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Biography

Said Business School
Professor of Strategy

Thomas Powell is Professor of Strategy at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. His areas of expertise include competitive strategy, behavioural strategy, and executive decision making.

Thomas' research on competitive strategy examines the causes and consequences of sustained competitive advantage. His research shows how the dynamics of strategy innovation and imitation bring about the emergence and decline of firm-specific advantages. His highly-cited studies on organisation structure, total quality management, information technology, and formal strategic planning were among the first empirical studies of resource-based competitive advantage.

Thomas' work in behavioural strategy uses brain imaging and neuro-chemical methods to understand the micro-foundations of executive decision making. This experimental research, along with Thomas' 2011 review paper in Strategic Management Journal, have pioneered the emerging field of neurostrategy. Thomas' research in neurostrategy focuses on group decisions in large organisations, and how the brain functions when faced with decisions involving large resource commitments and multiple stakeholders.

Thomas also conducts research on firm performance and the philosophical foundations of strategy. His statistical research on performance shows that the degree of competitive dominance in business does not differ substantially from the dominance found in other competitive domains (games, sports, talent contests), and can be described by statistical laws and generating processes that involve a great deal of randomness. His work on the philosophy of strategy argues that the leading theories of competitive advantage are tautological and unfalsifiable, and yet have truth values that can be established probabilistically (by Bayesian analysis) and pragmatically (by consequences).

Thomas began his career in corporate finance and strategy consulting before earning his MPhil and PhD in Strategy and Economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has worked as strategy professor in the USA, Canada, Europe, and Australia, and is Fellow of Management Strategy at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. He is a member of the Strategic Management Society, Academy of Management and American Economic Association, and serves on the editorial boards of Strategic Management Journal and Strategic Organization.

Areas of expertise include:

  • Competitive strategy
  • Behavioural strategy
  • Neurostrategy
  • Strategic planning and strategy process
  • Statistical distributions of firm performance
  • The philosophy of strategy
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