Tag Archives: organization theory

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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Filed under organization studies, organization theory, Orgs Stuff (theory, science, studies), social theory

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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Getting Ready for “Ten Books that Influenced Me”

I had some money to spend.  A co-author mentioned Neil Fligstein’s new book, A Theory of Fields. So, I decided to get that book.  Then, I started looking at my wishlist and my recommendations.  I a few more items popped up.  Then, I wondered, “Well, what have been some influential books in social science or social theory recently?”

This led a google search, of course.  First stop, the ASA’s theory division.  They have a page of award winners.  Not very impressive.  While many great sociology or org theory blogs are out there, the official organs of professional associations (speaking of my experience with EGOS, AOM, ASA, and INSNA) have lagged, although EGOS and INSNA do better.  The ASA theory division award pages has many holes in it!  For example, it does not  the 2010 best article.  Was one not awarded?  The 2009 winner article is not hyperlinked.

But, there is good news!  Apparently, among blogging social scientists, there is a viral type of post: “My top 10 most influential books…”  I found several examples and I look forward to crafting my own.

Here is my list of others’ posts.

Ten Influential Books
http://asociologist.com/2010/03/21/ten-influential-books/

Ten Influential Books
http://crookedtimber.org/2010/03/20/ten-influential-books/

Books which have influenced me most
http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/03/books-which-have-influenced-me-most.html

Ten most influential books
http://jacobtlevy.blogspot.com/2010/03/ten-most-influential-books-see-tyler.html

Influential (Actually Published, Actually Read Cover-to-Cover During College or Graduate School) Books

http://inmedias.blogspot.com/2010/03/influential-actually-published-actually.html

My Top 10 Most Influential Books:

Finally, in assembling this, I found a book I had not heard of, Required Reading: Sociology’s Most Important Books It is from 1998, so it will not have any great books of last ten years.    Still, I am curious to see what it says (and which I have read or not!)

I know my own initial list of books I have read and which  find my mind turning to again and again include:

  • The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism
  • Castells’ The Information Age Triology
  • Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality
  • Geertz’ Interpretation of Culture
  • Watts’ Six Degrees

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Digindigenous- Neologism for a Wired World

For a paper I am writing about virtual worlds and the way institutional forces are shaping the filed, I needed a word to refer to organizations or other social phenomenon that arose or operate from within digital spaces: virtual worlds, social media, and other mileux of the matrix, the cyberspace, the metaverse.

I was playing with this neologism which I do not see anywhere yet.

Digindigenous: organizations, collectives, or other social phenomenon that emerge from within the socio-economic interactions of various cyberspaces.  Examples: Tringo (a game form within SL), electric sheep company (and other VW designers), the Uru diaspora, any number of virtual objects businesses (such as avatar or fashion companies), and so on.

The word is derived from digital + indigenous.

Is this a keeper?

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Filed under organization theory, Second Life, social theory, sociology, virtual worlds, words

Social Movement Theory and Terrorism

I have been chipping away at an article for awhile now on terrorism as an organizational activity.  Part of my argument is to understand terrorism as at times a social movement.

Part of the fun of this for me is to learn more about social movements which has always been a topic my interests bump up against, but something I never had time to formally study.

Reading Castells (who channel Alain Tourraine, apparently), Tilly, and Giddens, among others, brought the idea of social movements into my sphere of interest.  Then I started reading and reading about the work done by institutional theorists like Haogreeva Rao and others about thinking about consumers as social movements.  For example, his book, Market Rebels, makes the case that markets are at times created by consumers, not firms.

Today, in a fit of retroactive literature scanning, I decided to check what had been said about terrorism and social movement theory.  Two interesting findings.

First, the wikipedia article cites Tilly and Tarrow (separately) defining social movements as inherently a featrue of pluralist, democratic societies.  Moreover, Tilly’s repretoire does not include any violent acts.  This surprised me.  Terrorist organizations seem to operate in such societies and also, with Al Qaeda, at a global level.  Moreover, they are also embedded in or linked to social movements and sets of social movement organizations.  So, if a social movement is a an observable collective effort to resist or adopt social change, then terrorist organizations can be part of that definition, irrespective of their geographic location.

Second, I hopped over to google scholar to see what had been written about social movement theory and terrorism.  Using those search terms, I found one article in Terrorism and Political Violence.  Who knew there was sucha  specialized journal?  C. Gentry’s article is titled: ” THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NEW SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY AND TERRORISM STUDIES: THE ROLE OF LEADERSHIP, MEMBERSHIP, IDEOLOGY AND GENDER”.   I am not even sure from the title if it is relevant.  That was the first hit, none of the rest seemed any better. This struck me as very odd and made me wonder if I have stumbled onto a much larger claim than I realized initially:

Terrorist Organizing must be accounted for by social movement theory.

Now, I wonder about how to use my blog.  I have never had anything like an active “readership” as far as i can tell.  I would love to get some answers or responses to what I discuss here.  But how?  Should I email Brayden King or Fabio Rojas at OrgTheory.net and say, “hey, please read this?”

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Social Entrepreneurs, Networks, and Technology

I am revising a draft of a paper about social entrepreneurs to give at EGOS.

Here is the core idea:

Broadly, I am trying to connect what is known about the research into new forms of organizing with internet with innovation and networks studies

Some baseline assumptions:

1) Innovators and entrepreneurs of any flavor are in a brokerage position and they engage in brokering behavior.   (Research by Burt, Obstfeld, Gargiulo, Hargadon comes to mind… I need to find others).

2) New ICT changes make #1 different.  Easier in some ways, harder in others.

3) Social entrepreneurs face special circumstances due to value orientation they use.  Social entrepreneurs solve social problems or market failures.  They move towards a new equilibrium.  The “social” of what they do emerges from social change processes unfolding in networks organizations, and institutions of contested agendas (or, formerly contested and now newly legitimate.  These include poverty reduction, public health, green design, education access, rural development, climate change, and so on.  Looks like usual suspects of civil society concerns.  But of course, it should.)

4) The process is usually gradual (uniform)- incremental innovations and experiments accumulate into profound change.  The initial recognition can then lead to rapid scaling and diffusion.

5)  To fully conceptualize the problem, we need to draw on four research streams: 1) entrepreneurship, 2) networks and innovation, 3) social movements, and 4) technology and socity.

6) A research agenda based on the assumptions and findings includes three questions:

  • 1) Do new technologies, by lowering search and coordination costs for actors, spawn more emerging or possible social entrepreneurs (as in, that is their intention)?
  • 2) Do technologies, through their ability to foster relations and community, create new value propositions?  Transparency, memory, search, and interactivity mean that thick webs of relations, which people value, can create new opportunities for social innovation or entrepreneurship.
  • 3) The same properties that create more potential social entrepreneurs and opportunities will also pose new start-up challenges because soc entrepreneurswill be more tied to the necessary networks and institutions that create legitimacy for the social of social entrepreneurs.

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Filed under activism, innovation, organization studies, organization theory, participatory technology, social innovation, Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship [SiSe], technology

Resources on Internet and Politics

Participating in orgtheory.net thread I whipped up these resources which I thought ought to be useful here also.

Question:

How has the Internet changed political organizations? Is it just one tool in the service of traditional politics? Or is there a new politics associated with online life?

I agree that this is going to be a really important area of study in the future. In talking about how protests get organized with activists, it’s pretty clear that Facebook has turned into the medium of choice given its flexibility and relational scope. If nothing else Facebook helps cut down the coordination costs of collective action, but I suspect there’s an identity element to the story as well.

So why don’t we have very many studies about the impact of the internet on other sorts of organizational decision-making and/or organizing? Most of the studies that look at organizational life and the internet that I’ve seen tend to look at the counterproductive aspects of the internet (e.g., lost hours of productivity due to blog reading). What about the efficiency-enhancing aspects of online coordination? Anyone?

I feel like there is a lot that is at least descriptive or celebratory of lowering the coordination costs for civil society or political organizations.  You mean more rigorous, empirical research?  And do you mean campaign organizations (as oppose to governing or politically engaged?)

A few things I pulled off my shelf-
Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons for Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics Techout, Zephyr and Streeter,Thomas. Has stories from campaign and some framing/theory chapters.

Society Online Edited by Howard, Philip and Jones, Steve. Has a chapter on voting and Internet in politics 1996-2000 (wow! Pre-history!).

Globalization from Below: Transnational Activists and Protest Networks della POrta, Donatella et al. Has a Chapter on Networks and Organizing.

Causewired By Watson, Tom. Whole book is rah-rah on wired activism. HAs chapter on politics (6, I think).

The Media in the Network Society: Browsing, NEws, Filters, and Citizenship Several chapters on politics, political systems, case studies of other countries (East Timor, Portugal e.g)

Is any of this on the mark?

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Filed under Books, Information and Communication Technology, Networks, organization theory, Politics, Power, Activism, Protest, Research, sociology

Indian Attacks Carried Out by Armed Teams

Armed Teams Sowed Chaos With Precision – NYTimes.com
But from interviews with witnesses and survivors, it seems clear that the men on the boat were joining a larger terrorist force, which included some attackers who, unconfirmed local news reports say, had embedded themselves in Mumbai days before the attacks. Their synchronized assaults suggested a high level of training and preparation.

So I have a paper under review that argues that to understand terrorism as an organization, we have to see them as a blend of formal organization, social movement, and network.  This is an argument I want to refine.  The above passage about today’s tragic attacks captures the need to consider terrorism the result of formal organization and network.  A formal organization is necessary to deliver the training and operational sophistication of these attacks; a network allows them to move in and out of Mumbai, to recruit informants or new members.  To the extent that we discover that these terrorists are from an organization supported by the Pakistani intelligence agency, then the network lens helps us to see how nodes become activated on an as-needed basis allowing for loose elements to coalesce for momentary action.

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Filed under organization studies, organization theory, Orgs Stuff (theory, science, studies), Social Networks, Terrorism

Research ideas for Six Degrees Students

Research Ideas for My Students

Hello folks. This is by no means a comprehensive set of resources. It more reflects sources that seemed to be of interest to two or more of you AND that I thought might not jump out at you as pertinent. It is a mix of search terms, blogs, alternative media, as well as books and scholars.

For a few of you, I had specific ideas and those are at the end.  So read through to the end. If I did not comment on your specifically all it means is that your topics are either covered below, or, I don’t have any special suggestions.

General Ideas

The FIRST place for everyone to start if they are basing their paper on a topic in Six Degrees or Tipping point is to look at the references in the back of each book.  Watts provides a guide to different topics, and Gladwell has notes with references.

Also, you can get a one on one appointment with BU librarian once you have your topic.

EVERYONE should make an appointment with a Bucknell research librarian.

You are welcome to search my blog.  You can search or simply use the tag cloud to clickt hough to a set of posts.

Also, I use a social bookmarking service called del.icio.us.com. Basically it is like a big scrapbook of links I collect.  You are welcome to look there for any tags that match your research keywords.

http://delicious.com/jordisunshine

Click on “all tags” on the left to see my tag taxonomy.  For example, Jen mentioned technology and the presidential election in her topics.  I have a politics tag, and when you click on that, you can see what are “related” tags to narrow it down.  Politics+ technology has three links. One of those, to a book called “Netroots Rising” might be useful.

How to use blogs I recommend: browse them.  Use them to identify key ideas.  Use them to look for book, or article suggestions from more reliable sources (scholarly journals, mainstream press).

How context shapes roles

Stanford Prison Experiment

□ Look for social psychology on the impact of groups or roles

How social network affects a company

□ Work by Rob Cross

David Krackhardt

David Obstfeld

How breakthroughs happen…

Mob Mentality or “Wisdom of Crowds”

□ See Swarm intelligence as a search term. Also this book and tool.

□ See Smart Mobs as a search term. Also, this site and book.

Internet and Society

Pew Research Center on Internet and American life

Financial Bubbles…

Bill Moyers with Kuttner

Interviews with Greenspan

Greenspan debate Naomi Klein, a critic (bubbles and feds role comes up)

□   Planet Money Blog

□   Big picture blog

□   Brad DeLong Blog

Fanatic communities

MeetUp

Org theory post

Size of communities (Rule of 150)

□    Gore-Tex maker

□   More on Gore

□   Another article.

□   Leaderless organization

Advertising and Marketing

Changes that the internet has brought about

Viral garden blog

□   Any search on word of mouth or viral marketing

□   Paradox of Choice.

General blogs on organizations, networks, and sociology: Search them for your topics.

Orgtheory http://orgtheory.wordpress.com/

Complexity

Connectedness

Visiblepath

Jen:

About politics and technology.  The Dean campaign of 2004, and also the Bush Campaign of 2004, started the use of web 2.0 technologies as political organizing tools.  I think this book could be useful.  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1594514852

Will:

It would be interesting to look at the distribution of hit records over time.  In other words, what proportion of records sold are just a few?  Were the Beatles bigger superstars than a recent “big act” measured as % of all record sales?  How has shift to consuming songs as downloads changed that perception?  Are there fewer superstars now?  What does that mean for music as a business and as a cultural activity?

Charlie:

About diseases: it would be interesting to compare biological and social factors in contagiousness of diseases.

Jeff G:

In terms of channel capacity and music: this reminds me of research now on the cognitive structure of experts vs amateurs.  An expert musician can distinguish more than 7 tones, I think.   What is the evidence that we can increase channel capacity?

Kayla

I am not sure what the best search term for outside-in emotion is.

Emma:

You can do a special kind of search called a cited reference search with a database called Web of Science.  Basically, it tells you who cited a work.  You could look at original article “The Strength of Weak Ties” and see what more current research is saying.  The reference librarians can show you how to do that kind of search.  There will be thousands of articles, so you will need to use narrowing terms.

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Filed under Business, economics, innovation, organization theory, Politics, Power, Activism, Research, Social Networks, sociology

Summer Reading List

OK, I leave for five weeks in a week. Its mostly vacation, but I am looking forward to spending some time reading some of the dense social theory or social science books that I rely on, but have never finished or even read (ouch, hurts to admit that in print). I’ll probably get drummed out of the bidness (its like our omerta) for saying this, but when you read lots of journal article,s you start to know what are the foundational texts and how they are used. Its like seeing the shape of a plane by its shadow. Foucault, is, I think a classic in this regard. Everyone cites, few have actually read (beyond strategic skimming). And Weber. (Although I did take a grad school seminar where we did nothing but read Economy and Society. That’s a story for another time).

Anyway, for the sake of _actually_ reading some of these from my ever-expanding list of books, I am limiting myself to two. So, this is the fun part, like choosing courses from a stellar menu. Which two?

Possible summer reading list (In Progress):

  • Identity and Control by Harrison White
  • Sociology of Philosophy by Randall Collins
  • Constitution of Society by Anthony Giddens
  • Volumes 2 and 3 of The Information Age by Manuel Castells
  • The Hacker Ethic By Pekka Hinamen
  • something by Bourdieu…
  • Brokerage and Closure by Ron Burt
  • Something by Charles Tilly, Big structures, large processes, huge comparisons or Identities, Boundaries and Social Ties
  • Code v 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig
  • The Hacker Ethic by Pekka Himanen (for  teaching really).

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Filed under Books, Castells, New Projects, organization studies, organization theory, Orgs Stuff (theory, science, studies), Social Networks, social theory