I'm a PhD candidate on the job market for the 2016-2017 academic year. My research integrates political economics with organizational theory in order to better understand political processes within organizations and the non-market strategy of firms and interest organizations.
Job Market Paper
Studies of organizational learning assume that rational organizations always pursue intelligence and therefore ascribe failures to learn to cognitive biases, costly information, or faulty information-aggregation routines. However, organizations are also political coalitions that face internal contestation over organizational strategies and goals. The decision whether to collect information impacts both the goals that organization members try to meet and the organization's capacity to meet them. This paper develops a formal model that introduces political conflict into a theory of organizational learning. The model has a key insight: even in organizations where actors are rational and where there are no difficulties in aggregating information, organization members may still choose not to learn, because members can attain better organizational outcomes (for themselves) if the organization does not collect information than if it does. Furthermore, the model demonstrates that individual incentives for strategic ignorance increase when existing policies are less desirable and when there is greater uncertainty in the relationship between policies and outcomes.
Work in Progress
Informational influence is an important mechanism through which social movements and social movement organizations (SMOs) impact the legislative process. Prior work on the informational strategies of SMOs emphasizes that movements influence the policy process by sending signals about constituent interests to policymakers. However, SMOs also have the power to influence policy outcomes by acting as sources of expert information. We use a new dataset of organizational testimony at congressional hearings on environmental protection to examine this channel of influence. We find that environmental SMOs are invited to testify in greater numbers in hearings that consider a specific piece of proposed legislation than in hearings that are exploratory or investigatory in nature. We also find that this increase in representation is unique to social movement organizations with an environmental focus; non-environmental interest organizations do not experience a similar improvement in legislative access. These findings suggest that, as a result of their scientific expertise, EMOs are receiving privileged access to the policy process relative to other interest organizations affected by environmental regulation.
A limitation of prior work on organizational experimentation and learning is the assumption that organizations are myopic. When combined with risk aversion and an uncertain organizational environment, organizational myopia generates incremental search because bigger experiments involve taking bigger risks. However, organizations often experiment with a new strategy under the expectation that they will fine-tune the strategy upon observing its outcomes. Using a novel modeling framework originally developed in studies of policy experimentation, I describe how the behavior of organizations engaged in far-sighted search differs from myopic search. I demonstrate that initial experiments tend to be “long-jumps” (Kauffman 1993; Levinthal 1997), because larger experiments generate more information about the relationship between strategies and outcomes than small ones. I then examine the strategic dynamics of far-sighted search in cases where experimentation is delegated to an organizational subunit. I describe how the principal-agent problems associated with delegated experimentation can generate both under-experimentation and over-experimentation and propose mechanisms to better align subunit behavior with the organization’s preferences.