Thorbjørn Knudsen

Thorbjørn Knudsen

Thorbjørn Knudsen

Professor, Head of Research Unit

Campusvej 55

5230 Odense M

Denmark

Phone: 65503148

Fax: 66155129

View graph of relations

• Strategic organization
• Decision making in organizations
• Economic evolution

Strategic Organization Design: Research Agenda
Three topics provide the rough contours of the relevant map for our research:
1) Strategic design of organizations, including mathematical modeling of organizations
2) Strategic organization of search, learning and innovation
3) Strategic organization of business processes, value chains and networks

These three topics offer a broad range of research opportunities. We define a focused agenda that addresses some, but obviously far from all of the possible research opportunities suggested by these three topics. Our research agenda is motivated by important and interesting unsolved research questions. We start from the observation that there is fairly little research about the relation between organization design and performance. Presently, our field has little knowledge about the way organization design can help firms profit from well structured interaction of employees. Our research aims to fill this gap in our knowledge by engaging in theoretical and empirical work that uncovers the relation between organization design and performance.
Our research is aimed at exploring how the structure of an organization – its incentive systems and coordination mechanisms – influences individual action and its aggregation into organizational performance. Individuals act, but we are most concerned with organizational outcomes. The purpose of organization is to influence the aggregation of individual decisions and actions into desirable behaviors at the collective level. The concept of aggregation is used here as a shorthand term for collective effects emerging from rather complex patterns of interaction and interplay among individual agents.
The organization of individual decisions and actions into desirable behaviors at the collective level is of critical importance in the present day. For example, the organization design of intelligence agencies affects the quality of country level intelligence assessments. This is because organization design determines the efficiency with which information gathered by individual agents is aggregated into a country level intelligence assessment. In much the same way, the gathering and spread of information about customers and competitors affects the way the business organization relates to its market. Organization design has a critical strategic dimension because it creates value from combining individual resources. Accordingly:
The purpose of our research is to understand how strategic organization design impacts organizational outcomes by influencing aggregation of individual behavior.
While we have a fair understanding of individual behavior as well as organizational interactions with the institutional environment, we lack a theory of aggregation – how individual actions aggregate into organizational outcomes. Our unit aims to pursue a research program aimed at studying this gap in our understanding.
Our research aims to fill a lacuna in strategic management. The first theories in strategic management focused on positioning – how to pick markets and how to position the firm in markets in order to achieve competitive advantage. The second wave of theories (Resource Based View) emphasized the role of a firm’s resources to achieve competitive advantage: the firm’s role is to pick resources rather than market positions. The third wave of theories (Knowledge Based View/ Dynamic Capabilities View) suggests that the most important role of the firm is adaptation: its ability to leverage and reconfigure resources and market positions rather than to pick them. However, these theories are in general silent about how exactly adaptation capabilities are developed. In particular we see the following shortcomings. First, there are no clear behavioral foundations – how is individual adaptive behavior linked to firm level adaptation? Second, there are no clear dynamics – how do outcomes at the individual and collective levels feedback into further adaptation? Third, there is little formalization or empirical validation of the micro-foundations of adaptation or capability development.
We believe that understanding aggregation – the manner of cumulating individual efforts at search, learning and adaptation into organizational outcomes is the key to understand firm performance. The research undertaken by the unit shifts focus of scholarship from strategic action to strategic organization – i.e., moving from picking positions, resources etc., to enabling organizational learning and adaptation. The proposed contribution is to develop theories that help us fundamentally understand how organization design shapes aggregation and impacts organizational performance.