2022 Best 40-Under-40 MBA Professors: Solon Moreira, Temple University’s Fox School of Business

Solon Moreira

Temple University, Fox School of Business

“Although Solon is one of the youngest MBA professors at Fox, he has significant academic and professional experience in entrepreneurship. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about the topic and has excellent teaching skills. I can honestly say that he has one of the most engaging teaching styles that I have experienced so far. It was inspiring to listen to his experiences teaching and consulting in different countries. I also enjoyed that he wrote part of the material used in class.” – Simon Laguno

Solon Moreira, 38, is an Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Moreira designed and taught MBA, Executive, and In-Company courses, focusing on Corporate Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Technology Strategy. He has also taught in countries across the globe, including the United States, Spain, Brazil, Denmark, United Kingdom, Cyprus, and Colombia. 

His research focuses on the link between innovation and firm performance. He is particularly interested in understanding how established corporations collaborate with startups and how firms use external sources of knowledge to adjust to a changing technological landscape. Some of the R&D strategies he investigates include technology licensing, strategic alliances, and M&As.

He is the winner of Fox School’s Excellence in Practice Research, Strategic Management Society’s Best Paper Finalist and Best Paper Nominee for the European Academy of Management. His research has been published in leading journals such as Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, and Harvard Business Review. He has also numerous cases and teaching notes published by Harvard Business Review and Ivey Publishing

BACKGROUND

At current institution since what year? I have been at the Fox School of Business since 2019

Education: Ph.D. from Copenhagen Business School in 2014; MPhil from the University of Cambridge in 2010

List of MBA courses you currently teach: Entrepreneurial Thinking and New Venture Creation, Strategy Special Topics

TELL US ABOUT LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR

I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I created a startup with two colleagues when I was in college, and it was a fantastic experience that lasted around four years. When running a company, particularly a startup, often there is not much time to make sense of the events and go deeper to reflect on why things went right or wrong. This bothered me a bit because I have always been curious about understanding different aspects of a company’s success. When we shut down our startup, I was unsure about what I wanted to do with my life. So, I decided to go back to college and do a Master’s in Economics to get a fresh perspective. As I interacted with different professors at grad school, I learned more about the day-to-day of academics. Around that time, I understood that, being a professor, I would be able to work closely with companies and executives while having the freedom to focus my research and teaching on the topics that interested and inspired me most. As I advanced with my studies, I became more interested in corporate entrepreneurship, which motivated me to specialize further.

What are you currently researching, and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? My research generally explores how large established companies can become more entrepreneurial. In particular, I am interested in how and why these organizations acquire technologies from external sources to complement their internal R&D efforts.

One thing that puzzled me very early on my PhD journey is why many large companies fail, despite having many resources (e.g., cash, people, infrastructure, etc.) they need to sustain their market position. For example, we know that the corporate longevity of S&P 500 firms has been steadily declining over the years. In late 1970, the average tenure of these firms was around 30-35 years, and now it is around 15-20 years. Researchers and executives have understood that technological innovation is the fundamental driver of this process, with new technologies emerging faster and faster. Now the question is how companies can deal with this issue? I have examined different mechanisms such as licensing, alliances, and acquisitions that firms can deploy to update their R&D capabilities and remain competitive.

I focus on the three crucial pillars of corporate entrepreneurship strategy: Identifying promising emergent technologies, establishing effective collaboration mechanisms, and generating value from these collaborations. Within this scope, one of the most relevant discoveries in my research focuses on how firms can use technology licensing to upgrade their R&D capabilities at imminent risk of deterioration of their market position. This resulted in a publication in Organization Science, a practitioner-oriented version of the findings at Harvard Business Review, and a case published by Ivey Publishing.  

If I weren’t a business school professor… I would be an enologist owning and running my vineyard. I find this an intriguing industry where wine producers have to deal with the challenges of remaining grounded on centuries-old processes and traditions, while updating their technologies and practices to meet emerging demands.

What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I am always enthusiastic about my classes since I genuinely enjoy teaching. It comes up often in my course reviews that my classes are engaging and interesting. I always design my classes with a focus on both the content and the process so that the students can have fun while discussing complex business topics. One technique that I learned early on from Juan Carlos Vázquez-Dodero, one of the best teaching mentors I ever had, was to enter the classroom with few slides. This pushes the entire class, including me, to focus on discussion-based learning and critical thinking. I find this to be the winning formula for any MBA class. Students also comment that they feel an inclusive atmosphere in my classes. With higher education and MBA courses becoming more and more global, I find it very important to create an environment where each MBA feels comfortable and encouraged to share their perspectives within a culturally diverse pool. 

One word that describes my first time teaching: Nervous! The first time I stepped into a classroom after my PhD was to teach Entrepreneurship in an Executive MBA program. Even though I had overrehearsed this class, it was also the first time I was teaching using the case method. Also, I was in my 30s, which placed me on the younger side of Executive MBA professors, making me feel insecure. I can say that despite all this stress, it was love at first sight, and after that class, I knew that I would not stop being in class with MBAs.  

Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: How misunderstood our job can be. People often assume that as a professor, our job is restricted to teaching, which is far from reality. When I try to explain that a large chunk of my time is spent doing research, working with PhD students, writing cases, and other teaching material, many people will look at me skeptically. Earlier in my career, I found these misconceptions annoying, but nowadays, I learned to have fun with questions like: But what do you do when you are not teaching?

Professor I most admire and why: It may sound cliché, but I feel like standing on the shoulders of giants. My most relevant academic reference is certainly my PhD advisor Keld Laursen. He is a remarkable academic and one of the most prolific researchers in his field. To mention one of his contributions, he has significantly shaped how researchers and practitioners understand Open Innovation. I am very fortunate to have him as a mentor and role model. 

TEACHING MBA STUDENTS

What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? I find MBAs engaged and interested in contributing to class. I believe that the role of the professor in the classroom is not only bringing content but also ensuring that core concepts and ideas will emerge from class discussions. Every group of students will always have great insights to share based on their working experience. I find it fantastic how one can bring the classroom experience to a completely different level by ensuring these insights are incorporated into the class dynamics. I also enjoy getting my research findings to the classroom and opening it for the students’ scrutiny.

What is most challenging? There are two dimensions of my teaching that I demand a lot from myself to be at the expected level. The first concerns the relevance of the content I bring to the classroom. I work hard to ensure that every concept that I get to my classes will be connected to concrete issues faced by organizations. Even when discussing some more abstract content, I will always associate them with tangible examples. Second, I want the students to find the classes enjoyable. To do that, I use many different approaches, from simulations and videos to staging business situations. Achieving excellence in these two class dimensions requires me to invest good time preparing my classes. 

In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Engaged! I find that having engaged students is the best predictor of how successful a course will be. 

In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Disengaged.

When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…Soft! I would like to be a bit fairer, but I always tend to be less strict than I should be. 

LIFE OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM

What are your hobbies? I love good wine and food, and I take this quite seriously. I like to choose and try different wines and then decide on the best food pairings. Sometimes I am too ambitious and end up with some bad combinations, but I enjoy it. I often post videos on my social media where I talk about recipes that I cook at home or share my opinion on the menu of different restaurants. This started during the pandemic and became something that I often do. Another hobby that I take a bit less seriously and enjoy is recreational fishing. I used to go fishing since I was a kid, and I continue doing it whenever possible. 

How will you spend your summer? Since my son, Jose Lucas, was born, we have tried to spend our summers in our hometown in Brazil. That is how we keep him connected not only with our families but also with Brazil in general.

Favorite place(s) to vacation: Barcelona, Honolulu, and Miami. I love sunny and warm places to spend my vacations, preferably with a nice beach. 

Favorite book(s): Most of the books I read are related to my research or teaching. As an Entrepreneurship professor, The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen is an important reference for me. 

What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? 

I am from a generation that went through its teen years waiting for the next The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies. I have watched these movies many times and tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce them to my son. These days, I always check what new movies are streaming and usually go for action, horror, or science fiction. 

What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? When it comes to music, I have diverse preferences. When I am at the gym, I will mostly listen to Brazilian popular music, but I also like international pop artists like James Blunt, Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson.

THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS

If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this…A stronger focus on impact and relevance of research and teaching. In general, I feel that business schools can do a better job connecting with companies and society. Based on my experience teaching MBAs and executives, there is a strong demand for insights from academics on complex issues that organizations face. However, many scholars do not always perceive it as an important activity.  

In my opinion, companies, and organizations today need to do a better job at…connecting with the younger part of the workforce. I see more and more my students weighting into their career decisions factors like a sense of purpose and other aspects of our wellbeing that go beyond high remuneration. I think some sectors are moving more effectively towards connecting with these young professionals, but I feel that this is still not a priority for many companies. 

I’m grateful for…having the best job in the world and being part of a great institution with values that I share and feel proud of bringing them to the day-to-day of my job. I am also thankful for every professor, mentor, and advisor that generously invested their time in helping to shape me as a scholar.  

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE 2022 ROSTER OF THE WORD’S BEST 40-UNDER-40 MBA PROFESSORS

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