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i ain’t paying $99 for no damn orgtheory book, even though my buds peter and nicolai wrote it

Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm is $99 at Amazon, and my library has not ordered a copy. I don’t own a Kindle since it won’t accept books, like the Grad Skool Rulz, from independent distributors. How might a man on a sociologist’s salary get a copy of this fine volume?

Adverts: From Black Power/Grad Skool Rulz

Written by fabiorojas

June 4, 2012 at 12:01 am

creative groups

It’s been a while since we’ve knocked heads with our evil twin blog.  I can’t let this one pass. Peter Klein misrepresents the main point of this Jonah Lehrer New Yorker article, which dissects the myth that brainstorming leads to creativity and greater problem solving. Citing a quote by former orgtheory guest blogger Keith Sawyer – “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas” – Peter implies that groups would be more creative if they’d just let individuals work on their own. This fits nicely with a pure reductionist perspective but it’s not at all what the article is really trying to say.

This is the conclusion that Peter should have drawn from the essay: “[L]ike it or not, human creativity has increasingly become a group process.”  Lehrer goes on to cite research by my colleagues at Northwestern, Ben Jones and Brian Uzzi, which shows that both scientists and Broadway teams are more successful and creative when bringing together teams made up of diverse individuals. From an article in Science by Wuchty, Jones, and Uzzi:

By analyzing 19.9 million peer-reviewed academic papers and 2.1 million patents from the past fifty years, [Jones] has shown that levels of teamwork have increased in more than ninety-five per cent of scientific subfields; the size of the average team has increased by about twenty per cent each decade. The most frequently cited studies in a field used to be the product of a lone genius, like Einstein or Darwin. Today, regardless of whether researchers are studying particle physics or human genetics, science papers by multiple authors receive more than twice as many citations as those by individuals. This trend was even more apparent when it came to so-called “home-run papers”—publications with at least a hundred citations. These were more than six times as likely to come from a team of scientists.

And summarizing Uzzi’s and Spiro’s AJS paper on Broadway shows:

Uzzi devised a way to quantify the density of these connections, a figure he called Q. If musicals were being developed by teams of artists that had worked together several times before—a common practice, because Broadway producers see “incumbent teams” as less risky—those musicals would have an extremely high Q. A musical created by a team of strangers would have a low Q…..When the Q was low—less than 1.7 on Uzzi’s five-point scale—the musicals were likely to fail. Because the artists didn’t know one another, they struggled to work together and exchange ideas. “This wasn’t so surprising,” Uzzi says. “It takes time to develop a successful collaboration.” But, when the Q was too high (above 3.2), the work also suffered. The artists all thought in similar ways, which crushed innovation. According to Uzzi, this is what happened on Broadway during the nineteen-twenties, which he made the focus of a separate study. The decade is remembered for its glittering array of talent—Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein II, and so on—but Uzzi’s data reveals that ninety per cent of musicals produced during the decade were flops, far above the historical norm. “Broadway had some of the biggest names ever,” Uzzi explains. “But the shows were too full of repeat relationships, and that stifled creativity.”

In short, Uzzi argues that teams that had intermediate levels of relationship density were more creative and more successful.

It’s not that groups aren’t effective generators of creativity. As these studies show, innovation tends to be produced via group processes. Knowledge production is increasingly a collective outcome. Rather than assume that people work best alone, we should think more carefully about what kinds of groups are optimally designed for producing creativity.  Diverse groups will be more creative than homogeneous groups. Groups that embrace conflict and critical thought will be less susceptible to groupthink than groups that avoid such conflict.  Groups made up of members who have little experience with outsiders will be less creative.  I agree with Peter that brainstorming is ineffectively taught in many classrooms, but rather than throw out the idea altogether, we should try to teach people how to design groups that are good at generating new ideas.

Written by brayden king

February 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

aer’s greatest hits

The February issue of American Economic Review has a nice feature entitled “100 Years of the American Economic Review: The Top 20 Articles,” where a distinguished committee of scholars (Arrow, Bernheim, Feldstein, McFadden, Poterba and Solow) present what they see as, well, the top 20 articles published in AER in the last 100 years.  One thing to note that these are not the top-20 most heavily cited articles.  The committee followed (ironically) a “qualitative/reputational” approach in which citations were considered but they were not the most important factor.  In addition to the (from my own highly uninformed perspective) obvious papers, (e.g. Cobb and Douglas 1928, Friedman 1968, Krugman 1980, Kuznets 1955, Lucas 1973) orgtheorists and O&Mers would be happy to find Alchian and Demsetz (1972) occupying the top spot and Hayek (1945) somewhere in the middle.

Written by Omar

March 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

world cup survey

Written by fabiorojas

May 20, 2010 at 3:12 am

the clone wars

Recently, at another blog, it was asked if there was any argument against cloning one self and raising the child. My gut intuition is that, yes, there is an ick factor, but it’s not inherently bad or evil. The ick factor I can explain. We probably have a hard wired desire for a little genetic diversity in our lives.

I don’t think it’s unethical, but it’s harder to see the intuition. Consider the following hypothetical case:

Say a woman is trying IVF and she has two eggs fertilized. One begins gestation inside the woman and the other is kept frozen. A few years later the child grows up and discovers that there is an identical twin. He has the embryo implanted, it matures, and he raises his brother.

Now, how is this any different, morally, from an older sibling raising a younger sibling? None, as far as I can tell. Thus, if we can accept raising a delayed twin, we can probably accept raising a clone, long as they are treated with the respect that any child deserves.

The counter arguments focused on how weird it would be. Yes, you’d probably need an extreme personality to do it. Even though I was a pretty decent kid, I don’t want to do this. Glad my daughter is different than me. Other arguments focused on how you’d be engaging in making a “mini-me.” Lots of parents want to mold their kids, but we don’t stop them. Also, we overestimate similarity. Clones will grow up in different social environments, and there’s a bit of evidence that this matters. Even twin studies show lots of unexplained variance.

Perhaps the strongest argument is about externalities.  Too many clones wreck the gene pool, or creates political problems. True, but we still allow people to intermarry and strive for cultural and ethnic purity. Not much of a difference, but we permit it. In the end, I’ll file this under,  maybe its ok, but its weird.

Written by fabiorojas

April 24, 2010 at 12:26 am

congrats O&M

First, congrats to O&M, our evil twin, for a fantastic showing in a recently published ranking of economics blogs!  Here’s the full article, here’s the ranking by scholar, and here’s the ranking of economics blogs based on scholarly impact.  (Beyond the recognition that O&M gets — the article itself is sort of interesting as well.)

But, it doesn’t end there.  O&M’s Peter Klein wonders about how orgtheory would fare in the analysis and then in the comments calls for “the head-to-head twin-versus-twin battle we’ve all been dreaming about.”

As readers know, we’re more sociological and social — well, and nice — around here, but if we indeed did happen to agree to such a “battle,” it would have to be done properly.  Namely, the analysis would have to include everyone who contributes to a given blog (in our case, in a huge way), including guest bloggers.

Well, we’re happy for our younger, evil twin.  Nice to see them get some attention.

Written by teppo

January 8, 2010 at 6:11 am

Posted in evil twin, the man