From Cal Rugby to Blackberry, New California Management Review Case Studies Offer Strategy and Leadership Lessons

How has the Cal rugby coach led a championship team and saved it from the chopping block? How have tech firms like Blackberry maker Research in Motion managed their technology patents?

The just-published summer 2011 issue of California Management Review (CMR) answers these important, though disparate questions in an article on technology strategy by Haas Professor David Teece and an article on leadership by Haas Senior Lecturer Holly Schroth.

An article co-authored by Teece, the Thomas W. Tusher professor in global business, focuses on ways in which companies that create complicated products can successfully deal with technological and intellectual property complexity. His co-authors are Deepak Somaya, PhD 02, of the University of Illinois and Simon Wakeman, PhD 07, of the European School of Management and Technology in Berlin.

The authors use case studies of four tech companies producing very different products–Blackberry developer Research In Motion, molecular diagnostics firm Epigenomics, semiconductor processor designer ARM, and memory product designer and manufacturer Kentron Technologies–to demonstrate the effectiveness and challenges of various organizational models and patent strategies.

Teece and his co-authors explain that when commercializing innovation, tech companies must choose between two basic organizational models: integrated or non-integrated. In the integrated model, companies control as many of the technologies and assets as they can in-house. In the non-integrated model–sometimes known as open innovation, a term popularized by Haas Adjunct Professor Henry Chesbrough, PhD 97–companies create market relationships with other entities by licensing their technology or selling components. As a result, products are composed of elements from a variety of sources.

Because tech companies are facing an increasing number of IP challenges, they must develop a patent strategy early on, aligning it with their businesses objectives and tailoring it to the type of organization model they have chosen, Teece advises. This will help alleviate problems that can arise when electronic devices involve hundreds of patentable elements from multiple sources of invention.

In another CMR piece titled “It’s not about Winning: It’s About Getting Better,” Schroth in the Haas Management of Organizations Group examines the organizational management style of legendary Cal Rugby coach Jack Clark. Rugby, Berkeley’s oldest intercollegiate sport (since 1882), has produced teams that have won 25 of the last 31 national collegiate championships.

After playing football for Berkeley, Clark joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian football league and played on the U.S. National Rugby Team, but injuries brought his athletic career to an end. He entered the business world with a job at Xerox and later became vice president of the Real Estate Investment Banking Group of Grubb and Ellis and the national sales manager for equipment leasing company CIS, before founding Pegasus Capital, an airline leasing company. Since his days at Xerox, he’d been coaching Cal rugby. When he sold Pegasus in 1991, he asked to be a full-time coach and has been with the team ever since.

Schroth explains how Clark carefully chooses his team members, making sure they realize the demands of the sport and the difficulty of Berkeley’s academic environment. He interviews players with their parents to get a sense of their character from how they interact with each other. Once at Berkeley, players can pack their egos away. With Clark it’s all about the team, and leadership is a shared responsibility. Everyone should be a leader, which to him means helping others become better, and Clark creates a culture where leadership is encouraged. He is concerned with character, as well as athletic development, and meets with each player individually to help them improve their game.

In spite of the team’s success, a decision was made last September to cut four intercollegiate sports and declassify rugby from a varsity to a club sport. After an outcry from alumni and others, the university in January said the sports might be saved if $25 million could be raised. During the next month, Clark spent 40 hours or more per week making calls to rugby alumni to raise money. And it worked: On Feb. 11, UC officials announced that rugby and two other sports would be reinstated for the next academic year–another management win for Coach Jack Clark.

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