Susan K. Cohen

Associate Professor of Business Administration


Organizations and Entrepreneurship
252 Mervis Hall


PhD in Strategic Management, University of Minnesota, 1998
BS in Management Information Systems, Clarkson University, 1986

MBA Courses Recently Taught

Commercializing New Technologies
Leading Organizations to Innovate Smarter
Competing in Emerging Economies
Strategic Management


1997 to present: Associate Professor, Katz Graduate School of Business

My prior work experience in the software development and consulting industries includes work for Accenture and Intersolv, consultant work for Fortune 1000 companies, and pro bono consulting for local start-ups. 

My research examines how firms enhance their performance (innovation output and quality, survival, and profitability) through research and development activities.  I am particularly interested in how firms manage tensions between acquiring, protecting, and leveraging their technological knowledge by structuring internal and external capabilities.  My research shows that the complexity, specificity, and tacitness of a firm's technological knowledge may protect radical product innovations from imitation but not incremental innovations.  Further, the extent to which a firm's complementary assets help it to profit from innovation depend on the degree to which they are exploratory or exploitative.  I have identified trade-offs between learning and knowledge diffusion inherent in using modular design practices in the automobile industry.  I am studying the implications of knowledge architectures for organizational architectures.  My research also suggests that particular attributes of a firm's technological knowledge enable it to exploit certain positions in alliance networks better than others, has implications for a firm's vertical scope, and affects how incumbents can best respond to disruptive innovation.  I draw on theories of innovation, technological change, modularity, organizational learning and adaptation, ecology, and social networks to investigate these issues.  My work extends resource-based theory and the dynamic capabilities perspective by exploring the imitation and substitution, and their effects on sustainable performance advantages. 

Referred Publications

Firm heterogeneity in complex problem solving: A knowledge-based look at invention (with Turanay Caner and Frits Pil).  Forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal

Stock of downstream complementary as a catalyst for product innovation during technological change in the US machine tool industry (with Raja Roy).  Strategic Management Journal, October 2016 (

With whom do technology sponsors partner during technology battles? Social networking strategies for unproven (and proven) technologies (with Tsuhsiang (Sean) Hsu, Kristina Dahlin). Forthcoming in Organization Science.  2016. 27(4): 846-872.

Converting inventions into breakthrough innovations: The role of exploitation alliance network knowledge heterogeneity  (with Turanay Caner). Journal of Engineering and Technology Management. 2016, 40(C ): 29-44.

Disruption in the US machine tool industry: The role of inhouse users and pre-disruption component experience in firm response (with Raja Roy). Research Policy. 2015, 44(8): 1555-1565.

Public policies in a regulated entrepreneurial setting (with Alfred Marcus). Business and Politics. 2015, 17(2): 221-251.

Information sharing strategies in a standards contest: The case of 2G wireless communication (with Jodi Potter).  Journal of High Technology Management Research. Sept. 2010, 21(2): 108-121. 

Niche width revisited: organizational scope, behavior, and performance (with Olav Sorenson, Charlotte Ren, and Raja Roy).  Strategic Management Journal, 2006, 27: 915-936. 

Modularity: Implications for imitation, innovation, and sustained competitive advantage (with Frits Pil).  Academy of Management Review, 2006, 31(4): 995-1001.

Product- line expansion and resource cannibalization (with Peter W. Roberts). Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 2005, 57(1): 49-70. 

The global acquisition, protection, and leverage of scientific and technological competences (with Kathleen Eisenhardt and John Prescott). Strategic Management Journal, 2004, 25(8-9, August-September Special Issue): 713-722.  

The persistence of knowledge-based advantage: an empirical test for product performance and technological knowledge (with Bala Chakravarthy). Strategic Management Journal, 2002, 23(4): 285-306.  

Avoiding competence substitution through knowledge sharing (with Shobha Das and Kevin McCabe). Academy of Management Review, 2000, 25(2): 1-18.

Papers in Progress

Navigating disruptive technological change: The relationships between firm experience and managerial attention (with Robert Ryan and Raja Roy). Preparing for submission to Organization Science.

Executive and firm effects in the knowledge-based view of the firm: The varied nature of firms’ problem solving activities (with Franky Supriyadi and Turanay Caner).  Preparing for submission to Academy of Management Journal.

When does the reuse of product architectures and components improve quality?  Qualifying the benefits of modular design (with Frits Pil).  Preparing for submission to Management Science.

Editorial Positions, Awards, and Grants

Grant to research Open Innovation and to conduct research on Enabling Breakthroughs through Open Innovation and to create a new experiential learning course on Global Venturing and Entrepreneurship, January 2013-December, 2014, $100,000 from the PPG Foundation

Grant to develop course on Competing in Emerging Economies, received January 2012, for $2000.

Grant to develop experience-based learning tools for Commercializing New Technologies course, received February 2011, for $1400.

Global Academic Partnership grant, for organizing Global Collaboration for Technological Innovation Conference, $20,000, award was given in September 2010 – conference was held January 7-8, 2011.  This conference brought together leading academic researchers and global Chief Technology Officers and Vice Presidents of R&D for global multinational companies, such as Westinghouse, Bayer, PPG, and NovaChemicals.  Thanks to the success of the 2011 conference, our corporate sponsors donated $22,000 for us to hold the conference on the theme Accelerating R&D through Global Open Innovation, in 2012. We held our third conference, through the generosity of our corporate sponsors, in 2013 on the theme: Leading Organizations to Innovate Smarter.

Elected to be Representative at Large for the Knowledge and Innovation Group, Strategic Management Society, 2010- 2013.

Chaired recruiting committee for non-tenure stream position in Supply Chain Management, 2011-2012.

Member of recruiting committee for non-tenure stream position in Entrepreneurship, 2011-2012.

Designer, advisor, and champion for the Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship MBA Certificate, 2008-2013.

Member of the Katz Doctoral Committee, 2010-2013.

Member of the Katz Executive Committee, 2010- 2013

Member of the advisory committee to the Office of Enterprise Development for creating a University wide technology commercialization certificate and eventually degree – for students in engineering, life sciences, law, and business, 2009-2013.

Member of the Pittsburgh Medical Innovation Center Leadership Team, as a Katz liaison for the development of this center, 2011-2013.  

Elected member of the Executive Committee, for the Business Policy and Society Division, Academy of Management, August 2006 – August 2008

Professional Service Activities

Member of Leadership and Advisory team to Coulter Translational Research Partners II Program at the University of Pittsburgh, 2013-2015, and Pittsburgh Medical Innovation Center, 2009-2015

O&E area champion and developer of the Technology, Innovation, Entrepreneurship certificate, 2008-2015.  Developing University-wide TIE Certificate Program.

Innovation and Knowledge interest group Representative at Large, Strategic Management Society, 2011-2013.

Faculty adviser to Katz students participating in the Bench to Bedside course on commercializing new technologies, offered through Pitt’s Office of Enterprise Development, 2009-2013.

Adviser to interdisciplinary team of Katz MBA students and University of Pittsburgh engineering and law students on development of their NCIIA technology commercialization grant (SolarEase), 2009-2010.

Co-Sponsored a Patent Research Workshop with Robert Lowe, funded by the Heinz Endowment and held at Carnegie Mellon, April 21, 2007.

Reviewer and Session Discussant for the Business Policy and Strategy and Technology and Innovation Management and Research Methods Divisions of the Academy of Management for the Annual Conferences

Reviewer for Strategic Management Society Annual Conferences, Knowledge and Innovation Division

Undergraduate Program Committee, 2013-2014

Entrepreneurship Officer, 2010 – 2013

Co-chair Technology, Innovation, Entrepreneurship Certificate, 2007-2013

Recruiting Committee for NTSF Entrepreneurship hire, 2011-2012

Chair of NTSF Supply Chain Recruiting Committee, 2011-2012

Doctoral Committee, Katz, 2010-2012

Executive Committee, 1999-2002, 2005-2006, 2010-2013, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh.

IBC Advisory Committee, 2002-2005, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh.

Masters Policy Committee, 1998-2005, Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh.

Consulting Activities

(Non-paid) Working with Magee-Womens Research Institute and local biotech firms to identify business models for commercializing the technologies from particular research projects.

Personal Interests

My hobbies include running, rowing, soccer, hiking, travel, books and movies, and volunteer work for childrens' organizations (e.g. Make-A-Wish).