Operations of a Single Engine Aircraft in Europe (2017)
  • Jane Seppälä The Role of Trust in Understanding the Effects of Blockchain on Business Models (2016)
  • Marko Sommarberg, Industrial Value Drivers from Internet of Things (2016)
  • Martti Heikkilä, Entrepreneurial narrative strategies in nascent markets (2015) (Aalto School of Science best Master Thesis prize 2015)
  • Marina Timmermanns, Patent analysis as an input to strategy: case of electric vehicle industry (2014)
  • Lauri Turtiainen, Catalysts for Organizational Change: Demutualization of Helsinki Stock Exchange (2014)
  • Katja Jokinen, Global Sales Channel Strategies of Technology Intensive Startups (2012)
  • Sari Makkonen, Organizing and Identifying for Value Innovation in B2B (2012)
  • Chris Rowell, Optimistic Bias in Temporal Prediction at a MNC: The Case of Internal Development Projects at KONE Corporation (2011)


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford University, Management Science and Engineereing, 2012-2013
  • Acting Professor and CEMS Academic Director, Aalto University School of Business, 2011-2012
  • Head of the International Business Discipline, Aalto University School of Economics, 2011
  • Senior lecturer, Helsinki University of Technology, 2007-2010
  • Visting Scholar, Scancor, Stanford University, 2006-2007
  • Teaching assistant, HEC Lausanne, University of Lausanne, 2004-2006
  • Senior Technology Advisor, Tekes, 1999-2004

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