Rory M. McDonald

Assistant Professor of Business Administration

Rory McDonald is an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Technology and Operations Management Unit. He teaches the Technology and Operations Management course in the MBA required curriculum.

Professor McDonald’s research focuses on how firms innovate effectively in new technology-enabled markets. Drawing on in-depth fieldwork and archival data, he studies how executives develop viable strategies in these contexts and how they obtain resources that improve their chances of success. For his research on Internet companies, Rory received a Kauffman Foundation Fellowship in Entrepreneurship and was a finalist for best dissertation in Business Policy and Strategy by the Academy of Management.

Professor McDonald received his PhD in Management Science and Engineering from the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. He also holds an MBA and an MA in economic sociology from Stanford as well as two engineering degrees from the University of South Florida. Before joining Harvard, he was on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin where he received the CBA Foundation Teaching award. Rory is on the board of YCG Funds, an Austin-based mutual fund company, and is an advisor to several startups.

Rory and his wife Anne live in Sudbury, MA with their four children. They are active in their church and enjoy a variety of family activities.

  1. Overview

    Professor McDonald studies how firms successfully navigate new markets. He examines how widely accepted strategic prescriptions can actually undermine managers’ attempts to develop a viable business model or stake out a defining new market position, and considers the important role played by entrepreneurial resource providers in these processes. Empirically, he relies on a complementary range of methodologies – in some instances solving problems deductively through quantitative analysis of archival data, complemented by fieldwork while in other instances adopting an inductive approach that draws on structured interviews and field research to generate new insights.
  2. Competing in New Markets

    Strategic advisors counsel managers to conduct a thorough competitive analysis emphasizing key points of differentiation. But for new markets, Professor McDonald’s research suggests that reports of the threat posed by similar rivals may be greatly exaggerated, and managers may be well-advised to focus on substitutes, using rivals as mere stepping stones to speed their own progression and keep costs low. Similarly, while popular media accounts laud market ‘evangelists’ who open up new market space through symbolic acts of persuasion, McDonalds’s research argues that successful innovation in new markets resembles problem-solving more than missionary work, and suggests that managers may be better off riding the coattails of these hardworking evangelists to establish a defining position in the new market.

  3. Entrepreneurial Resources

    Mounting evidence suggests that ventures’ early relationships are critical for their success by helping overcome initial resource constraints, improve internal operations, and gain access to diverse audiences such as potential investors, the media, and customers. But which providers should managers engage? In collaboration with researchers at London Business School, Columbia, and the University of Washington, Professor McDonald examines the value created (and sometimes destroyed) by venture capitalists, super angels, and other resource providers.