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Strategy: Process, Content, Context


Admission requirements



This course focuses on a critical managerial challenge; how to deal with competition and cultivate a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. Through lectures, case study seminars, readings, and group assignments, students learn about foundational theories and frameworks from the strategic management literature. Students learn to use these theories and frameworks to answer questions such as: why are some firms more successful than other firms in a specific industry? How do I assess the competitive advantage a firm has over other firms in a market? How can managers harness industry dynamics to strengthen a firm’s competitive advantage? What is the role of organisational design in a firm’s competitive advantage? And what are the challenges associated with capitalising on intellectual assets (as opposed to physical assets)? The emphasis of the course is on industrial sectors that intersect with research agendas of Leiden’s Faculty of Science and LUMC, such as the life sciences, ICT, high-tech electronics, and instrumentation sectors.

This course is intended for anyone interested in working in industry as an entrepreneur, manager, consultant, analyst, or investor. Moreover, the course will provide an analytical background for scientists, engineers and medical doctors with an interest in understanding industrial aspects of of their academic work. The course emphasises small-scale, interactive teaching that focuses on real-life case studies.

Topics covered

  • Students will learn about frameworks and concepts that are useful for conducting market and industry analyses. These include the concepts of competitive advantage, economies of scale/scope, network economies, complementary assets, Porter’s Five Forces Framework, Value Chain/System analyses, and SWOT analysis.

  • To conduct organisational design analyses, students will learn about competing demands of organisational exploration and exploitation, dynamics capabilities, and the ARC framework.

  • To assess strategies for securing and exploiting a firm’s intellectual capital students will learn about intellectual property protection, the dynamics of markets for knowhow, and platform versus product strategies for commercialising R&D.

Course objectives

This course provides students training in the use of key concepts and frameworks for formulating and implementing corporate strategies with an emphasis on firms in technology-intensive industries. At the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Conduct analyses of industry structure and competitive dynamics;

  • Assess a firm’s competitive (dis)advantage in an industry vis-à-vis other firms;

  • Design business models around the commercial exploitation of a a firm’s intellectual capital (e.g. patents, trade secrets, copyright, tacitly held knowhow);

  • Formulate recommendations about optimising a firm’s organisational design for its position in the marketplace.


The schedule can be found on the Leiden University student website

Detailed table of contents can be found in blackboard.

Mode of instruction

12 lectures of 3 hours per lecture and more than one lecture per week. The schedule is very intense.

Assessment method

Students’ final mark will be based on the following mix of assessment methods:

Class participation (20% of final mark)

Students are expected to actively participate in case discussions in class. Each session, two students are assigned the role of Assessor (see Blackboard). These students will aid the lecturer by noting down the number of contributions that students make and assessing the contributions’ relevance and value. These assessors are exempted from the case discussion of that session and, hence, will not receive a grade. Directly after a session, the assessors fill in the case discussion assessment form. The lecturer determines marks for class participation based on these assessment forms and the lecturer’s own assessment of students.

The marking range for participation is 0 to 3 points per session, which translates to the regular 1-10 marking scale as follows: ,0=1, 1=5, 2=7, 3=9. A score of 0 is the default for students who do not show up for class without a valid reason. Participation marks are translated into marks on a 1-10 scale, and averaged out at the end of the class after the lowest two marks are discarded.

To ensure that their class participation is properly assessed students are required to use the name card they are provided by SBB during each class.

Group assignments (30%)

Students are assigned to groups, which are announced on Blackboard on the first day of the course at the latest. Group assignments are listed on the Blackboard site of the course. Students are required to submit a total of 8 group assignments. These group assignments should be written in the format of a one-page memo that addresses a question about the case study that is discussed in class the next day. Group assignments should be submitted by midnight the day before the class via Blackboard.

Group assignments are marked on a 0-3 scale, which translates to the regular 1-10 marking scale as follows: 0=1, 1=5, 2=7, 3=9. A score of 0 is the default for groups which do not submit their group assignment (in time). Group marks are translated into marks on a 1-10 scale and averaged out at the end of the class to calculate the final group assignment mark.

We ask students to notify SBB staff as soon as possible in case of problems with group members so that we can step in and resolve these problems.

Exam (50%)

The final exam will be an open book exam based on a case study – i.e. students are allowed to consult their lecture notes and study pack during the exam. Students are not allowed to consult any communication-equipped electronic devices during the exam. The case study that is the subject of the exam will be distributed during the final class. During the exam students will be asked to assess various aspects of the competitive environment and strategic choices the firm in the case faces, very much like during the case discussions of this course.

There will be an opportunity for students to resit the exam on 23 February 2018. Students must notify the Ariënne Bruin by 1 February 2018 if they wish to resit the exam.


Strategy: Process, Content, Context

Reading list

Reader is available the first lecture. Costs: around 50 euros.

Signing up for classes and exams

You have to sign up for classes and examinations (including resits) in uSis. Check this link for more information and activity codes.

There is a limited capacity for elective students. Please contact the programme Co-ordinator.

Contact information

Programme Co-ordinator ms. Esme Caubo