Winter Quarter 2011

January 10

Prof. Guje Sevón, Stockholm School of Economics and Prof. Liisa Välikangas, Aalto University School of Economics

Of managers and ideas and the role of detachment

Time and Location: 3-4:30pm; Cubberley Hall 115

In our presentation we examine the relationship between ideas and managers.  In particular, we explore the capacity of ideas to take hold of managers and organizations, and contest the dominant view that ideas are passive instruments for choice. Rather, we claim that ideas tend to own us. We invert the position of the human actor and the idea, and give ideas the character of an enactor, a prerequisite for an entity that may ‘‘imprison humans”. Strategies for detachment are then needed such as the old institution of jestering. In this presentation, we expand thediscussion to consider the role of detachment more generally and its implications, when practiced, for organizations. 

January 24

Arild Waeraas (Stanford University)

Trapped in conformity? Translating reputation management into practice

This paper aims to shed light on the reasons why Norwegian hospitals do not seek to differentiate themselves in the competition for patients and resources. Despite having increased their focus on promoting reputation and expressiveness, Norwegian hospitals seem to be trapped in conformity, presenting themselves in clichéd and uniform ways to their environments. They want a good reputation, but prefer to be similar. However, this research indicates that the lack of differentiation is not just a coincidental bi-product of a failed strategy, rather it is an intentional act based on a clear line of reasoning. Gaining a better understanding of this reasoning will provide valuable insight into the conditions for reputation management in specific contexts, as well as the ways popular management ideas in general are modified as they move from one context to another. Using a translation perspective outlined by Scandinavian institutionalists, this research probes deeper into the circumstances that lead organizations to modify popular management ideas.


January 31

Jason Owen-Smith (University of Michigan)

Science for Fun and/or Profit: How Spatial & Institutional Context Shape Networks & Innovation by Researchers

People navigate social, physical, and institutional arrangements as they pursue individual and collective goals.  The complex effects those three, only partially decomposable "spaces" exert on action and outcomes are on clear display in organizations.  Work happens in the social space of networks where interpersonal relationships create a differentiated structure that makes some people more likely to succeed than others. Likewise, in the physical space of buildings, arrangements of rooms and passageways facilitate some interactions while diminishing the chances for others. Finally, the cultural/cognitive space of institutions, which is bounded by formal rules and informal conventions, establishes local expectations about the appropriateness of behaviors or relationships and the relative value of different outcomes.


We match social network analysis with novel methods for characterizing physical space developed in architecture in order to examine the joint effects building layouts and social relationships exert on innovation in two high-technology organizations. We compare socio-spatial influences on R&D conducted in the long-time horizon research group of a multi-national software firm and the research laboratories of a biomedical research institute specializing in translational research on neurodegenerative diseases.  We find that the physical and social spaces exert joint effects on discovery, but that socio-spatial effects change with  different organizational conventions and goals.  In short, institutions forge network structures and building floor plans into places -- the socio-spatial contexts where social life occurs.  Our findings suggest new directions for theories of innovation, networks and organizational design.

February 7

Sara Vaerlander (Stanford University)

‘Global work’: An exploratory study of embodied experiences, tactics and performance effects

During the last decades, the introduction of information technology has facilitated new forms of organizations and work, often referred to as e.g. “virtual organizations” that enable “distributed work”, “nomadic work” and “telework”. While these concepts mainly are used to denote work carried out outside the physical workplace, most commonly in the home, little attention has been attributed to another kind of distributed work, what we refer to as global work, i.e. workers who frequently travel across countries, who need to work with colleagues spread out in different time zones, and who work both in their office, at home and at other places. The aim of the present paper is to explore global workers’ embodied experiences of, and the tactics employed to cope with global work. More specifically, our major contribution is that we provide a framework that links the technological, material, and bodily dimensions of global work, show the workers’ tactics to cope with the challenges related to global work, and how global work is perceived to affect workers’ overall satisfaction, well-being and performance. In this way, we challenge the widespread view of global organizations as places ‘lifted out of time and space’. On the contrary, we show how materiality and bodiliness are especially salient in global organizations.


February 14

Arno Kourula (Stanford University)

Multilevel Perspectives on Corporate Social Responsibility: Towards a Theory of Role Management (with Mikko Koria and Markus Paukku, Aalto University School of Economics)

The field of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has received increasing interest from academics and practitioners alike. However, current approaches to CSR and business-society relations, such as stakeholder, issue, reputation and risk management, corporate political activity and corporate citizenship, while being widely adopted, remain focused on the company perspective. Through adopting a dynamic multi-level and multi-actor perspective, this paper presents a novel role management approach to CSR. The paper identifies, describes, and illustrates generic roles adopted by individuals, organizations and/or institutions. This novel approach focusing on roles is especially valuable in examining and understanding complex global phenomena such as climate change, base of the pyramid (BOP) business, natural disasters and human rights.

February 28

Petri Parvinen (Aalto University School of Economics)

Digital Hedonism: Introducing Interactive Online Sales Psychologies

The presentation overviews ongoing research on hedonistic and utilitarian motives in various e-selling contexts. The multiple studies, covering travel, gaming, financial services, home electronics and apparel, take different angles to reflect on changing human behavior in interactive digital setting. Human immersion and flow are also used as theoretical constructs to make sense of this emerging field.


March 7

Maureen Scully, University of Massachusetts Boston

Luck in the Meritocracy

Studies of advancement in organizations, and of perceptions of what governs advancement, tend to pit forms of merit (skill, effort, performance) against forms of bias or privilege (gender, race, class, favoritism).  Luck is the shorthand for the error term, or the rather considerable remaining unexplained variance.  In everyday discussions of advancement processes at work, "luck" is referenced casually and frequently.  The notion that luck is a significant factor should challenge claims that advancement is meritocratic, and moreover, that the resulting inequality is thereby legitimate.  This study investigates how people invoke luck and considers the implications both for the legitimacy of inequality and for proposals for redistribution.