Management Strategies Outlined on YouTube

12/11/08
What worked on Wall Street can suit the knowledge-based industry, says USC Marshall expert.
By James Grant
USC Marshall School of Business assistant professor A. Alexandra Michel

A new book by USC Marshall School of Business assistant professor A. Alexandra Michel’s explores the case of two major U.S. investment banks with differing philosophies on how to structure business processes and organizational strategies.

Michel’s counterintuitive findings in Bullish on Uncertainty: How Organizational Cultures Transform Participants: the bank that amplified bankers’ uncertainty produced better overall results than the bank that reduced bankers’ uncertainty. The book’s conclusions have implications for every knowledge-based industry.

“In our society we tend to believe that knowledge workers can better cope with complexity when we decrease their uncertainty and give them the tools they need to become experts,” Michel said. “This research, in contrast, shows that people are often better at complex jobs when they know less. This gives them the incentive to question assumptions and collaborate with others.”

To view Michel’s discussion of her research, visit http://www.youtube.com/ and type the author's name in the search engine.

Here are unusual practices that uncertainty-amplifying organizations use, according to Michel:

Bubble-up strategy: “Strategy should not be dictated top-down but needs to continuously ‘bubble-up’ from lower-level employees who are closest to the market. It thus becomes less explicit and more fluid.”

Fluid roles: “Organizational roles should be vague and fluid. As employees need to constantly self-organize anew, they become more aware of what a particular situation demands, as opposed to executing automatic routines.”

Staffing based on availability: “Professionals should not be staffed based on their expertise but on availability. Their resulting lack of knowledge will force them to communicate with others and distribute knowledge throughout the organization.”