Category Archives: Journal Reviews

Writing a Great Article Review

We’re teaching a class on blockchain and cryptocurrencies this semester, and since the field is so new and changing rapidly, we’ve asked our students to make finding and reviewing articles part of their learning practice this semester. This is a particularly challenging topic for this task because there’s so much hype, marketing, and fluff around these topics. We want to slice through that, and improve the signal-to-noise for people new to learning about blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Here are some tips I just prepared for our students — they may be helpful to anyone writing article reviews, especially for technology-related areas.


0 – Type of Source. Reviews or articles from from arXiv, Google Scholar were strong; reviews from Coindesk, CNN were weak; reviews from WSJ and Hacker Noon went both ways. Here are two submissions that were publishable with only minor edits:

1 – Spelling & Grammar. Most of you are college seniors, and the few who aren’t… are juniors. Please use complete sentences that make sense, with words that are spelled correctly! If this is hard for you, remember that every one of you has spell check. One way to remember this is to draft your posts in Word, and then perform spell check before you copy and paste what you wrote into WordPress.

1 – Your job is to create the TL;DR. What’s the essential substance of the source you’re reviewing? What are the main lessons or findings? If you were taking notes for an exam, what elements would you capture? (Using this perspective, commentary about how good or bad you think the article was, or what it didn’t cover well, would not help you on an exam.)

2 – Choose solid source material — primary sources, e.g. research papers, if possible. If the article is less than ~400-500 words, it’s probably not detailed enough to write a 250-300 word summary/analysis. Your job in this class is to break down complex topics & help people understand them. If your article is short and already very easy to understand, there’s nothing for you to do.

3 – Avoid “weasel words” (phrases or sentences that sound like marketing or clickbait but actually say nothing) and words/sentences that sound like you’re writing a Yelp or Amazon review rather than a critical academic review. Here are a couple weaselly examples drawn from this week’s draft posts (see if you can spot what’s wrong):

  • It is clear how beneficial blockchain can be to smaller businesses.
  • Blockchain has the potential to change the world.
  • Each other the topics covered in the article deserve their own piece and could be augmented upon greatly.
  • There is a degree of uncertainty that comes with an emerging technology.
  • Blockchain can bring them into the 21st century to compete with larger corporations.
  • Many people are scared of the changes, and governments will seek to regulate it.

4 – Answer the “so what” question. Why is this topic interesting or compelling?

5 – Choose information-rich tags. For example, in our class, don’t include blockchain as a tag… pretty much everything we do will be related to blockchain, and everyone will tend to use it, so there won’t be much information contained in the tag.

Writing about Business Model Innovation: Where Do You Start?

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Innovation is what happens when we create new value by meeting needs. Sometimes, this comes in the form of a new process, product, or program. Other times, it comes in the form of reconfiguring the whole ecosystem for creating and sharing that value — also known as “business model innovation.”

A business model is a conceptual tool containing a set of objects, concepts and their relationships with the objective to express the business logic of a specific firm. Therefore we must consider which concepts and relationships allow a simplified description and representation of what value is provided to customers, how this is done and with which financial consequences. — Osterwalder, Pigneur, & Tucci (2005)

But if you’re an academic (or part of the BIF community), where do you find research on business model innovation, and where should you publish research and insights about business model innovation? I have a paper that’s in preparation, and I need to know where I should send it (mostly, just to know how many words I should have before I stop writing). So I went on a little journey to help figure this out, which also yielded a recommendation for three authors that you really should read if you’re publishing in this area.

Step 1: Read Zott, Amit & Massa (2011) – which provides a contemporary literature review of research on business models.

Step 2: Decide whether you’d like to publish in a traditional journal that covers business models and business model innovation, but is not solely dedicated to that pursuit. As its source material, the Zott article drew from 9 academic journals and 3 practitioner journals that meet this criterion. You can start your process by exploring business model research in these journals:

Academic Journals:

Practitioner-oriented journals:

Step 3: Consider journals that are new and/or primarily focused on business model innovation. Here are 3 that I found, with information about their publication and the publishing process. Enjoy exploring.

1. Journal of Business Models
http://journals.aau.dk/index.php/JOBM
Author guidelines at http://journals.aau.dk/index.php/JOBM/about/submissions#authorGuidelines
Sample Issue at: http://journals.aau.dk/index.php/JOBM/issue/view/106
PAGE CHARGES: Yes, but amount not specified

OPEN ACCESS POLICY/Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)
Audience: Academics and Consultants
Scope: International
Format: 5000-8000 words, MS Word
References: Harvard style (examples in author guidelines)
Accepts: Research paper, viewpoint, technical paper, conceptual paper, case study, lit review, review

The array of perspectives presented above lead to the identification of 10 key theme areas for which the
Journal of Business Models intends to have a special focus:

1. Business Model Design: designing, rejuvenating, innovating and facilitating
2. Implementing business models: the execution process
3. Commercialization and exploitation of ideas through business models: challenging entrepreneurial processes
4. Seeking the true benefits of a globalised world: how internationalization of activities affects business
models
5. Business model archetypes and key components: integrating building blocks and typologies
6. The strategic partnerships of business models: Roles and relationships within and among business models
7. Business models and high-tech ventures
8. The performance of business models: Dilemmas and paradoxes of performance measurement consequences
9. Defining what business models are about: The epistemological and conceptual roots of business models and
their differences with strategy, strategic management, organisation and business planning
10. Tools and techniques

“Soon we are opening a new section on book reviews. If you are interested in making a book review please send
an e-mail to Christian Nielsen (chn@business.aau.dk). The first review is of Osterwalder and Pigneur’s new
book “Value Proposition Design” which will be published soon.”

2. Long Range Planning (an International Journal of Strategic Management)
http://www.journals.elsevier.com/long-range-planning/
Author guidelines at: http://www.elsevier.com/journals/long-range-planning/0024-6301/guide-for-authors
Sample articles at: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/long-range-planning/open-access-articles/
PAGE CHARGES: Yes, $1800 USD, if you want your article to be open access.

OPEN ACCESS OPTION
Audience: Academics
Scope: International
Format: MS Word, length not specified
References: examples in author guidelines
Accepts: Research paper, technical paper

“The areas of work published by LRP include, among others: corporate strategy and governance, business strategy and new business models, international dimensions of strategy, strategies for emerging markets, entrepreneurship, innovation, organizational structure and design, corporate social responsibility, management of technology, methods for strategy research, and business processes.”

3. Open Journal of Business Model Innovation
http://www.scipublish.com/journals/BMI/
Auhor Guidelines at
Sample Article at: http://www.scipublish.com/journals/BMI/papers/1250 (can download PDF)
PAGE CHARGES: YES, but only after 3/31/05

OPEN ACCESS POLICY/IP sharing license not cited
Audience: Academics and Practitioners
Scope: International
Format: MS Word, “approximately 10 pages” with Cover Letter
References: examples in sample article
Accepts: Research papers, issue analysis, rigorous new insights that will advance the field

The Open Journal of Business Model Innovation is a peer-reviewed journal published by Scientific Online
Publishing. It presents current academic research and practical findings in field of business model
innovation. Topics appropriate and related to business model innovation include the role of business models
within corporations, the process and instruments for business model innovation, business models within
several industries, social business models and business models in emerging markets. Topics also include the
quantitative and qualitative evaluation of business models. The journal addresses issues as: What are the
drivers for business model innovation? How companies innovate their business model? How do companies evaluate
existing and new business models? How do companies integrate business models in their corporation? How do
companies manage multiple business models? Disciplinary boundaries that straddle business model innovation
include strategic management, entrepreneurship, innovation management and others.

Quality Metrics for Policy Evaluation?

The Center for Environmental Journalism (CEJ) recently posted an interview with Roger Pielke, Jr., an authority on (as CEJ calls it) “the nexus of science and technology in decision making”. The interview seeks to provide a perspective on how journalists can more accurately address climate change in the context of public policy over the next several years.

I was really intrigued by this part:

Reporters could help clarify understandings by asking climate scientists: “What behavior of the climate system over the next 5-10 years would cause you to question the IPCC consensus?” This would give people some metrics against which to evaluate future behavior as it evolves.

Similarly, you could ask partisans in the political debate “What science would cause you to change your political position on the issue?” This would allow people to judge how much dependence partisans put on science and what science would change their views. I would be surprised if many people would give a concrete answer to this!!

For the first question, Pielke is recommending is that we take an approach conceptually resembling statistical process control to help us figure out how to evaluate the magnitude and potential impacts of climate change. (Could we actually apply such techniques? It would be an interesting research question. Makes me think of studies like Khoo & Ariffin (2006), for example, who propose one method based on Shewhart x-bar charts to detect process shifts with a higher level of sensitivity – only tuned for a particular policy problem.) For the second question, I’m reminded of “willingness to pay” or “willingness to recommend” or other related marketing metrics. I’m sure that one of these established approaches could be extended to the policy domain (if it hasn’t been done already).

What Obama and McCain can learn from Michael Porter

On September 26, in the first Presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, the candidates discussed the perceived success or failure of the war in Iraq. McCain vigorously promoted his feeling that the troop surge was a success, while Obama focused on the rationale behind invading in the first place – claiming that the tactics may be working, but the bigger picture, the strategy – was misplaced. McCain launched back with a criticism: “I’m afraid Senator Obama doesn’t understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy.”

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu, Chinese General, 500 B.C.

Pundits have questioned whether either of the candidates really knows the difference between strategy and tactics, despite some evidence to the contrary. In politics, the distinction between strategy and tactics is compounded by the fact that the military defines strategy in a very specific context where the concepts of policy and strategy can easily be entangled.

But politics aside… do you know the difference? And do you know why you should care?

The answer lies in a 1996 article in Harvard Business Review by Michael Porter entitled “What is Strategy?” – one of the classic articles in management. He argues that there is a fundamental difference between strategy, which involves striking a contrast between yourself and your competitors, and operational effectiveness, which means “performing similar activities better than rivals perform them.” All of the pillars of managing quality and productivity fall into this latter category, which explains why executives have, according to Porter, struggled to translate those operational improvements into sustainable profitability.

“Improving operational effectiveness is a necessary part of management, but it is not strategy… The operational agenda is the proper place for constant change, flexibility, and relentless efforts to achieve best practice. In contrast, the strategic agenda is the right place for defining a unique position, making clear trade-offs, and tightening fit… strategic continuity, in fact, should make an organization’s continual improvement more effective.”

Using this frame of reference, a country’s foreign policy is more akin to its strategy than war plans or their means of execution.

Why should you care? Because fighting the good fight of operational effectiveness will not necessarily win you the strategic war. Figuring out what you do uniquely, how and why you do it uncommonly well, and understanding how to align your capabilities with your mission is the secret to success. Are either of the candidates meeting these criteria? It’s your call.


Porter, M. (1996). What is strategy? Harvard Business Review, November-December 1996, 61-78.

Shocks to the System: Financial Meltdown and a Fragile Supply Chain

Just-In-Time (JIT) practices are a cornerstone of the fast-paced, 21st century globalized economy. But as the October 2008 financial meltdown has so starkly indicated, when just a few of the assumptions on which a critical system is based change, all hell can break loose. What effect could the economic crisis have on businesses that rely on JIT?

There are several scholars who have studied JIT in depth – the pros, the cons, and of course the implementation details. But one recent article stands out most, to me, as I try to gauge how the seismic shift might impact business. In 2006, Tony Polito (an Associate Professor in the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at East Carolina University) published an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Business detailing the ubiquity and fragility of Just-In-Time practices. If you’re involved in a business that uses or depends on JIT, you should be aware of his conclusions – forewarned is forearmed! I’ll summarize them here to save you some time, so you can start thinking about the structural health and viability of your own business processes.

First of all, it’s important to recognize that JIT is indeed a cornerstone of business practice in the U.S. and abroad. Polito notes a 2001 survey in which 92% of manufacturers believed that JIT was critical, and a 1990 study showing that 98% of customers at that time expected “JIT treatment”. He remarks that “global corporations are mistakenly reliant on extensive supply chains that are disastrously under-buffered [by sufficient excess inventory].”

Polito calls out five “major constraints” on the JIT process:

  • Customer-Driven and Economic Conditions: “JIT savings are based on the implicit assumption that additional inventory is always available for quick delivery at the same price as old inventories.” Effective JIT also depends on capital availability, and relative stability of customer demand. In a challenged economic environment, capital is not as readily available to companies and consumers alike, and customer demand wanes.
  • Logistics: If transportation fails, so will your supply chain. This can happen not only as a result of economic turmoil, but also due to rising energy costs, labor disruptions like strikes, and catastrophic weather events like hurricanes and floods. The proposed solution is, again, to increase buffer stock.
  • Organizational Culture & Conditions: Worker-based collective decision making, trust, and decentralized control are also noted as essential ingredients for JIT. If the people doing the work don’t have the freedom to improve their own processes, the health of the JIT-based supply chain will suffer. Trust across international boundaries is also critical; foreign suppliers or recipients of product may unexpectedly change their policies to reduce risk, especially if credit is an ingredient in the business relationship.
  • Intractable Accounting & Finance Practices: After describing some specific roadblocks that disparate financial systems between supply chain partners can present, and calling out limitations based on financial accounting methods themselves, Polito recommends that improvement of processes prior to improvement of measures may help.
  • Small Supplier Difficulties: One of the criticisms of JIT is that it silently offloads costs from larger companies onto the smaller partners, and many small suppliers have implemented “JIT premiums” to offset this effect. Relaxing JIT requirements could have a positive effect on these members of your supply chain, which could also reduce your costs, so examining the pressures on your smaller suppliers is warranted in an economic downturn. There might be hidden opportunities for both sides.

What does this mean for managers? Among other things, increase long lead-time inventories, compare the costs of stockouts with the benefits of not having stockouts, re-examine the risks that your upstream and downstream partners may perceive, and assess the resilience of your smaller suppliers within an economic crisis. You might also think about resetting expectations with your customers regarding how quickly you can deliver.

Polito’s article is available on his web site at http://www.tonypolito.com/wri_jit5.pdf – I strongly encourage everyone to give it a read as it provides far more detail, and illuminating examples that are not presented here in my summary.


Polito, T. & Watson, K. (2006). Just-in-time under fire: the five major constraints upon JIT practices. Journal of the American Academy of Business, Cambridge. 9(1), March 2006, 8-13.