• Seminars

    The Work and Organization Studies group is a hub for the study of work, employment, and organizations, and is host to one of the longest-running seminar series at MIT. These weekly seminars attract researchers from across the Institute and around the world. OS seminars are held from 11:00-12:30 pm on designated Thursdays in E62-350 and IWER seminars take place from 12:30-2:30 pm on Tuesdays in E62-346.

  • OS Seminars
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    Date Event
    September 6, 2018 Community Meeting

    You are invited to join us for an informal gathering to mark the beginning of a successful academic year and say welcome to new WOS faculty members, Jackson Lu and Nate Wilmers! Jackson and Nate, welcome aboard!
    September 20, 2018 Erik Duhaime, MIT Sloan School of Management, WOS Group


    Human-Computer Groups Outperform Artificial Intelligence at Diagnosing Skin Cancer

    Previous research has shown that artificial intelligence (AI) can diagnose skin cancer as accurately as professional dermatologists.  Here we examine what happens when AI is combined with-rather than compared to-human  intelligence.  Using a dataset of the diagnoses of 1 state-of-the-art AI system and 21 board-certified dermatologists on 371 biopsy-proven cases of skin lesions, we find that averaging the opinion of an individual dermatologist with AI often does not lead to higher accuracy than AI alone.  However, combining AI with the average opinion from groups of dermatologists leads to higher performance than individuals alone, AI alone, and groups alone.  These findings suggest that in many cases artificial intelligence will not simply replace jobs, but rather, will transform how work is organized.

    October 4, 2018 Tali Sharot - University College London, Affective Brain Lab

    A joint WOS and Marketing Seminar

    Using Affect to Predict Choice
    A common assumption in behavioural economics and psychology is that feelings guide choice. Very little is known, however, about the rules by which feelings are transformed into decisions. Here, I draw on basic principles from economics (e.g., the law of diminishing returns) and neuroscience (e.g., neural adaptation) to understand how affect (i.e., a physiological reaction that is experienced as a feeling) is translated to choice. I will present three recent studies in which we measure and quantify affect in order to predict decisions to (i) lie in self-interest (ii) punish a selfish agent and (iii) work when the distribution of rewards are unequal. In the first study we show that the negative affective response to ones’ own selfish behavior is reduced with repetition, predicting an escalation in such behavior over time. In the second study we show that the affective response of a person observing a selfish agent can be modeled using principles adapted from prospect theory. This model is then used to predict whether and by how much the observer will punish the agent. In a third study we show that aversive reactions to unequal distribution of rewards reduce peoples’ productivity, even when inequality is advantageous. The work illustrates that understanding the dynamics of affect provides novel insight into decision-making.


    October 16, 2018 Stefan Dimitriadis - Harvard Business School


    Cooperative frames and the formation of businessrelationships:  A field experiment withentrepreneurs in Togo

    How can entrepreneurs form more business relationships?In developing markets, this can be challenging because there are no formalinstitutions to secure interactions. In this study, I explore an overlookedfactor that plays a pivotal role in the formation of business relationships indeveloping markets: the perception of prospective interactions. I argue that incontexts where first interactions among entrepreneurs are high risk, framingthem cooperatively leads to the formation of more relationships and torelationships that exhibit more skill complementarity. To test this theory, Iconducted a randomized field experiment in Togo with 301 entrepreneurs whoparticipated in a business training program. A random subset were exposed tocooperative frames, which are scripts that draw attention to and motivateinteractions guided by the mutual exchange of help. I found that exposure tocooperative frames led to a 50 percent increase in the number of relationshipsformed among entrepreneurs, and that these relationships were characterized by morecomplementarity of entrepreneurs’ skills. Furthermore, I found that thebusinesses of entrepreneurs who were exposed to cooperative frames weresignificantly more profitable six months after the training program, holdingeverything else constant. This study shows that the formation of new businessrelationships in developing markets also depends on the initial framing ofinteractions, a factor that has so far not been taken into account.


    October 18, 2018 Jared Curhan, MIT Sloan School of Management, WOS Group

    Silence is Golden: Silence, Deliberative Mindset, and Value Creation in Negotiation    

    A central focus of research on negotiation has been to help negotiators shift from default win-lose assumptions to a more efficient, integrative approach.  This presentation explores a novel method to facilitate that shift—namely, the use of brief silent pauses during negotiation.  Study 1 reveals a positive association between naturally occurring silence and value creation.  Study 2 shows that instructing one or both parties to use brief, silent pauses leads to more integrative agreements.  Study 3 establishes a mechanism for this effect, whereby negotiators who use silence adopt a more deliberative mindset, which in turn leads to value creation.  Study 3 also demonstrates a boundary condition involving status differences.  These findings have important implications for negotiation theory and practice.

    October 24, 2018 Nick Occhiuto - Yale University


    Market Actions and Non-Market Consequences:  How Transportation Network CompaniesInfluenced Regulation in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco

    A long line of research has examined how firms attempt toshape regulation and government policy in ways favorable to the firm. Existingresearch on non-market strategy has largely focused on how firm actions in thenon-market environment influence both economic regulation and public policy.Recent research suggests, however, that firms actions in the market environmentmay also gain regulatory and policy influence. Nevertheless, because most ofthis work has largely focused on the market actions of existing firms, itremains unclear whether and how the market actions of startups may also helpthem gain regulatory and policy influence. This paper adds to our understandingof non-market strategy by showing that startups may use market actions to buildconstituencies, which can function as important assets in influencing theirnon-market environments. Drawing on 128 interviews, ethnographic observations,and content analysis of primary source documents collected across New YorkCity, Chicago, and San Francisco, this paper will show how Transportation  Network Companies used market actions (i.e., contracting with drivers,registering passengers, and securing venture capital investment) to makedisplays of worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment of their emerging marketto both regulators and policy makers. As a result, these market actionsinfluenced regulators and policy makers to produce regulations that werefavorable to the firms. This article also highlights city-level variation ofregulation in the context of global market emergence. It will show how thissame market actions initiated two different types of non-market outcomes:formal and interpretive change.


    October 25, 2018 Mark Hoffman - Columbia University


    Abstract forthcoming.

    November 1, 2018 Allie Feldberg - Harvard Business School


    Abstract forthcoming.

    November 8, 2018 Amit Goldenberg - Stanford University


    Abstract forthcoming.

    November 15, 2018 Hatim Rahman - Stanford University


    Abstract forthcoming.

    November 20, 2018 Winnie Jiang - Yale University


    Navigating Meaningful But Demanding Work: The Changing Practice and Meaning of Work in Refugee Resettlement

    Individuals engaging in deeply meaningful work often face immense work demands that pose serious challenges to their work and life. In this paper, I use data from a longitudinal mixed-method field study of a refugee resettlement organization to examine the ways in which its employees navigate surging work demands. All employees viewed their work as deeply meaningful. Yet as work demands increased, employees shifted from a quality-based sensemaking model, characterized by responsibility internalization, service customization, and an aim to provide high-quality services and ensure a successful transition for each refugee, to a quantity-based sensemaking model, characterized instead by responsibility externalization, service standardization, and a focus on resettling as many refugees as possible. Furthermore, refugees arriving during the surge showed worse outcomes in employment and well-being, suggesting that shifting to a quantity-based sensemaking model rendered employees less effective in facilitating refugees’ transition to the U.S. This research contributes to our understanding of how individuals manage the tensions brought by meaningful yet demanding work and suggests important implications for the meaning of work, organizational resourcing, and management.

    November 29, 2018 Pat Reilly - University of California, Irvine


    No Laughter among Thieves: Authenticity and the Enforcement of Community Norms in Stand-Up Comedy

    Why might observers label one social actor’s questionable act a norm violation even as they seem to excuse similar behavior by others? To answer this question, I use participant-observer data on Los Angeles stand-up comics to explore the phenomenon of joke theft. Informal, community-based systems govern the property rights pertaining to jokes.

    Most instances of possible joke theft are ambiguous owing to the potential for simultaneous and coincidental discovery. I find that accusations are not strongly coupled to jokes’ similarity, and enforcement depends mainly on the extent to which insiders view the comic in question as being authentic to the community. Comics who are oriented toward external rewards, have a track record of anti-social behavior, and exhibit lackluster on-stage craft are vulnerable to joke theft accusations even in borderline cases because those inauthentic characteristics are typical of transgressors. Vulnerability is greatest for comics who enjoy commercial success despite low peer esteem.

    Authenticity protects comics because it reflects community-based status, which yields halo effects while encouraging relationships predicated on respect. In exploring accusations of joke theft and their outcomes, this study illustrates how norms function more as framing devices than as hard-and-fast rules, and how authenticity shapes their enforcement.

    December 6, 2018 Basima Tewfik - The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


    Abstract forthcoming.

    No events found.
  • IWER Seminars