Entering a golden age of sustained superiority: Entrepreneurial creation or discovery?

Andrew D. Henderson, Melissa E. Graebner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To better understand the origins of sustained superior firm performance, we consider processes of entrepreneurial creation and discovery. Discovering new opportunities requires speed and flexibility, and although many discoveries are easy to implement, this makes them easy to imitate. By comparison, creation is more complex, iterative, and cumulative, making these opportunities slower to implement yet harder to copy. In formal simulation modeling and analyses of the U.S. Compustat population from 1966 to 2015, we found a bimodal pattern of entry into golden eras of sustained superiority. One peak consisted of an initial spike as firms went public, and evidence suggests this was driven by entrepreneurial discovery. The other peak involved a long-term inverted U-shaped trajectory that reached its high point about 17 years later. Evidence suggests this was driven by entrepreneurial creation, which first enabled then later constrained durable superiority. Our results have implications for research on sustained superiority, entrepreneurial opportunities, and strategic renewal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1432-1451
Number of pages20
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Entrepreneurship
  • Organizational evolution
  • Resource-based theory
  • Simulation modeling
  • Sustained superiority

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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