Who are the shareholders?
All shareholders want the same thing, and just one thing, maximum returns on their investments, right? I am constantly amazed at how casually we strip shareholders of their agency by assuming we know exactly who they are and what they want. It is also baffling that we assume that they all want the same thing. If we made the same assumption about any other corporate constituency (e.g., employees), we'd we laughed out of the room. My colleagues Leon Anidjar (a legal scholar), Joe Mahoney (an organization economist), and I think it is high time to take a rigorous, analytical, and nuanced look at shareholders and seek a detailed understanding of the diverse roles of different shareholder types in the corporation.
Fiduciary vs. contractual relationships within and across organizations
I am fascinated by the kinds of relationships that various constituencies (board members, managers, employees, shareholders, lenders, etc.) have with organizations. Most recently, I have been thinking about what the essence of being an organization's fiduciary entails. We typically think of the board of directors as the organization's primary fiduciary, but I invite us to think of the issue more broadly. For example, I think it is useful to think of all employment relationships to include both a contractual and a fiduciary aspect to them. Inspired by the modern North American literature on law and governance, organization economists Akhil Bhardwaj, Jackson Nickerson, and I examine the fiduciary roles of supply chain managers.
When can wealth and income dispersion be interpreted as a manifestation of economic inequality?
I am concerned with the common practice of uncritically interpreting wealth and income dispersion as a manifestation of inequality. In my joint work with organization scholars Sebastien Fosse and Peter Kawalek, we take an analytical look at this question by analyzing Thomas Piketty's work and the critical reactions it has received.
The problem of collective action in tackling the "grand challenges"
Tackling society's grand challenges requires sustained and coordinated efforts that involve numerous autonomous actors. The phenomena are so complex that they are very difficult to research empirically. In my joint work with business historians Juha-Antti Lamberg and Mirva Peltoniemi, we examine the hundred-year history of a joint R&D alliance in the Finnish pulp and paper industry. Even though the scale of the alliance pales in comparison with those of many grand challenges, it simultaneously shares many of the central organizational challenges, most notably, the need for sustained and coordinated efforts in a large group of autonomous actors. Studying such a "miniature grand challenge" may shed light on the organizational issues associated with (the empirically more elusive) grand challenges. The main issue boils down to the problem of collective action under risk and uncertainty.
How do scientists reason?
My primary methodological interest over the past 20 years has been scientific reasoning. For a long time, I took it for granted that the way to think about reasoning is to examine the use of the three forms of scientific reasoning: deduction, induction, and abduction. More recently, I have started to think that these labels may not be very useful after all. This is because induction and abduction in particular are not so much forms of reasoning as they are umbrella terms for multiple reasoning types. Inspired by the more recent literature on the philosophy of science, my colleagues Saku Mantere, Alf Steinar Saetre and I take a look at reasoning from the point of view of explanation, in short, inference to explanation. The question we ask is deceptively simple yet highly complex: How do scientists infer explanations?