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Strategy in Context [Hardcover]

Neil Thomson , Charles Baden-Fuller


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Book Description

18 Jun 2010
Basic Strategy in Context centres on real–world firms and managers by giving each chapter’s cases a higher weighting in importance and explanation than is normal. Given this emphasis on real–world as opposed to theoretical treatment the book enables the solving of practical business problems like those below. This emphasis on reality is cemented by the book’s treatment of diversity as being the norm highlighted through European business cases from different countries. Giving example answers and links from case to theory rams home further the expected usefulness of the book to students about to enter industry. Often theory and cases are treated as different and separated topics; we believe that our integrated didactic treatment is quite unique. Finally we use the basic theories of strategy and then show how these mainly simple concepts can be extended to solve tricky business problems anywhere in any industry.

Here is a sample of specific practical problems to which this book can show solutions:

Why are resources important and how are they leveraged? Using the case of a British failure (Railtrack) we show the fatal consequences of neglecting existing resources, and then in a completely different country and industry (Carlo Gavazzi Space in Italy) how resources can be utilised from outside the firm to achieve leverage.

Given our emphasis on diversity we highlight successful change in a foreign and inflexible environment (Japan and Carlos Ghosn). But can change be planned? Sometimes events or luck sabotage the best intentions as shown in the Samsung case.

The book differentiates itself from the competition in four ways:

  1. Cases form the highlight of the book. Taking European and some international cases as the starting point, the objective is to link themes or topics to a description of their effect on the firm. The linkage will occur at the relevant point in the case, not in a separate section or in another book. The author team has used several longitudinal cases spread over a 15–20 year period. The longitudinal cases are supported by some new, non–longitudinal cases selected from award winning cases associated with the LRP Journal and the Gate2Growth Academic Network. We feel such an emphasis on cases is a novel feature.
  2. The theory is explained using a range of modern didactic methods not usually found in competitive offerings. Examples include colour coded and highlighted links from the theory to the case, questions inside each theory section with model answers and unanswered questions to test the student’s grasp of the concepts.
  3. The book features a mixture of cases from short specific to academically challenging ones. Too often, superficial cases are placed at the end of chapters in strategy theory books. They are picked to emphasize the topics of the preceding chapters. The result is spoon–feeding, with little need or motivation to provoke individual thought or learning. The cases in this book are comprehensive, approximately 20 pages in length, with ample quantitative and qualitative data, thus forcing a modicum of effort from the student.  Shorter cases are also included for ease of understanding and instructor flexibility.
  4. Another differentiating feature is the emphasis on diversity hence the use of European as opposed to US based cases.

"Thomson and Baden–Fuller have crafted a highly original and practical strategy textbook covering a wide range of strategic issues, debates, and frameworks. Their work contains a thorough overview of the strategy field, appealing cases of European firms such as Abrakebabra and Your cup of tea, as well as insightful treatises on the Brent Spar ignominy and the weapon industry. The clever combination of mini–cases, theory, questions and full–fledged cases, and a clear overall structure ensure that students obtain a representative image of strategy as it plays out in the 21st century."
Paul W.L. Vlaar, Associate Professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculty of Economics and Business Management


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From the Back Cover

The arrival of the standardized three year bachelor degree as the European undergraduate norm, the outcome of the Bologna Agreement, has widened the scope for textbooks which deal with European business issues. There is consequently a wider spread of demand, beyond the traditional Anglo–Saxon countries, for English language business and case books. The target market is therefore undergraduate students completing a course in strategic management or international strategic management. The undergraduate students will probably be in the final year of a bachelor in business degree in a European university.


This book is a standard strategic management text and case book, with the accent on the cases. The main themes of business strategy theory will be covered, but the objective is to link the themes or topics to a description of their effect on European firms, i.e. at the relevant point in the case. The book is very definitely about implementation and then tying the implementation into the theory.



First, the cases will be the star of the show, appearing at the beginning of each chapter; at the chapter opening there will be an illustration box on one page, with a mini case example that highlights the main theme of the chapter; this will be followed by some key learning points for the student before the main case is presented. The main case will then be presented with highlighted links to different themes throughout; the relevant theories and themes are then discussed in the theory section of the chapter. The chapter closes with a Summary, student assignment, and suggested reading.



In the Introduction to the book the authors explain how to use the book:

′We recommend that you start off each topic by reading the case first. The first reading should be thought of as an introduction to the topic. The case should be read without any attempt to form opinions, collect data or make notes. The cases are all interesting stories and so the first reading should be an armchair introduction to a ripping yarn, to paraphrase the Nike slogan: “just read it!” By starting the sequence in this way, the student obtains a gestalt of the case, which can be fleshed out later. We then recommend moving to the theory section of the chapter and working through the models and discussions, in your own individual way. There are colour coded links from the theory section back to the case. Here we recommend you, at that point follow back the link, and catch the connection to the current theory topic, returning back to the theory at the end of the linked case section. By the end of each theory chapter you will have been led through a series of theory to case connections. To test your acquired knowledge we suggest you now take each learning objective, both main and subsidiary, and see if you can find non–highlighted links between the objective and an example from the case. This is a difficult exercise and you may not be able to find additional links, do not despair, the attempt will have forced you to hone your analytical skills and helps digest the points covered.′


Finally, the cases will emphasize European relevance, so they will be about companies in Europe or European companies outside of Europe, encompassing international strategy issues as well as purely domestic ones.

About the Author

Although Prof. Neil Thomson has been Professor of International Business at the University of Applied Sciences, Nürnberg, Germany since 1999 and lived in Germany from the early 1980s, he is British by birth. He has a PhD from City University in London, MBA from Cornell University, USA, and a BSc from Bradford University, GB. He has extensive industrial experience in the oil industry and consulting, as well as a spell working for the US Government as a financial controller. He has several articles published in the LRP journal.

Prof. Charles Baden–Fuller is Centenary Professor of Strategic Management at the Cass Business School, City University London. He is Editor–in–Chief of the LRP journal and a member of the European Academy of Management EURAM. He is author of many influential journal articles and co–author of Rejuvenating the Mature Business and Strategic Innovation..


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