Alfredo De Massis

Alfredo De Massis
Conventional management theory says if you want to pave the way for the future, you should forget about the past – but my studies show that family firms are very good at leveraging their tradition, history and heritage as a strategic resource to enable innovation.
Alfredo De Massis

Alfredo De Massis is an award-winning expert in the management and governance of family enterprises. His research has advanced understanding of how family business leaders balance economic and non-economic goals in strategic decision making and manage the paradox of tradition and innovation. At IMD he provides intellectual contributions by working on collaboration and scientific advisory activities within the Wild Group Chair in Family Business.


De Massis is one of the world's leading family business academics. In February 2022 he was included in Family Capital’s 100 Family Business Influencers list for his thought leadership in the family business field. In 2020 he was ranked as the most influential and productive author of the decade in the family business research field in a bibliometric study published in the European Journal of Family Business, and in 2015 Family Capital named him as one of the world’s 25 star family business professors.


His research focuses on the management, governance and behavioral aspects of family enterprises and how to ensure their prosperity across generations. His work examines how they align economic goals with other objectives such as maintaining family harmony and control of the business, creating jobs for the next generation, succession planning, and nurturing the reputation of the family in its community. He shows that successful family firms excel at leveraging their tradition, history, and heritage as strategic resources to enable innovation.


He also works closely with large and small businesses in several countries to help them build rigorous and reliable knowledge to promote long-term prosperity across generations. He recently helped companies and institutions including the UK government to address the new challenges that COVID-19 created for family firms, such as the need for rapid and unexpected succession, the dehumanization of relationships due to remote working, the effects of emotional vulnerabilities, and the salience of patrimonial and liquidity issues for families in business.


De Massis' prolific writings include seven books, notably the Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for Family Business and Family Business Studies: An Annotated Bibliography, and more than 150 articles in leading academic and professional journals, including Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Management, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Academy of Management Perspectives, California Management Review, Family Business Review, Small Business Economics, Journal of Small Business Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Research Policy and Global Strategy Journal.


Due to its economic and practical relevance, his research has been featured in numerous media outlets including the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Il Sole 24 Ore, and RAI. He is also an in-demand public speaker and is regularly invited to give keynote speeches at conferences, lectures to professional and academic audiences, and media interviews.


He also serves as Chairman of the Scientific Board and member of the steering committee of FA.B.R.I., [AD1] a non-profit association dedicated to Italian family enterprises, as Co-Director and Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Observatory on Italian Family Offices, and as member of the Scientific Board of the Italian Family Officer Association (AIFO). In addition, he has been Chair of the Strategic Interest Group on Family Business Research at the European Academy of Management (EURAM) and is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Institute for Family Business (IFB). He was previously Chairman of the European Leadership Council and a member of the Global Board of the STEP Project for Family Enterprising founded by Babson College.


In addition to his role at IMD, De Massis remains Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Business at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in Italy, where he founded the Unibz Centre for Family Business Management, and he continues to support family business research projects at Lancaster University Management School’s Centre for Family Business in the UK, which he previously directed. He formerly served as a professor at the University of Bergamo, where he co-founded the Center for Young and Family Enterprise.


He is also Editor of Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice and Associate Editor of Family Business Review, two prestigious and influential journals in the field of family business, and Editor of, a US social media platform dedicated to sharing learning resources with family business practitioners.


He serves on the editorial boards of Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, Journal of Management Studies, and Journal of Family Business Strategy, and has been guest editor of more than 20 leading journals’ special issues on family business topics.


Before embarking on his academic career, De Massis worked as a manager for SCS Consulting, a strategy consultant at Accenture, and as a financial analyst at the Italian Stock Exchange.

Selected publications

Are narcissistic CEOs good or bad for family firm innovation? (Human Relations, 2022)

Mining the past: History scripting strategies and competitive advantage in a family business (Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 2022)

Entrepreneurial by design: How organizational design affects family and nonfamily firms’ opportunity exploitation (Journal of Management Studies, 2020)

Managing the tradition and innovation paradox in family firms: A family imprinting perspective (Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 2019)

Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for Family Business (Edward Elgar, 2020)

Entrepreneurial orientation and innovation in family SMEs: Unveiling the (actual) impact of the Board of Directors (Journal of Business Venturing, 2018)

Financial wealth, socioemotional wealth and IPO underpricing in family firms: A two-stage gamble model (Academy of Management Journal, 2018)

Innovation through tradition: Lessons from innovative family businesses and directions for future research (Academy of Management Perspectives, 2016)



Named on Family Capital’s 100 Family Business Influencers list (2022)

Ranked as most influential and productive family business author of the decade (2020)

Named by Family Capital as one of the world’s 25 star family business professors (2015)



Master of Science (Management Engineering)

Politecnico di Milano


PhD (Management, Economics, and Industrial Engineering)

Politecnico di Milano

Discover more about IMD Programs
All IMD programs
Alfredo De Massis's Publications