Theme for the 75th Annual Meeting of the Academy of
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Program Chair: Anita M McGahan
The theme of the 2015 conference, Opening Governance, invites
members to consider opportunities to improve the effectiveness and
creativity of organizations by restructuring systems at the highest
organizational levels. The term 'governance' refers to leadership
systems, managerial control protocols, property rights, decision
rights, and other practices that give organizations their authority
and mandates for action. Opening governance involves revisiting
these practices especially in light of big data, crowdsourcing, and
other emerging digital technologies that expand the information and
expertise available to organizational leaders. How and when should
managers open governance practices to involvement by engaged
stakeholders? What advances and problems arise from transparency in
decision making? The Opening Governance theme also points to
fundamental questions about how various types of organization forms
compete to govern valuable resources. What are the tradeoffs
associated with pursuing a specific value-creation opportunity
under the governance structure of an investor-owned corporation as
opposed to a privately held corporation, a B Corporation, or even a
licensing arrangement or non-profit organization? How can
organizations work more effectively with governmental agencies and
foundations to create value?
Organizations operating under all kinds of governance
structures - including companies, non-governmental organizations,
hospitals, schools, and governments -- will be pressed over the
next generation to make better decisions; respond more quickly to
information; coordinate better; disseminate important information
faster; waste less; operate more cleanly and fairly; cultivate
trust through transparency; and mobilize expertise more
efficiently. Digital analytics are already generating new types of
insights about personal and organizational behavior. As a result,
questions about the control and ownership of behavioral data will
become acute. Innovation in systems of governance over massive
amounts of this machine-enabled data will be central to taking up
the opportunity for innovating at the levels required to address
the biggest problems of our time - such as climate change and the
fragility of financial systems. Organizations will be compelled to
confront the interests of stakeholders in their most important
information assets and, at the same time, only be able to develop
and use these assets through collaboration and partnership.
The opportunities for new approaches to value creation are
also extensive. Important new resources are available at scale for
managing more effectively in the face of large problems: digitized
information, data (big and small), communication technologies, new
analytical techniques, extensive networks of relationships, and
knowledge of all sorts. We know relatively less about effective
mechanisms for deploying these resources effectively, and we know
little about management techniques for conceptualizing and
designing resources to address such problems as the informal
economy or massive migrations of people into the world's
The challenge of governing across organizational boundaries is
as complex as governing within organizations. We must develop
systems that put the right organizations at the forefront of
problem solving at the right times. Governmental bodies must have
the intelligence and governance structures to regulate private organizations while at the same
encouraging rather than discouraging decentralized initiative to
solve pressing problems. Organizations of all forms must work
together flexibly, such as when pharmaceutical companies distribute
essential medicines to non-governmental agencies through public
hospitals in settings of poverty. Responding to public emergencies
and innovation opportunities will become a hallmark of effective
cross-organization management in the 21st century.
What will opening governance involve as a practical matter? It
may involve new functions for organizations, such as creating
innovation platforms and sponsoring the creation of digital
standards. It also may create opportunities for new types of
public-private collaboration, such as when multilateral agencies
subcontract critical health-delivery and educational functions to
private companies. For private organizations, it may involve
pooling knowledge to create new datasets and then competing over
the opportunities created by the data. New business models may
emerge, such as when companies license technology to rivals, or
when companies seek to create networks of entrepreneurial actors
that compete for control rights over information. Companies may
also benefit from differences in information rules across
jurisdictional boundaries, such as when companies test new products
in one country and then introduce them in other countries. As these
practices disseminate, Boards of Directors will need to become more
engaged in their firms' information technology practices. NGOs,
health-care providers, educators and governmental actors may
collaborate to exchange data and commit to mutual collaboration in
the face of system failures. The implications are almost endless -
too extensive to list.
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For our meeting in Vancouver, Opening Governance raises questions that AOM members of various divisions and interest groups may tackle differentially:
- Identifying how large-scale problems are defined and understood. What kinds of public conversations are required to identify a problem such as climate change and to establish its legitimacy? When and how do individuals act entrepreneurially to institutionalize a problem such as climate change or environmental pollution in the public consciousness? What are the paths to legitimacy for organizations addressing problems as they arise and as solutions unfold over time?
- Examining the tradeoffs associated with different ways that corporations deploy resources effectively and sustainably in response to large-scale crises such as the stock-market decline of 2007/2008 or a breakout of epidemic disease. Can firms plan effectively for crisis response? What kinds of governance issues do firms face as crises unfold and as their resources are recognized as essential to the public interest?
- Identifying other types of institutions that compete with corporations over the governance of resource deployment. When are governments and NGOs, for example, more effective than corporations at managing the deployment of a resource? When are corporations more effective? How do firms work effectively in partnership with public-oriented institutions? What novel approaches to managing public-private partnerships are emerging? When are non-hierarchical institutions such as open-source networks and markets more effective for allocating resources to solve large, public problems? What are the tradeoffs between scaling up quickly and sustaining investment in critical resources across institutions?
- Exploring cognition about big problems at the levels of the individual, the organization, a society, and the international community. How do ideas about important managerial problems develop over time? How does the process of idea development shape the kinds of solutions that emerge? What unique problems arise from the scope and scale of large, complex problems for cognition at each of these levels, and what are the implications for effective organizational design?
- Investigating how chief executives and top-management teams innovate in their decision-making and resource-allocation practices in the face of large-scale social problems. What kinds of information do CEOs need? How do organizations (including NGOs, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and governments as well as corporations) function when the expertise required to make good decisions is not available internally? When can an organization crowdsource expertise effectively? How do top-management teams verify the quality of crowdsourced expertise?
- Exploring aspects of organizational behavior to address large social problems. What is the role of advocacy, justice-based logic, and social movements in encouraging private organizations to pursue solutions to public problems? What about in a public organization? How does individual and team behavior depend on the problems that an organization seeks to confront?
- Investigating how value creation is best measured when the best solution to a public problem may be to prevent the problem in the first place. How do we know whether a health clinic with no patients is a success because it has prevented illness or a failure because nobody trusts its physicians? Or whether a police department that reports no crime has been successful in securing its community or unsuccessful in catching criminals?
- Demonstrating new methods of analysis for understanding big problems and the scope of opportunity for addressing them. How is big data managed effectively? When structural modeling is impossible, what alternative approaches for establishing causality and making inferences are reliable? How are organizations getting into trouble through bad analysis of big data? When do we know whether the inferences purported to arise from big data constitute facts?
- Considering the implications of complex problems and the challenges of addressing them for job design, training, career planning, and human-resource practices. What kinds of communication technologies and controls are necessary for managing organizations that respond quickly to public crises? When are individuals with experience in both the public and private sectors better equipped to lead organizations with missions to address social issues? When does a job design that integrates specialized expertise in big data and data analytics with general-management capabilities lead to superior performance?
- Identifying structures for establishing organizational goals and communicating them effectively. What kinds of practices ensure quality in the delivery of public services? When corporations act as subcontractors to government (such as in the operation of schools or clinics or prisons or militaries), how do authorities ensure consummate performance by the contractor? How is consummate performance identified in the first place? What kinds of agency problems arise? How are the unintended consequences of public-private relationships identified and addressed effectively?
- Examining the trade-off between transparency and negotiability as leader-managers seek to establish a strategy for creating value in the face of large social problems. When does transparency in top-management decision-making improve organizational performance, and when does it engender distrust and inaction among employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders?
- Investigating interactions between authorities from diverse organizations such that each has a stake in addressing complex social problems. Who governs the governors? How do the governors interact? How are organizations using tools such as social media to discipline and constrain rivals for authority in the pursuit of public problems? Which stakeholders are justifiably excluded as organizations compete to solve big problems? What is the role of the legal and political environment in the effectiveness of governance to address social problems?
- Assessing norms of competition and cooperation in the pursuit of public goals. What strategies are effective for claiming value – for profiting -- from contributing to the resolution of a complex social problem? When is the legitimacy of pursuing profits from the public interest challenged? Do firms and other organizations compete differently to claim value when their mission is to address a public problem?
- Identifying how the diffusion of digital technology both creates complex social problems and enables solutions to the problems. What are the limits to social media for galvanizing action on an agenda? What is privacy when individual behavior can quickly be identified and analyzed through digital media? What innovative mechanisms of organizational control have emerged from social media and other digital technologies?
- Investigating implications of property, decision and managerial control rights over information, data, and intellectual property for solutions to complex problems. How are companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft and Facebook constructing pro-privacy arguments in the face of governmental efforts on digital surveillance? How are they responding to judicial decisions to extend privacy rights? How does variation in intellectual-property rights across national and sub-national boundaries influence the productivity of organizations in creating knowledge?
- Comparing the real and perceived incidence of large, complex problems and solutions across international boundaries. Why did the 2011 hurricane that hit Hispaniola do so much more damage in Haiti than in the Dominican Republic? What was the organizational response in each country? How were resources in each instance deployed, and what were the consequences of coordination mechanisms across international boundaries for reconstruction? In general, how do cultural, political, and economic differences between countries influence their capacities for innovative organizational solutions to complex local problems? When and how do companies in different jurisdictions capitalize on local conditions to develop global advantages?
- Shifting the unit of analysis to the problem to identify the resources required to obtain a solution, and then exploring the implications for the field of management. What new theories, tools, ideas and practices are required for understanding large complex problems and their solutions?
Opening Governance is an invitation to think broadly and
creatively about the ways in which organizations take action to
address the most important management problems and opportunities of
our time. For our meeting in Vancouver, Opening Governance raises
questions that AOM members of various divisions and interest groups
may tackle from many different perspectives. Thank you for
considering the invitation and for engaging on this theme. Each of
the nearly 19,000 members of our Academy has insights that are
welcome at the AOM's 75th meeting. It will be great to see you
Anita M McGahan
2015 Program Chair