Ethan S. Bernstein

3 Results

 

Facts and Figuring: An Experimental Investigation of Network Structure and Performance in Information and Solution Spaces

How can managers create organizations that bring people together to successfully solve problems? One increasingly popular managerial tactic to improve problem-solving performance is to increase the connectedness, or what academics call clustering, of the organization. Using everything from transparent, open offices to open social collaboration platforms, connecting everyone and everything, the theory goes, will produce better solutions. True or false? In the lab, the authors randomly assigned individuals to 70 sixteen-person organizations—some more clustered than others—and asked each organization to solve a complex problem: divine the who, what, where, and when of an impending terrorist attack (akin to the famous ClueŽ whodunit game). They did so using a platform not unlike real intelligence problem-solving environments: Through their computers, individuals could search for information, share information with each other, and share theories about the solutions, while the platform tracked all behavior. The results? Connectedness had different effects on the "facts" and "figuring" stages of problem solving. Search for information (facts) was, indeed, more efficient the more connected the organization. But performance in interpreting the information (figuring) to develop solutions was undermined by too much connectedness. The same connections that helped individuals coordinate their search for information also encouraged individuals to reach consensus on less-than-perfect solutions, making connectedness a true double-edged sword. The authors conclude with a discussion of implications for both theory and practice in our increasingly connected 'small world' and suggest directions for future research. Read More

Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Innovation

Sharpening Your Skills curates a wide range of Harvard Business School's research and ideas around vital topics in business management. Closed for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Hiding From Managers Can Increase Your Productivity

Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ethan S. Bernstein explains why decreasing workplace transparency can increase productivity. Open for comment; 26 Comments posted.