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Jack Ma at Alibaba: Building a Learning Organisation

By Herminia Ibarra, Jessica Spungin


In September 2018 Alibaba’s co-founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma, announced his plans to step down from the $420 billion Chinese internet company to pursue philanthropy in education. The case describes the evolution of Alibaba’s corporate strategy from Chinese e-commerce pioneer to a complex ecosystem that includes e-commerce, logistics, financial services and infrastructure services; alongside the evolution of the firm’s mission, values, corporate culture, philosophy and iconic leader, Jack Ma. The case was designed to accompany the documentary film about Alibaba, Crocodile on the Yangtze, which chronicles the early days of Alibaba through to its victorious battle with eBay in China.

Learning objectives

1. Examine the role of leaders in setting vision, strategy and firm culture.
2. Introduce/elaborate the concept of organisational culture, focusing on the role of leaders and key early events in creating culture and embedding it in organisational processes, systems and lore.
3. Introduce/elaborate the concepts of dynamic capabilities, adaptive strategy and platform strategy.
4. Explore new ways of designing organisations for greater agility and learning.
5. Provide students a joint Organisational Behaviour (OB)-Strategy class.


Publication Date: February 2019
LBS Case Code: CS-19-004
Subjects: , , ,
Format: pdf