Monthly Archives: March 2013

Small Brained Managers- Are They Out There? Porac and Tschang

So, my friend and collaborator, Ted Tshang, have this short essay in the Journal of Management Inquiry.

It is really good!

Unbounding the Managerial Mind : It’s Time to Abandon the Image of Managers As ”Small Brains”, is the title (link to pdf) and it comes in the section called “Provocations,” which is exactly the kind of creative format that makes me enjoy JMI so much.

In a nutshell, the essay points out that the idea of “bounded rationality,” so famous and groundbreaking for organization science (especially the “Carnegie School“) has run its course in part because it puts too restrictive of a model on our operating metaphor of cognition.  As the put it so eloquently, the boundedly rational manager ALWAYS faces a world more complex than his (poor little) brain can comprehend either because of limits on what we can know (capacity) or learn (acquisition).

However, recent work in cognition at the neurological level, or even in the more novel “cognitive archaelogy” which tries to study how brain and culture co-evolve, has shown that neither clear invariant limits to what we can know (capacity) or learn (acquisition) conclusively exist.  It is not that we can learn everything quickly!  Of course not.  Rather, the complex ways we think, consciously or unconsciously, in patterns, in distributed cognition (across networks or even organizations), with heuristics and symbols, and using various constructions like optimization math, all mean that managerial thinking, so much like human thinking ( 😉 ), can be AS complex as the complex environments that it emerged from and that now also turns its attention towards in the effort to live and organize, to decide and manage.

I enjoyed all the references to various scholars whose work supports this view of cognition as what they describe is certainly how I see human cognition.  And, of course, like any org scientist, I think we are always in the middle range between theories of the individual (microfoundations) and of society (macro stuff).  Hence, it is valuable to update our core ideas at those two levels that form the sandwich cookie goodness around our yummy oreo-org theory middle layer.

As they wrap up, Porac and Tschang point out that the urge for a more realistic model of rationality cna lead to enumerations of types of rationality (March had 14 at one point?)?  This reminds me a little of tow other conclusions by other scholars.  First, Howard Gardner‘s “multiple intelligence” work, love it or hate it, made the idea of a multidimensional intelligence more accepted.  Second, in some parts of Weber (yes, that one, the Economy and Society guy), I have  a hazy memory that he starts trying to get into various rationalities in addition to formal rationality.  One is value rationality- that is, letting your values shape which ends you will use- and this, in my idealist-pragmatist mode, can leave room for a Weberian sociology without the “CLANG” of the inescapable Iron Cage.   Is it useful to think through a typology of cognitive or Weberian rationalities?  I don’t know.

But the idea of rationality and institutional logics seems important to me.  I keep describing logics as an internalized set of criteria for legitimacy;  I think I am recycling parts of Weber here and what he called rationality where rationality is expected means-ends chains.  Praying to the sun god for sun is not irrational if you believe the one leads to the other.  From Weber, I inherited that we are no more or less “rational” in our prayers to technology or formal rationality.  We act “as if” we believe in a set of ends-means and the belief is legitimacy.  And, hence, various logics can provide other sets of legitimate criteria.  A manager in a virtual world, if she believes it is a play world, acts rationally in one way that is different than she acts if she believes it is legitimately a “profit” world.  Bottom line: I think there is some deep connections between Weber and legitimacy and what Porac and Tschang are pointing out about types of rationality that humans posses (or use).

Seeing how Ted linked “unbounding” cognition to appreciating how managers can think like designers was also helpful as the design idea pops up in some current work: to use a virtual world, for example  managers need to think of its design (and even how design structures a la Giddens- it constrains AND enables).

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SJ Gould Quote and Org Theory

Found this gem buried in Alan Meyer’s (and Tsui and Hinnings) essay on Configurational Analysis….

 

The history of life contains “long periods of boredom and short
periods of terror.”
Stephen Jay Gould, The Panda’s Thumb

I realize now this essay for me was a key link from the kind of deterministic quality of pop ecology stuff and the re-emergence of institutional theory point to where I mean to be myself: moving beyond a kind of narrow fit to envronment of contingency theory to one that sees a multivariate and dynamic relationship betwenn an organization,, multiple fields, and complex environments.

 

Meyer, Tsui, and Hinnigns citation:

Configurational Approaches to Organizational Analysis
Author(s): Alan D. Meyer, Anne S. Tsui, C. R. Hinings
Source:
The Academy of Management Journal,
Vol. 36, No. 6 (Dec., 1993), pp. 1175-1195

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There are other events to go to, but this looks like an interesting film.

Read this and hack!

There are other things, but this film looks really cool tonight at 7 at Campus.

This is  not a Film.  It turns an Iranian filmmaker’s, Jafar Pahani, ban into its own movie.

Trailer:

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Everyone is Obsessed with Atheists

Friend posted this link to a Chronicle of HE article about a study of atheists.

Author of blog post Tom Bartlett headlines his review with this headline:

“Do Atheists Really Believe in God?”

My response:
“Do Psychologists Really Believe in Skin Test?”

Meh. I think author’s question about whether any imagined external force, God, Squirrel, Bad Luck makes one “anxious’ is the right one. id they bother trying to figure out if one is an atheist, what they think the statement “I dare God to kill my children” means?

Like, right now, I am thinking about this, I am aetheist, and I am thinking “what a shitty thing to happen” and I am aware that there is some external mechanism or cause of the badness. I mean, if God does something bad, it is usually through an agent- a flood, a burning topiary, or a bearded guy. It is not like he shows up like Zeus and bangs some chick for no reason.

So, really, maybe the statement reminds us of how there are unknowns out there and it is frightening to think about them. So belief in God is really a fear of the unknown. And so the title could have been “Belief in God is fear of the unknown.”

So, interesting study. But like 99.9% of social science, what to make of it depends on interpretation.

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New Words (I am NOT on spring break)

See, I am actually working all week.

Two new words…

I am an inveterate neologist…

Here are two…

Not sure if I invented this one or am recycling.

administrivia– trivial tasks associated with coordinating or administrating work; also, can be obscure regulations or rules of administrative bureaucracies.

The administrivia soaked up an hour of time.

procrastiduction/procrastivity/procastiduce: When you avoid doing the most important work (writing) by doing other work (emails to students, grading, upgrading CV).

Yes, well, I did not finish my book. But I wasn’t surfing facebook, I was procrastiducing.

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A Clutch of Random Goodies- finance, net neutrality, deficit…

Here is just a clutch of good randomness that has been accumulating on my desktop…

PS featured image is Simon Johnson.

Bucknell and Truth

Bucknell gets unexpected reward for being honest about a mistake.  Is this worthy of an ethical snap?

Net Neutrality?

What the hell is net neutrality?  Baratunde Thurston  one of our tech/no speakers, explains it so well, it got picked up by Raw Story.   I love how Bucknell can be a producer of information and wisdom and not just a user. 

Organization Theory is Cool

A book review about organization theory I really need to read.  Orgtheory.net is the one blog I wish I read more.

Learn from Nice Rich People

Lessons for failure and management from philanthropists.

We are drowning in deficit! (are we?)

Compare your answers to the US public and, um, the reality.

Change Doesn’t Happen.  Until it Does.

From AFL-CO vs Home Depot, through Frank-Dodd, to Citigroup.  Is corporate governance and executive compensation changing?  Maybe.  Read abotu some pretty big changes at the link.

Is a Tax Better than Regulations?

You want policy ideas?  You like finance? You dislike “regulation” that tries to dictate firm behavior?  Try this one.  Instead of trying to tell financial firms what they can or can’t do, how much capital to have on the books, and so on, how about you tax a vice- like we do with alcohol and tobacco- and simply tax financial transactions to make trading for the sake of microscopic gains on immaterial price shifts non-economic?  Read. here about Europe’s experiment with a different, and I would argue,  less intrusive form of regulation to change financial markets and firms.

You want even more financial regulation news?

You are really, really troubled.  I hope Vinny, Loukas, Mike, and… (who else are finance jocks?) are reading this. Simon Johnson.  yes, THAT Simon Johnson, had this blog post about the 12 “angry bankers” of the Fed and their ideas to push for transparency in money market fund valuations as part of the (yes, that same one) Frank Dodd bill reforms that created the systemic risk council.  In a nutshell, the financial industry does NOT WANT such valuation while the regulators do.

I am never surprised when practicing “capitalists” fight against actual free markets (with liquidity and transparency).  Businesspeople are often, perhaps usually anti-capitalist if you define capitalism not as maximum wealth accumulation, but as free markets that expand the prosperity of a society.  Am I alone in seeing this?

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Filed under Business, Government, innovation, macroeconomics, management, organization theory, policy, Political Economy, Politics, Power, Activism, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship [SiSe]

Chipotle Outperforms McDonald’s

chipotle_01

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March 7, 2013 · 5:04 pm

New word: Naggers

New word. To anthropomorphize those nagging feelings that won’t go away or stop chattering.

Naggers: the little nags that keep distracting you from work.

I corralled the naggers into a list so they would leave me alone.

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