Published: July 1, 2015

Sharon Matusik likes solving problems. Curiosity about how businesses succeed fuels her passion for understanding entrepreneurship and innovation in the context of social systems. Why does one company embrace change and thrive while another company stagnates and fails?

Matusik is a professor of strategic management and entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business at CU-Boulder. Her research focuses on entrepreneurial and venture capital firms and on innovation and knowledge sharing in established firms. She has had work published in top international academic journals and is widely cited in the management field.

Prior to joining academia, Matusik worked in the management consulting field, where she helped companies develop business strategies.

"What I think is important about my work is really understanding what factors contribute to economic growth and development,” she said. “How can we better create innovation and use our resources to create jobs?”

“It gives me an appreciation for equifinality,” she said, regarding the principle that in open systems a given end state can be reached by many potential means. “There are different means to a similar end and more than one way to reach a goal.”

One of the most satisfying aspects of her job is working with students at all levels—undergraduates, graduate students and executives. She was a visiting professor at Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago, Chile, which is ranked highly in entrepreneurship in Latin America.

Matusik gives students the opportunity to take an idea and turn it into action by fostering relationships between students and the business community. Placing students in startup ventures provides a critical learning experience for the students.

“CU-Boulder and the Leeds School of Business are in a unique entrepreneurial environment with a vibrant, creative business community around us,” she said. “We’re able to leverage that to get students engaged with the community.”

Through the years, Matusik has been contacted by former students who excitedly tell her about using concepts and ideas learned in class at their own companies. 

“The things I hope students take away from their interactions with me,” she said, “are a practical skill-set they can use in helping to develop their career and their businesses, and a broader understanding of the underlying dynamics that drive business and workplace behavior. I also tell my students that if they can’t find the organization that they want to work in, they can create it themselves."

Matusik also feels she has a responsibility to be a strong role model for women interested in business leadership.

“When we look at how the business world has evolved, we see some amazing examples of women moving toward top leadership roles,” she said. “That’s incredible and inspiring, but we still have a long way to go.”

Matusik enjoys traveling to exotic locales, learning firsthand about a variety of cultures. These adventures tie into her research on emerging economies and how innovation and entrepreneurship are engines for economic development in different settings.

“Knowledge comes from a lot of places,” she said. “Sometimes where you think you’re going to find an insight is not always where you find it. I appreciate the value of persistence. As an academic, that’s an important theme. You have to have intellectual curiosity.

“The answer we have for economic development in the U.S. is not necessarily the answer for Chile or Turkey or Russia or China,” she continued. “Understanding the nuances among countries and what drives success in one versus another fascinates me. I feel like at some basic level, if we know the context and can understand the people, we can come up with better solutions to difficult problems."  

Living in Boulder, Matusik readily takes advantage of being able to leave her office and get out on nearby hiking trails in 15 minutes. She and her husband like to hike and ski with their two daughters, who are competitive skiers.

“They started out-skiing me when they were about five years old,” she said. “So, it’s humbling, but I do my best to keep up. One of the things I love about spending time with my kids is that they allow me to see the world through their eyes. The days I feel the most fulfilled are when I’ve accomplished something at work and at home. That balance is a big part of being fulfilled.”