WTO colloquia bring in outside speakers to present recent research of interest to the greater Stanford community engaged in organizational research. Talks are held on Mondays from 12:00-1:15pm and lunch is served. Further details about each colloquium, including the title of the talk, an abstract and the colloquium’s location are distributed via email prior to each event.

We were honored to host these speakers during the 2013-2014 academic year:

Spring 2014

April 14, 2014
James Evans, University of Chicago
Title: How Science Thinks
Abstract: Science is complex system–apparently complicated; shaped by strong interactions between diverse components; and displaying emergent, often unexpected collective outcomes. Here, I explore how the complex network of science provides a substrate on which scientists–-and indeed science as a whole-–thinks. My approach models science as a dynamic hypergraph, which I validate using millions of scientific articles from MEDLINE. I also investigate how scientists assess novel contributions and how science “changes its mind” by becoming more conservative and less efficient at discovery over time. Much more efficient strategies for mature fields involve more individual risk-taking than modern scientific careers support and I demonstrate how publication of experimental failures and investment in alternative research paths could substantially improve the rate of discovery. I explore the implications of these findings for computational creativity, self-designing technologies and machine science–the expanded use of computation from evaluation to imagination.

May 14, 2014
Katharina Reinecke, University of Michigan
Title: One Size Fits Only Westerners?: How Culturally Adaptive User Interfaces Improve User Satisfaction and Work Efficiency
Abstract: Behavioral and neurological findings show that our cultural background influences the way we perceive and interpret information. This also impacts which user interface designs we find most appealing and trustworthy, and how we interact with user interfaces. In this talk, I will (1) outline how users’ preferences, information processing styles, and behaviors differ between various cultures, (2) describe the implications of these differences for user interface design, and (3) discuss a possible solution to the conventional “one size fits all” approach in user interface design with an approach called ‘cultural adaptivity’. The main idea behind it is to develop intelligent user interfaces, which can automatically adapt their look & feel to the user’s culture. I will present the results of several experiments conducted in different countries, which showed that cultural adaptivity increases both work efficiency and user satisfaction. The presentation will conclude with my current work on conducting large-scale online experiments to evaluate similarities and differences between people around the world, and a new approach to automatically rearranging existing web pages to adapt to people from various cultures.

Winter 2014

Feb 3, 2014
Brian Uzzi, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
Title: Atypical Combinations and Scientific Impact
Abstract: Often purported but rarely tested is the claim that science is spurred on when atypical ideas are united, inspiring fresh thinking to problems. Yet, many scientific ideas and innovations intentionally build in convention, rather than remove it. Similarly, the adage, an “idea ahead of its time” reflects the riskiness of ideas that embody knowledge far from conventional beliefs. From this viewpoint, the relationship between atypical knowledge and conventional knowledge is critical to the link between innovativeness and impact. However, little is known about the composition of this supposed balance. Here, we analyzed all 17.9 million research papers in the web of science, circa 1945–2005 using a methodology that characterizes each paper’s conventional and novel combinations of prior work. We find that the premium often expressed for papers with novelty is at odds with the reality that most scientific work typically draws on highly conventional, familiar mixtures of knowledge. Especially virtuous combinations are not characterized by novelty or conventionality alone. Rather, the highest impact papers interject novelty into otherwise unusually conventional combinations of prior work, and remarkably, are twice as likely to top the citation distribution. Finally, teams are more likely than solo scientists to interject novel combinations into their papers, suggesting that the exceptionalism of teams is an ability to incorporate novelty. Finally, these empirical regularities are largely universal, appearing across fields and decades, suggesting fundamental rules about creativity in science. At root, our work suggests that creativity in science appears to be a phenomenon of two extremes. At one extreme is conventionality and at the other is novelty. Curiously, advancing to the frontier of science appears best served not by efforts along one boundary or the other but with efforts that reach toward both frontiers.

Feb 10, 2014
Steve Vallas, Northeastern University
Title: Reconfiguring Worker Subjectivity: The Meaning of Work in an Age of Precarity
Abstract: In recent years, scholars have engaged in sharp debate over the linkage between employee identity and organizational control. Especially central has been the theory of enterprise culture, which contends that organizations have increasingly fostered a trend toward enterprising selves, or neo-liberal forms of subjectivity. Despite at least 15 years of debate, the results have remained highly uncertain. We identify several shortcomings in the existing literature –especially the static nature of previous studies, as well as their neglect of the wider normative environment in which organizations are embedded— and address these limits empirically. We present an analysis of career-advice texts published between 1980 and 2010, and then scrutinize the contents of 14 of the most salient texts in this genre. We also report the results of 34 interviews with job seekers, career counselors, and self-help instructors, exploring the ways in which popular business texts are received. Our findings both support and qualify enterprise culture’s claims. Popular renderings of work and employment have indeed exhibited a marked entrepreneurial turn in these three decades. Yet we also find evidence that enterprise culture has outgrown the theory’s emphasis on the ‘sovereign consumer’. Employees are no longer encouraged to adopt a customer-focused orientation that energetically adapts to market demands. Now, employees are encouraged actively to emulate corporate marketing campaigns, applying brand management techniques toward themselves –a development we view as a species of totemism. This discourse of personal branding seems especially potent, we conclude, in an era of precarious employment.

Fall 2013

Oct 7, 2013
Noshir Contractor, Northwestern University
Title: Some Assembly Required: Organizing in the 21st century
Abstract: Recent technological advances provide comprehensive digital traces of social actions, interactions, and transactions. These data provide an unprecedented exploratorium to model the socio-technical motivations for creating, maintaining, dissolving, and reconstituting into teams. Using examples from research on collaboration in science, software development and massively multiplayer online games, Contractor will argue that Network Science serves as the foundation for the development of social network theories and methods to help advance our ability to understand the emergence of effective teams. More importantly, he will argue that these insights will also enable effective teams by building a new generation of recommender systems that leverage our research insights on the socio-technical motivations for creating ties.

Oct 21, 2013
Cristina Gibson, University of Western Australia
Title: Change and development in multinational collaborative work efforts: Mapping identity, communication and effectiveness over time
Abstract: Much collaborative work takes place outside the realm of formal, clearly bounded, face-to-face teams, yet our understanding of processes and outcomes in such scenarios is limited, because most of our theories about working collaboratively are based on assumptions associated with traditional work arrangements. In a series of studies utilizing a variety of methodologies and analytical tools in a large multinational mineral company, we examine multinational collaborative efforts as they change and develop over a six year time span. Through time series analysis of logged operational procedure innovations; qualitative analysis of interviews, meetings, and events; and growth models of survey data reflecting members’ experiences and perceptions of working together before and after an intervention, we arrive at surprising and important multilevel theoretical insights for identity, communication, and effectiveness in multinational collaborative efforts which do not fit classic conceptualizations.

Nov 18, 2013, Spilker 232
Ed Chi, Google
Title:The Science of Social Interactions on the Web
Abstract: Social interactions have always been an important part of human learning and experience. We now know that social interactions are critical in many knowledge and information processes. Research has shown results ranging from influences on our behavior from social networks [Aral2012] to our understanding of social belonging on health [Walton2011], as well as how conflicts and coordination play out in Wikipedia [Kittur2007]. Interestingly, social scientists have studied social interactions for many years, but it wasn’t until very recently that researchers can study these mechanisms through the explosion of services and data available on web-based social systems. In this talk, I plan to illustrate a model-driven approach to researching social interactions on the Web. Our research methods and systems are informed by models such as information scent, sensemaking, information theory, probabilistic models, and evolutionary dynamic models. These models have been used to understand a wide variety of user behaviors, from individuals interacting with social bookmarks in Delicious to groups of people working on articles in Wikipedia. These models range in complexity from a simple set of assumptions to complex equations describing human and group behaviors. By using this model-driven approach, we further our understanding of how knowledge is fundamentally constructed in a social context, and a path forward for further social interaction research.

For information on past colloquia, click here.