Phanish Puranam

Phanish Puranam
INSEAD | INSEAD · Area of Strategy

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130
Publications
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Introduction

Publications

Publications (130)
Article
Organizations increasingly need to adapt to challenges in which search and coordination cannot be decoupled. In response, many have experimented with “agile” and “flat” designs that dismantle traditional forms of hierarchy to harness the distributed knowledge of specialized individuals. Despite the popularity of such practices, there is considerabl...
Article
Ambiguity and semantic differences are each known to be independent sources of communication difficulty. However, we show using computational models that ambiguity can compensate for semantic differences across communicators. Given the heterogeneity of humans with which artificial systems interact, semantic differences will be the norm. Therefore e...
Article
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The strength of an organization’s culture is an important property that may have implications for organizational structure, performance, diversity, and inclusion, independent of its content. However, progress on conceptualizing and measuring cultural strength has been restricted so far. We propose a novel measure of an organization’s cultural stren...
Article
Full-text available
Coordinated action within and beween organizations is easier when individuals share communication codes—mappings between stimuli and labels. Because codes are specific to the groups within which they arise as conventions, collaboration across organizational units that have developed their own distinctive codes is often difficult. However, not all c...
Article
Full-text available
A correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41469-021-00097-0
Article
Design thinking remains mired in controversy. Its proponents claim that it enhances not just confidence but also creativity, while the opponents question whether it does anything beyond building unfounded confidence. To bring rigorous evidence to this debate, we designed a randomised field experiment amongst school children served by a major non-go...
Article
How organization designs evolve between adaptation to changing conditions and the pressures toward persistence of the designs adopted at founding remains an understudied phenomenon. To fill this lacuna, we conducted a longitudinal, multicase study of eight young ventures. We find that, in these ventures, specific organization design solutions chang...
Article
Full-text available
The promise of collaboration between humans and algorithms in producing good decisions is stimulating much experimentation. Drawing on research in organization design can help us to approach this experimentation systematically. I propose typologies for considering different forms of division of labor between human and algorithm as well as the learn...
Article
Self-selection based division of labor has gained visibility through its role in varied organizational contexts such as non-hierarchical firms, agile teams, and project-based organizations. Yet we know relatively little about the precise conditions under which it can outperform the traditional allocation of work to workers by managers. We develop a...
Article
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Learning by doing, a change in beliefs (and consequently behaviour) due to experience, is crucial to the adaptive behaviours of organizations as well as the individuals that inhabit them. In this review paper, we summarise different pathologies of learning noted in past literature using a common underlying mechanism based on self-confirming biased...
Article
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Whereas the pandemic has tested the agility and resilience of organizations, it forces a deeper look at the assumptions underlying theoretical frameworks that guide managerial decisions and organizational practices. In this commentary, we explore the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on technology and innovation management research. We identify key a...
Preprint
Vicarious learning is a vital component of organizational learning. We theorize and model two fundamental processes underlying vicarious learning: observation of actions (learning what they do) vs. belief sharing (learning what they think). The analysis of our model points to three key insights. First, vicarious learning through either process is b...
Article
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Across many fields of social science, machine learning (ML) algorithms are rapidly advancing research as tools to support traditional hypothesis testing research (e.g. through data reduction and automation of data coding, or for improving matching on observable features of a phenomenon or constructing instrumental variables). In this Organization S...
Article
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Research summary Resolving governance disputes is of vital importance for communities. Gathering data from GitHub communities, we employ hybrid inductive methods to study discussions around initiation and change of software licenses—a fundamental and potentially contentious governance issue. First, we apply machine learning algorithms to identify r...
Preprint
Full-text available
To appear in Snow & Fjeldstad (Eds.) Designing Modern Organizations.
Chapter
Organizational cultures that facilitate collaboration are valuable, but little is known about how to create them. The authors investigate the microfoundations of this problem using computational models of dyadic coupled learning. The authors find that merely altering initial beliefs about the consequence of actions (without altering the consequence...
Chapter
Behavioral strategy aspires to build theories that are behaviorally plausible. However, the diversity of human behaviors can make it challenging to know what behavioral assumptions to use when building theories about organizations and their strategies. Fortunately, organizational contexts are, to varying degrees, designed. This introduces a powerfu...
Book
Organization design research is a branch of organization science that is concerned with understanding how organizations work in terms of aggregating the actions of their members towards organizational goals, and how to make organizations work better. The microstructural approach to organization design abstracts away from the variety and complexity...
Article
Full-text available
In this edition of the organizational zoo series, we take a closer look at an interesting organization design case—GitHub, a software company from California. Similar to Valve, the subject of the previous article in the series (Puranam and Håkonsson, J Organ Design 4: 2–4, 2015) GitHub is used to delegate the choice of projects and project allocati...
Article
Is top-down organization design worth attempting at all, or should organizations simply let their members learn which patterns of interaction are valuable by themselves, through a bottom-up process? Our analysis of an agent-based computational model shows that weak enforcement of even a randomly selected formal structure in a top-down manner can us...
Article
Research summary: Separating the individual from the social effects of incentives has been challenging because of the possibility of synergies in team production. We observe a unique natural experiment in a South Korean e‐commerce company in which a switch from pay‐for‐performance to fixed (but different) salaries took place in a staggered and effe...
Book
Full-text available
This report summarizes the insights of a three-year study on “megaprojects”—the project-based organizations purposely formed to develop capital-intensive infrastructure. Our aim was to further our understanding of what form of organizing work a megaproject is and investigate the extent to which we could trace empirical regularities in the performan...
Article
Rather than being passive observers and analysts of innovations in organizing, I argue that we can advance organizational science by prototyping and piloting new forms of organizing. While this may be a radical departure from our conventional ways of studying organizations, I believe that the return is worth the risk, particulary in a normatively o...
Article
Research summary: We investigate how organizational adaptation to interdependence shifts is influenced by “integrators.” These are formally mandated managerial roles meant to promote coordination across specialized but interdependent organizational subunits, yet they do so without relying on formal authority. While much has been learned about how i...
Article
Coupled learning processes, in which specialists from different domains learn how to make interdependent choices among alternatives, are common in organizations. We explore the role played by initial representations held by the learners in coupled learning processes using a formal agent-based model. We find that initial representations have importa...
Article
Full-text available
What can we learn from outliers? While statisticians rightly warn us against their non-representativeness, we believe it is also true that thinking carefully about what makes them atypical may improve our understanding of the typical case. This is the premise behind the Organization Zoo series. Valve Corporation (Valve) is an unusual firm. It is a...
Article
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Our goal in putting the spotlight on Valve Corporation is to stimulate thinking about what (if anything) this specimen in the zoo of organizational forms teaches us. We thank our panel of distinguished commentators for kindly (and sportingly) joining us in this exercise. So is Valve simply unusual? Or is it also instructive? The commentators, to ou...
Article
We propose a theory that explains why the relentless pursuit of perfect implementation of strategy may be useful even in a world in which the strategies being implemented are far from optimal. We formulate a computational model in which an organization's strategy adapts based on performance feedback. However, the distinctive feature of our approach...
Data
Full-text available
This is a translation for practitioners of the article The (Under) Performance of Mega-projects: A meta-organizational Perspective. Press coverage for this article can be found here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/management/why-megaprojects-are-bound-to-balloon/article24330245/
Article
Full-text available
This short article is a translation for practitioners of the working paper: The (Under) Performance of Megaprojects: A meta-organization perspective. Global press coverage of the article can be found here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/management/why-megaprojects-are-bound-to-balloon/article24330245/
Article
Full-text available
Much of the formal modelling work in the organizational sciences relies on Herbert Simon's conception of bounded rationality, and it stakes a claim to drawing on behaviorally plausible assumptions about human behavior and action in organizations. The objectives of our review are three-fold. First, we summarize the formal literature by "model famili...
Article
This study links evolution in organizational structure to ambiguity in the definition of performance in the context of organizations formed to develop long-lived infrastructure: so-called 'mega-projects'. Based on a longitudinal, inductive analysis of three mega-projects in London, we argue that a mega-project is a meta-organization with two symbio...
Article
Full-text available
When we engage in the process of division of labor, there are typically multiple alternatives, but insufficient knowledge to choose among them. Under such conditions, we propose that not all alternatives are equally likely to be pursued. In particular, when we engage in the process of division of labor for novel and non-repetitive production, we ar...
Chapter
Outsourcing is the transfer of responsibility for the execution of any of a company's recurring internal activities to another company. Outsourcing is not synonymous with offshoring. Outsourcing involves a change in “ownership” boundaries – that is, a vendor's employees now execute processes that were previously performed by the firm's employees. I...
Chapter
A merger refers to the amalgamation of two independent corporate entities into a single one (e.g., Daimler/Chrysler), whereas an acquisition refers to the absorption of one corporate entity into another (e.g., Cisco/Stratacom).
Article
Full-text available
The complexity and speed of change in the competitive landscapes of organizations have always been a driving force behind the adoption of new forms of governance. Simultaneously, the developments in fields like communications, computing, and finance have made coordination and control easier, allowing for the emergence of novel structures of product...
Article
The virtues or lack thereof, of pay-for-performance schemes remain controversial. In our view this can be traced to at least two distinct issues: the lack of clarity on the benchmark to which such schemes are being compared, and the difficulty of making causal inferences from naturally occurring data. We attempt to make progress on both sets of iss...
Article
Full-text available
This study links evolution in organizational structure to ambiguity in the definition of performance in the context of organizations formed to develop long-lived infrastructure: so-called ‘mega-projects’. Based on a longitudinal, inductive analysis of three mega-projects in London, we argue that a mega- project is a meta-organization with two symbi...
Article
Separating the individual from the social effects of incentives has been challenging, because of the possibility of synergies in team production. We observe a unique natural experiment in a South Korean e-commerce company, in which a switch from pay-for-performance to fixed (but different) salaries took place in a staggered and effectively random m...
Article
To examine what, if any, are the differences in how activities are coordinated within versus between firms, we conducted interviews with 32 project managers regarding 60 projects in the offshore software services industry. Uniquely, our projects were sampled along two dimensions: (1) colocation versus spatial distribution and (2) delivery by groups...
Article
Prior research suggests that Business Groups (BGs) in developing economies have emerged as alternatives to poorly developed economic institutions in these countries. In this paper, we argue that this does not necessarily imply they are substitutes. Specifically, we consider the case of capital markets, a key economic institution: while the absence...
Article
Full-text available
In order to assess whether new theories are necessary to explain new forms of organizing or existing theories suffice, we must first specify exactly what makes a form of organizing “new.” We propose clear criteria for making such an assessment and show how they are useful in assessing if and when new theories of organizing may truly be needed. We i...
Article
This paper empirically investigates how organizational adaptation to interdependence shocks is influenced by “integrators”. These are formally mandated managerial roles meant to promote coordination across specialized but interdependent organizational sub-units without relying on formal authority. While much has been learned about how integrators p...
Article
I discuss firms that seem to have dispensed with formal hierarchies and what this implies for organizations. I first outline the traditional arguments for the value of hierarchy as well as why individuals working in hierarchies may not like them despite their apparent success as a form of organizing. Using a detailed discussion of the software firm...
Article
In this chapter I outline the micro-structural approach to organization design, distinguish it from past approaches and describe what it promises. The essence of the micro-structural approach can be understood as follows: thinking of IBM as an organization is not as fruitful from a design perspective as thinking of it as comprising myriads of small...
Article
We propose a theory that explains why the relentless pursuit of effective implementation – the ability to get employees to take actions believed necessary to execute a strategy – may be useful even in a world in which the strategies being implemented are far from optimal. In keeping with typical models of organizational adaptation, we formulate a c...
Article
Expertise in designing organizations is an important construct for scholars interested in studying the micro-foundations of organizational performance. We investigate the existence and nature of this expertise in this chapter. Conceptualizing the designing of organizations as a problem-solving process, we describe the underlying structure of this p...
Article
Theories explaining the equity ownership structure of inter-firm relationships, such as the resource-based view or transaction cost economics, commonly assume a significant role for managerial choice, but this assumption is rarely assessed for its realism. In this study, we use the policy capture methodology to directly assess whether managers choo...
Article
A common premise in prior research is that trust increases over time in relationships. Through a meta-analysis of 39 studies, we find that the bivariate correlation between trust and relationship duration (i) is on average, positive and small and (ii) varies significantly across studies indicating the presences of unobserved moderators. We therefor...
Article
We study how cognitive and social factors interact with technological properties to affect the emergence of a division of labor. Specifically, we propose that (1) the tendency to perceive object- based partitions more easily than activity-based partitions in the task environment, and (2) the tendency to preserve the existing pattern of social inter...
Article
India's highly qualified workforce is enabling it to lead the way in process innovation. Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam examine how Indian companies inject intelligence into the often mundane.
Article
This article provides conceptual foundations for analyzing organizations comprising multiple legally autonomous entities, which we call meta-organizations. We assess the antecedents of the emergence of such collectives and the design choices they entail. The article identifies key parameters on which such meta-organizations' designs differ from eac...
Article
This article develops and tests a model of how organizational structure influences organizational performance. Organizational structure, conceptualized as the decision‐making structure among a group of individuals, is shown to affect the number of initiatives pursued by organizations and the omission and commission errors (Type I and II errors, res...
Article
In this study, we analyze how the organizational architecture of a multibusiness firm affects the adaptation of its constituent business units. Using an inductive analysis of GE's governance system from 1951 to 2001, we examine how the integration of corporate and business unit attention occurs within and across the firm's governance channels. Our...
Article
Researchers' primary concern with respect to the information processing perspective has been to understand how structural features influence the organization's ability to draw upon and utilize information for resolving problems, ignoring the primary role of individuals as the information processors within the organization. To shed light on this iss...
Article
We take a network perspective to organizational architecture, conceptualizing it as multiple networks of both formal and informal interactions and argue that their interplay is key to better understanding individual organizational member performance. We develop and test the concept of network consistency as the overlap between the informal network...
Article
This article explores how knowledge embodied in executives is tied to the organizational context in which it develops. Drawing on the knowledge‐based view of the firm and human capital theory, we predict that executives will move between units with similar ‘structural composition’—a characteristic representing unit origin (as acquired or internally...
Article
Rather than the future of organization design (academics make justifiably reluctant futurists), I want to discuss a possible future for the science of organization design – one that I hope will come to pass. I understand organization design to refer to a particular form of human problem solving in which the problem is one of getting multiple indivi...
Article
Rather than the future of organization design (academics make justifiably reluctant futurists), I want to discuss a possible future for the science of organization design – one that I hope will come to pass.I understand organization design to refer to a particular form of human problem solving in which the problem is one of getting multiple individ...
Article
Full-text available
If organizations are multi-agent systems with goals, there must exist a mapping from organizational level goals to agent level tasks (March and Simon, 1958). Such a mapping, at least when explicitly recognized (even if not intentionally crafted) is what we think of typically as division of labor. Because the results of the efforts so divided must b...
Article
A new book from Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam challenges received wisdom about India.
Article
The organizational structures of many multinational corporations are inadequate to the task of capitalizing on opportunities in emerging markets. Locating customer-facing processes in each country-and even using transnational structures that exploit location-specific advantages-just doesn't cut it anymore. So argue Kumar and Puranam, of London Busi...
Article
In order to assess if new theories of organization are necessary to explain new forms of organizing, we must first specify exactly what makes them new. We propose clear criteria for making such an assessment, and show how they are useful in assessing if and when new theories of organization may truly be needed. We illustrate our arguments by drawin...
Article
Full-text available
We develop a novel analytical framework to study epistemic interdependence between agents and the resulting need for predictive knowledge as a basis for understanding information processing requirements in organizations, and the implications for organization design. These two new constructs help to sharply distinguish interdependence between tasks...
Article
We use an agent based simulation to model how specialists working together on novel problems may jointly discover solutions. The analysis helps to understand why faulty initial representations can be useful in such situations, as well as why it is possible to sometimes obtain quicker collective results by slowing down the rates at which individuals...
Article
Full-text available
1 We develop a novel analytical framework to study epistemic interdependence-a situation in which agents need predictive knowledge about each other -as a basis for understanding information processing requirements in organizations, and the resulting implications for organization design. The framework we develop helps to describe and compare the nat...
Article
Full-text available
Organizations interacting repeatedly on similar transactions may learn from prior experiences, allowing contracts to be specified in greater detail. In this study, we analyze the conditions under which this learning effect is most likely to manifest itself by focusing on different parts of a contract as well as differences across transacting partie...
Article
In this study we aim to understand how coordination within firms is different from coordination between firms. We studied this question with field interviews from 32 project managers regarding 60 collocated and distributed software projects. The evidence suggests that (1) there are no coordination mechanisms that are unique to the within-firm or be...
Article
Acquirers who buy small technology based firms for their technological capabilities often discover that post merger integration can destroy the very innovative capabilities that made the acquired organization attractive in the first place. Viewing structural integration as a mechanism to achieve coordination between acquirer and target organization...